YENISEISK, a government of E. Siberia, extending from the Chinese frontier to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, with an area of 986,908 sq. m. It has the governments of Tobolsk and Tomsk on the W., Yakutsk and Irkutsk on the E., N.W. Mongolia on the S. and the Arctic Ocean on the N. Its southern extremity being in 51° 45′ N. and its northern (Cape Chelyuskin) in 77° 38′, it combines a great variety of orographical types, from the Sayan alpine regions in the S. to the tundras of the Arctic littoral.
The border-ridge of the high plateau of N.W. Mongolia, which is known under the general name of the Western Sayans, and reaches altitudes of 7000 to 8000 ft., limits it on the S. This is flanked on the north-western slope by a zone, nearly 100 m. wide, characterized by narrow valleys separating parallel chains of mountains, which are built up of crystalline slates, 6600 to 7000 ft. high. Here in the impenetrable forests a few Tungus families live by hunting. Towards the S., in the basins of the Tuba, Sisim, Yus, Kan, Agul and Biryusa, the valleys of the alpine tracts contain rich auriferous deposits, and numerous gold-washings have been established along the taiga. A flattened range of mountains, hardly attaining more than 3000 to 3500 ft., shoots N.E. from the Kuznetskiy Ala-tau, and separates the dry steppes of Minusinsk and Abakan from the next terrace of plains, 1200 to 1700 ft. in altitude, which also stretch N.E. from Barnaul in the government of Tomsk to Krasnoyarsk, and into the upper basin of the Vilui. Another system of mountains, known as the Yeniseisk Taiga, rises on the outer border of this terrace, in the space between the upper Tunguzka, or Angara, and the Podkamennaya Tunguzka. This system consists of several parallel chains running S.W. to N.E., and reaching 2500 to 3500 ft. in altitude, though they are much lower on the left bank of the Yenisei. For many years past the Yeniseisk Taiga has been one of the most productive auriferous regions of Siberia, on account not so much of the percentage of gold in its alluvial deposits (which are poor in comparison with those of Olekminsk) as of the facilities for supplying the gold-fields with food produced in the steppes of Minusinsk.
Beyond the Yeniseisk Taiga begin the lowlands, which at no point rise more than a few hundred feet above the sea. They slope gently towards the Arctic Ocean and are covered with lakes, scanty forests and marshes; and, as they approach the ocean, they assume more and more the character of barren tundras. Beyond 70° N. trees occur only along the courses of the rivers. Two ranges, however, break the monotony of the lowlands—the Tungusk, which stretches N.E., between the Khatanga and Anabar rivers, and the Byrranga mountains, which skirt the N.W. shore of the Taimyr peninsula. The shores of the Arctic Ocean are indented by deep estuaries, that of the Taz penetrating 600 m. into the interior of the continent, and that of the Yenisei 300 m. Taymyr, Thaddeus and Khatanga Bays are wide and deep indentations, ice-bound almost all the year round. Taymyr peninsula, between the Yenisei and the Khatanga, is a stony tundra.
The government is drained by the Yenisei and its affluents. In 55° N. this river approaches the Chulym, a tributary of the Ob, from which it is separated by an isthmus only 6 m. in width. The possibility of connecting the two great river systems of Siberia at this point has often been discussed; the difficulty is that the Chulym valley is 440 ft. higher than the other.
Yeniseisk is rich in all kinds of metals and minerals. Gold dust appears in the N. Yeniseisk Taiga, in the region of the Kuznetskiy Ala-tau and its spurs, with the basins of the Tuba, Sisim and Black and White Yus, and in the upper parts of the tributaries of the Kan and Agul. Silver ore is found in the basin of the Abakan, but the mines have been abandoned. Iron ore occurs almost everywhere in S. Yeniseisk, but there is only one iron-work on the Abakan. Salt lakes are common.
The climate, though very severe throughout, offers great varieties. The Minusinsk steppes have a dry and relatively mild climate. At Krasnoyarsk (55° 1′ N.) the climate is more severe, and the winds are disagreeable. The yearly fall of snow is so small that the winds blow it away in the neighbourhood of the town. The town of Yeniseisk (58° 27′ N.) has an average temperature below freezing point, and at Turukhansk the coldest month (February) averages −24° F. On the Taymyr peninsula the average summer temperature hardly reaches 45°.
The highlands of Sayan and Ala-tau are thickly clothed with forests of cedar, pitch-pine, larch, elder and birch, with rhododendrons, Berberis and Ribes; the Scotch fir appears only in the lower and drier parts of the valleys. The summits and slopes of the mountains are strewn with débris and boulders, and thickly carpeted with lichens and mosses; but there are patches of meadowland brightened with flowers, most of which are known in Europe. Still, the flora is poor as a rule, and Dr Martianov, after several years' labour, succeeded in collecting only 104 species of phanerogams. On the other hand, the Minusinsk plains and the steppes of the Abakan are bright with flowers scattered amid the common Gramineae, and in June and July with the Polygala, Dianthus, Medicago, Lathyus, yellow sweet-scented lily, and scores of other flowers, mostly familiar in Europe, but attaining in Yeniseisk a larger size and greater brilliancy of colour. The rich carpet of grass and flowers is over topped by the tall white blossoms of Archangelica and Spiraea Ulmaria, and by the blue masses of Veronica longifolia. The meadows of the moister localities, surrounded by thickets of willow, poplar, wild cherry and hawthorn, are still more attractive, on account of their wealth in anemones, violets, gentians and so on, and the numerous creepers which festoon the trees and shrubs. Dr Martianov's lists enumerate a total of 760 flowering and 760 cryptogamic plants. Of the lower Fungi and parasitical Myxomycetes 1300 species were noted, and out of the 823 species hitherto described by specialists no fewer than 124 have proved to be new. Farther N. the flora is similar in character to that of the Siberian lowlands (see Siberia). In the Taimyr peninsula it is represented by only 124 species of flowering plants.
The steppes of the upper Yenisei have been inhabited from a very remote antiquity, and numberless kurgans, or burial mounds, graves, rock inscriptions and smelting furnaces of the successive inhabitants are scattered all over the prairies of Abakan and Minusinsk. The present population exhibit traces of all their predecessors. Numerous survivals of Turkish and Samoyedic tribes are found in the steppes and in the Sayans; but some of them are greatly reduced in numbers. The estimated population in 1906 was 657,900. It is almost entirely Russian, the rest (about 10%) consisting of Samoyedes, Tatars, Tunguses, Yakuts, Mongols and Ostyaks. The government is divided into five districts, the chief (owns of which are Krasnoyarsk, Achinsk, Kansk, Minusinsk and Yeniseisk.
Some 1,117,000 acres (0·2%) are under crops, the principal being rye, wheat, oats, barley and potatoes. Live-stock, including reindeer, breeding is very extensively carried on. Fishing, especially on the lower Yenisei, is of great importance. Sables are not now to be found, and the hunters obtain chiefly squirrels, foxes, Arctic foxes and bears. In the middle of the 19th century 350,000 to 525,000 oz. of gold were obtained annually in N. and S. Yeniseisk, but by the end of the century the output had dropped to less than 100,000 oz. Salt is extracted as well as Epsom salts. Coal has been found on the Lower Tunguzka, near the mouth of the Yenisei, and in many places in the S. of the government. Silver, copper, lead, brown coal or lignite, rock-salt, graphite and mica all exist in large quantities, but are not regularly mined. There are several distilleries. The trade is in furs (exported), and in groceries and manufactured goods (imported). The gold-fields of the Yeniseisk Taiga are supplied with grain and cattle by river from the Minusinsk region, and with salt, spirits and iron by the Angara. The government is traversed from W. to E. by the Siberian railway, and considerable efforts have been made to establish regular steamer communication between the mouth of the Yenisei and W. Europe. For some years before the close of the 19th century steamers (e.g. that of the English Captain Wiggins) reached the mouth of the Yenisei, importing provisions and machinery for the gold mines. Efforts have been made to clear the rapids of the Angara, so as to bring Lake Baikal into steamer communication with the Yenisei. Owing to the shallowness, however, of the small tributaries of the Yenisei, the canal connecting the Yenisei with the Ob has not proved as serviceable as was expected. (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)
- N. Martianov, "Materials for a Flora of the Minusinsk Region," in Trudy of the Kazan Society of Naturalists (xi. 3, 1882).
- See W. Radlov, Aus Sibirien (2 vols., Leipzig, 1880), and N. Savenkov, in Izvestia of the East Siberian Geographical Society (xvii., 1887).