KUBAN, a province of Russian Caucasia, having the Sea of Azov on the W., the territory of Don Cossacks on the N., the government of Stavropol and the province of Terek on the E., and the government of Kutais and the Black Sea district on the S. and S.W. It thus contains the low and marshy lowlands on the Sea of Azov, the western portion of the fertile steppes of northern Caucasia, and the northern slopes of the Caucasus range from its north-west extremity to the Elbruz. The area is 36,370 sq. m. On the south the province includes the parallel ranges of the Black Mountains (Kara-dagh), 3000 to 6000 ft. high, which are intersected by gorges that grow deeper and wider as the main range is approached. Owing to a relatively wet climate and numerous streams, these mountains are densely clothed with woods, under the shadow of which a thick undergrowth of rhododendrons, " Caucasian palms " (Buxus sempervirens), ivy, clematis, etc., develops, so as to render the forests almost impassable. These cover altogether nearly 20% of the aggregate area. Wide, treeless plains, from 1000 to 2000 ft. high, stretch north of the Kuban, and are profusely watered by that river and its many tributaries the Little and Great Zelenchuk, Urup, Laba, Byelaya, Pshish mountain torrents that rush through narrow gorges from the Caucasus range. In its lower course the Kuban forms a wide, low delta, covered with rushes, haunted by wild boar, and very unhealthy. The same characteristics mark the low plains on the east of the Sea of Azov, dotted over with numerous semi-stagnant lakes. Malaria is the enemy of these regions, and is especially deadly on the Tamafi Peninsula, as also along the left bank of the lower and middle Kuban.
There is considerable mineral wealth. Coal is found on the Kuban and its tributaries, but its extraction is still insignificant (less than 10,000 tons per annum). Petroleum wells exist in the district of Maikop, but the best are in the Tamafi Peninsula, where they range over 570 sq. m. Iron ores, silver and zinc are found; alabaster is extracted, as also some salt, soda and Epsom salts. The best mineral waters are at Psekup and Taman, where there are also numbers of mud volcanoes, ranging from small hillocks to hills 365 ft. high and more. The soil is very fertile in the plains, parts of which consist of black earth and are being rapidly populated.
The population reached 1,928,419 in 1897. of whom 1,788,622 were Russians, 13,926 Armenians, 20,137 Greeks and 20,778 Germans. There were at the same date 945,873 women, and only 156,486 people lived in towns. The estimated population in 1906 was 2,275,400. The aborigines were represented by 100,000 Circassians, 5000 Nogai Tatars and some Ossetes. The Circassians or Adyghe, who formerly occupied the mountain valleys, were compelled, after the Russian conquest in 1861, either to settle on the flat land or to emigrate; those who refused to move voluntarily were driven across the mountains to the Black Sea coast. Most of them (nearly 200,000) emigrated to Turkey, where they formed the Bashi-bazouks. Peasants from the interior provinces of Russia occupied the plains of the Kuban, and they now number over 1,000,000, while the Kuban Cossacks in 1897 numbered 804,372 (405,428 women). In point of religion 90% of the population were in 1897 members of the Orthodox Greek Church, 4% Raskolniks and other Christians and 5-4% Mahommedans, the rest being Jews.
Wheat is by far the chief crop (nearly three-quarters of the total area under crops are under wheat) ; rye, oats, barley, millet, Indian corn, some flax and potatoes, as also tobacco, are grown. Agricultural machinery is largely employed, and the province is a reserve granary for Russia. Livestock, especially sheep, is kept in large numbers on the steppes. Bee-keeping is general, and gardening and vine-growing are spreading rapidly. Fishing in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, as also in the Kuban, is important.
Two main lines of railway intersect the province, one running N.W. to S.E., from Rostov to Vladikavkaz, and another starting from the former south-westwards to Novorossiysk on the north coast of the Black Sea. The province is divided into seven districts, the chief towns of which, with their populations in 1897, are Ekaterinodar, capital of the province (65,697), Anapa (6676), Labinsk (6388), Batalpashinsk (8100), Maikop (34,191), Temryuk (14,476) and Yeisk (35,446).
The history of the original settlements of the various native tribes, and their language and worship before the introduction of Mahommedanism, remain a blank page in the legends of the Caucasus. The peninsula of Tamafi, a land teeming with relics of ancient Greek colonists, has been occupied successively by the Cimmerians, Sarmatians, Khazars, Mongols and other nations. The Genoese, who established an extensive trade in the 13th century, were expelled by the Turks in 1484, and in 1784 Russia obtained by treaty the entire peninsula and the territory on the right bank of the Kuban, the latter being granted by Catherine II. in 1792 to the Cossacks of the Dnieper. Then commenced the bloody struggle with the Circassians, which continued for more than half a century. Not only domestic, but even field work, is conducted mostly by the women, who are remarkable for their physical strength and endurance. The native mountaineers, known under the general name of Circassians, but locally distinguished as the Karachai, Abadsikh, Khakuchy, Shapsugh, have greatly altered their mode of life since the pacification of the Caucasus, still, however, maintaining Mahommedanism, speaking their vernacular, and strictly observing the customs of their ancestors. Exports include wheat, tobacco, leather, wool, petroleum, timber, fish, salt and live cattle; imports, dry goods, grocery and hardware. Local industry is limited to a few tanneries, petroleum refineries and spirit distilleries. (P. A. K.; J. T. BE.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)