SEMIRYECHENSK, a province of Russian Turkestan, including the steppes south of Lake Balkash and parts of the Tian-shan Mountains around Lake Issyk-kul. It has an area of 147,300 sq. m., and is bounded by the province of Semipalatinsk on the N., by China (Dzungaria, Kulja, Aksu and Kashgaria) on the E. and S., and by the Russian provinces of Ferghana, Syr-darya, and Akmolinsk on the W. It owes its name (Jity-su, Semiryechie, i.e. " Seven Rivers ") to the rivers which flow from the south-east into Lake Balkash. The Dzungarian Ala-tau Mountains, which separate it from Kulja, extend south-west towards the river Hi, with an average height of 6000 ft. above the sea, several isolated snow-clad peaks reaching 1 1 ,000 to 14,000 ft. In the south Semiryechensk embraces the intricate systems of the Ala-tau and the Tian-shan. Two ranges of the former, the Trans-Ili Ala-tau and the Kunghei Ala-tau, stretch along the north shore of Lake Issyk-kul, both ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 ft. and both partially snow-clad. South of the lake two ranges of the Tian-shan, separated by the valley of the Naryn, stretch in the same direction, lifting up their icy peaks to 16,000 and 18,000 ft.; while westwards from the lake the precipitous slopes of the Alexander chain, 9000 to 10,000 ft. high, with peaks rising 3000 to 4000 ft. higher, extend into the province of Syr-darya. Another mountain-complex of much lower elevation runs north-westwards from the Trans-Ili Ala-tau towards the southern extremity of Lake Balkash. In the north, where the province borders Semipalatinsk, it includes the western parts of the Tarbagatai range, the summits of which (10,000 ft.) do not reach the limit of perpetual snow. The remainder of the province consists of a fertile steppe in the north-east (Sergiopol), and vast uninhabitable sand-steppes on the south of Lake Balkash. Southwards from the last-named, however, at the foot of the mountains and at the entrance to the valleys, there are rich areas of fertile land, which are being rapidly colonized by Russian immigrants, who have also penetrated into the Tian-shan, to the east of Lake Issyk-kul.
The climate is thoroughly continental. In the Balkash steppes the winter is very cold ; the lake freezes every year, and the thermometer falls to 13 F. In the Ala-kul steppes the winds blow away the snow. The passage from winter to spring is very abrupt, and the prairies are rapidly clothed with vegetation, which, however, is soon scorched up by the Sun. The average temperatures are: at Vyernyi (2405 ft. high), for the year 46-4 F., for January 17, for July 74; at Przhevalsk (5450 ft.), for the year 36-5, for January 23, for July 63; still higher in the mountains, at Naryn (6900 ft.) the average temperatures are only, for the year 4_3 - 7, for January i -4, for July 64-4. The yearly rainfall at these three places is 2 1 -o, 16-0, and u-8 in. respectively.
The most important river is the Hi, which enters the province from Kulja and drains it for 250 m. before it enters Lake Balkash. The Chu rises in the Tian-shan Mountains and flows north-westwards through Akmolinsk; and the Naryn flows south-westwards along a longitudinal valley of the Tian-shan, and enters Ferghana to join the Syr-darya. Lake Balkash, or Denghiz, Lake Ala-kul (which was connected with Balkash in the post-Pliocene period, but now stands some hundred feet higher, and is connected by a chain of smaller lakes with Sissy k-kul), Lake Issyk-kul and the alpine lakes of Son-kul and Chatyr-kul are the principal sheets of water.
The population was estimated in 1906 as 1 ,080,700. Kirghiz form 76% of the population, Taranchis 5-7 %, Russians 14 % and Dzungans most of the remainder. The province is divided into six districts, the chief towns of which are Vyernyi (the capital), Jarkent, Kopal, Pishpek, Przhevalsk and Sergiopol. The chief occupation of the Russians, the Taranchis and the Dzungans, and partly also of the Kirghiz, is agriculture. The most important crops are wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice and potatoes. A variety of oil-bearing plants and green fodder, as also cotton, hemp, flax and poppies, are grown. Live-stock breeding is very extensively carried on by the Kirghiz, namely, horses, cattle, sheep, camels, goats and pigs. Orchards and fruit gardens are well developed ; the crown maintains two model gardens. Bee-keeping is widely spread. The factories consist of flour-mills, distilleries, tanneries and tobacco works; but a great many domestic trades, including carpet-weaving and the making of felt goods, saddlery and iron goods, are carried on, among both the settled inhabitants and the nomad Kirghiz. There is a trade with China, valued at less than half a million sterling annually. Previous to 1899 this province formed part of the generalgovernorship of the Steppes.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)