1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tobolsk (government)

TOBOLSK, a government of western Siberia, having the Arctic Ocean on the N., the governments of Archangel, Vologda, Perm and Orenburg on the W., the provinces of Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk on the S., and the governments of Tomsk and Yeniseisk on the E. It is one of the largest provinces of the Russian Empire, occupying 530,820 sq. m. The northern coast is formed by the Yalmal or Yanmal peninsula, separating the Bay of Kara (on the west) from the double bays of the Ob and Taz (on the east). The Pai-ho coast-ridge touches Tobolsk only at its south-eastern extremity. The Urals proper, which run south-west from the Kara Sea as far as the Töll-pos (5445 ft.), and thence take a southerly direction, form the boundary between Tobolsk and Vologda as far as 62° N., but further south their eastern slopes are included in the government of Perm, and only their lowest spurs, 200 m. from the main chain, belong to Tobolsk.

The remainder of the government is lowland, but varies greatly in its different parts. In the south it assumes the character of grassy steppes or prairies, in the north of immense marshes sparsely overgrown with forest, and of treeless tundras as the shores of the Arctic Ocean are approached, The south steppes, in their turn, may be subdivided into two distinct portions, the Tobol and Ishim steppe in the west and the Baraba in the east. The former, nearly 43,000 sq. m. in area, is one of the most fertile parts of the empire. One-third is under forest, and the remainder has a soil of very productive black earth, which enjoys the further advantage of being sufficiently drained. The climate is very severe, the mean annual temperature (30° to 34° F.) being that of the north of Sweden and of Archangel; but the warm summer (65° to 68° in July) and the amount of light received from a bright sky combine to make vegetation develop with a rapidity unknown to west Europe. The Baraba steppe extends to about 55,000 sq. m. and is covered with recent deposits; but, as there is no definite slope, the surface waters accumulate in a large number of lakes and marshes. The climate is moister and the summer shorter and less hot than in the Tobol and Ishim steppe. Forests, consisting chiefly of birch, occur sporadically over its surface. The soil of this region also is very productive, but the fertile patches are separated by marshy ground, and the dense clouds of mosquitoes in summer are a plague to both man and beast. To the north of the regions just indicated lie the administrative districts of Tura, Tobolsk and Tara, with an area of about 110,000 sq. m.; this may be described as the taiga region. It consists throughout of impenetrable forests and quaking quagmires—the dreadful urmans, which are altogether impenetrable 50 m. from the scattered settlements. Gigantic cedar-trees, larches, firs, pines, birches and maples grow very close together, and the Underwood is so dense that a passage can be forced only with the hatchet, the difficulties being further increased by the abundance of decayed wood and by the marshy foothold. To cross these urmans, which are treacherously concealed under a swaying carpet of grassy vegetation, a kind of snow-shoe has to be used even in summer, and many can be crossed only in winter. Indeed vast areas have never been visited by man. The south-western parts of this region are traversed by the Siberian highway, and to this circumstance alone is it indebted for its population of nearly half a million.

The government is drained by the Ob, which traverses it for more than 1300 m., and is navigable throughout. It receives many tributaries, some of which are 200 to 350 m. long, but How through quite uninhabited regions. The Irtysh, a left-hand tributary, spreads a network of affluents all over the south of the government and is navigable for the whole of its length of 760 m.; it receives the Tobol, about 420 m. long, also navigable, the Ishim, and a number of less important streams; while the Tura, a tributary of the Tobol, is also navigable. Navigation lasts for nearly six months in the south. The first steamer on the Ob system was launched in 1845 and the second in 1860; since the latter date steam navigation has steadily developed.

The estimated population in 1906 was 1,656,700, and is practically all Russian, except for some 42,000 Tatars in the south, 18,000 Ostyaks, 4500 Samoyedes, and 4800 Voguls. There are, moreover, about 5000 Germans and Finns, some Jews in the towns, and about 1500 gipsies. The government is divided into ten districts, the chief towns of which are Tobolsk, Berezov, Ishim, Kurgan, Sugut, Tara, Turinsk, Tyukalinsk, Tyumen and Yalutorovsk. The standard of education is very low. The Ostyaks are in a very miserable condition, having come under heavy obligations to the Russian merchants and being compelled to hand over to them nearly all the produce of their hunting and fishing. The Tatar settlements are prosperous in the south, but not in the Tobolsk district, where their lands have been appropriated for the Russian settlers. Many of the Samoyedes, Ostyaks and Voguls are nominally Christians. The Russians and the Tatars live mostly by agriculture. Of the total area of land regarded as suitable for cultivation (28,400,000 acres), 15,600,000 or 55% are owned by the peasant communities.

Agriculture is generally the chief occupation, and Tobolsk is fast becoming a granary from which corn is exported to the northern governments of European Russia. The total area under cereal crops in 1900 was 3,334,600 acres, and the principal crops are rye, wheat, oats, barley and potatoes. Flax, hemp and tobacco are cultivate din the south. Livestock breeding is carried on on a large scale. Dairy-farming has made remarkable progress since the trans-Siberian railway was built.

The industries are insignificant (chiefly tanning, distilling and tallow-melting); ironworks and cloth mills are still in their infancy. The export of cattle, hides, tallow, corn, Hour, fish and furs to Russia, both from Tobolsk and from the Kirghiz steppe, is of some importance. Spirits are sent farther east to Tomsk; while all kinds of manufactured wares are imported from Russia. The fairs of Irbit and Ishim are the chief centres for trade.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)