1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stavropol (government)

STAVROPOL, a government of northern Caucasia, Russia, having an area of 26,492 sq. m. and bounded by the government of Astrakhan and the territory of the Don Cossacks on the N., by Kuban on the W. and by Terek on the S. and E. It occupies the eastern part of the broad steppes which stretch away north from the foot of the main chain of the Caucasus. The western part of the government is diversified by a broad undulating swelling, 1500 to 2000 ft. above sea-level; in the southern part of this swelling, and principally in Terek, there is a group of sixteen mountains, the Beshtau, 2800 to 4600 ft. in height, which are considered by H. Abich to be a porphyritic upheaval at the point of intersection of the two predominant orographical lines in the Caucasus (south-west to north-east and south-east to north-west). Northward and eastward of these heights are extensive steppes, 200 to 400 ft. above the sea, having gentle slopes both to the north (to the depression of the Manych) and to the east (towards the low, arid shores of the Caspian littoral).

Stavropol is chiefly drained by the Kuma and its tributaries (Karamyk and Buivola), its basin being the most fertile part of the government, but the evaporation is so great that the Kuma never reaphes the Caspian except in spring. The Manych is not so much a river as a series of lakes, occupying a depression which formerly was a connecting channel between the Black Sea and the Caspian. This channel has two slopes, the eastern sometimes discharging its scanty water-supply into the Kuma, while on the western slope the elongated lakes which fill up the depression drain into the Don, reaching it however only during spring. Two Yegorlyks (Great and Middle), the Kalaus, and the Chogra (temporary tributaries of the Manych), drain the western part of Stavropol. On the whole, irrigation is restricted, and in the eastern steppes water is supplied only by cisterns. Besides the lakes of the Manych depression, there are many smaller salt lakes along the Caspian. Timber is scarce, even in the hilly tracts.

The climate is marked by rapid changes of temperature. The dry east winds are sometimes very violent in the spring and early summer, blowing the seeds out of the fields, and even destroying in a few days all existing vegetation. In July and August they continue for several weeks in succession, and choke the air with dust. The average temperatures at the town of Stavropol (altitude 2030 ft.) are much lower than one might expect in that latitude; that for the year is 47° Fahr., that for January 24°, and that for August 68°. The rainfall at the same lace is 28.2 in., but other parts of the government are; much worse off in this respect, the yearly rainfall being only 11 to 211/2 in.

There is a great lack of forests, which are found only near the town of Stavropol and alongside of the main rivers. In the prairies the only arboreal vegetation is tamarisks and the dwarf almond tree. Altogether, except in the hilly parts of the government, the flora and fauna differ to a great extent from the flora and fauna of other parts of the Caucasus. Both resemble, on the one hand, those of Central Asia in such features as the presence, among mammals and birds, of the antelope Saiga tatarica, L., the steppe fox Vulpes corsac, Pallas, and the lark Melanocorypha tatarica, Pallas, and among plants of, firstly Tamarix Pallasii, Statice caspia and Slipa lessingiana (all characteristic of the arid prairies beyond the Urals), and secondly of species of Salsola, Solicornia, Sueda, Artemisia, Kochia and Camphorosma, all characteristic of the salt steppes of Asia; on the other hand, both fiora and fauna have many features in common with the prairies of south Russia.

As regards geology, the whole of the government is covered with Tertiary and post-Tertiary deposits. Lower Miocene, Middle-Mediterranean deposits, and Sarmatian clays, limestones and sandstones crop out over nearly one-half of the surface of the government, namely, in its higher portion, while the remainder is buried under loess and fluviatile and lacustrine deposits. A narrow zone, now a low plain almost devoid of vegetation, is overlain with the so-called Caspian deposits.

The population is rapidly increasing, particularly from natural causes, and partly in consequence of immigration. In 1886 it was 702,635; in 1897, 879,758; and in 1906 was estimated at I,023,7O(j. The average density of the population is only 44 per sq. m., but in some districts it rises to 87. Russians form 90% of the population, the other races being Kalmucks, Turkomans, Nogai Tatars, Armenians, Georgians, Germans, Poles, &c. More than four-fifths of the population (81%) are Russian peasants. The nomad population occupies, however, more than one-third of the territory. There are four ordinary districts, the centres of administration in which are Stavropol, Alexandrovsk, Medvyezhinsk and Praskoveya, the chief town of the district of Novo-grigoryevsk; besides these the territory occupied by the nomads is divided into three districts, Bolshe-Derbetovskiy, Turkoman and Achikulak.

Agriculture is the most important occupation of the settled population, and so large is the harvest that no less than 16,000 labourers come annually from European Russia to assist in gathering in the crops. The peasants own some 48% of the total area, private persons 7%, the imperial government 2% and the Crown less than 2%. Agriculture is most successful on the wide prairie lands, where over 3,250,000 acres are annually under cereals. The principal crops are rye, wheat, oats, barley and potatoes. Melons, watermelons, flax and sunflowers are widely cultivated. Modern 'agricultural implements are in general use. Vineyards stretch for close upon 100 m. along the Kuma, and nearly 800,000 gallons of wine of an inferior quality are obtained annually. The factories are limited to fiour-mills, oil-mills, distilleries, tanneries and Candle works, and a few domestic industries are carried on in the villages. Considerable quantities of grain, liax, wool and hides are exported, and the fairs are very animated. Large amounts of corn are exported both to the mountainous districts of Caucasia and to Russia (Rostov-on-the-Don). Livestock breeding is engaged in very largely, not only by the Kalmucks, Turkomans and Nogai Tatars, but also by the Russians.

The northern slopes of the Caucasus began to be colonized by the Russians at a very early period, and as early as the 11th century part of the territory now occupied by Stavropol was known to Russian annalists as the Tmutarakan principality, which had Russian princes. A new attempt to colonize North Caucasia was made in the 16th century, under Ivan the Terrible, who married a Kabardian princess. This was again unsuccessful, and it was not till 1711 that Russia began regularly to colonize the territory by Cossack settlements. Kizlyar was founded in 1736, Stavropol in 1776 or 1777. Vast tracts of lands were given by Catherine ll. to her courtiers, who began to people them with serfs from Russia.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)