1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vitebsk (government)

VITEBSK, a government of western Russia, with the government of Pskov on the N., Smolensk on the E., Mogilev, Minsk and Vilna on the S., and Courland and Livonia on the W., having an area of 16,978 sq. m. Except on its south-eastern and northern borders, where there are low hills, deeply eroded by the rivers, its surface is mostly flat, or slightly undulating, and more than a million acres are occupied by immense marshes, while there are as many as 2500 small lakes. It is mainly built up of Devonian red sandstones and red clays, but the Carboniferous formations—both the Lower, characterized by layers of coal, and the Upper—crop out in the east. The whole is covered with Glacial and post-Glacial formations, in which remains of extinct mammals and stone implements are found in large quantities. There are numerous burial-mounds containing bones and iron implements and ornaments. The soil is for the most part unproductive. The W. Dvina rises not far from the north-eastern angle of the government, and flows through it, or along its southern boundary, for 530 m. From its confluence with the Kasplya, i.e. for more than 450 m., it is navigable, and, through a tributary, the Ulyanka, it is connected with the Dnieper by the Berezina Canal. The Mezha and Kasplya, tributaries of the W. Dvina, are navigable in spring. The climate is relatively mild, the average yearly temperature at the city of Vitebsk being 40° F. (January 16°.4; July 64°.3). The population was estimated at 1,740,700 in 1906. The government is divided into eleven districts, the chief towns of which are Vitchsk, Drisa, Dvinsk, formerly Dünaburg, Gorodok, Lepel, Lyutsyn, Nevel, Polotsk, Ryezhitsa, Sebezh and Velizh.