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Uralsk, Province Of

URALSK, PROVINCE OF, a province of Asiatic Russia, lying N. of the Caspian Sea, with an area of 140,711 sq. m. It is bounded by the government of Astrakhan on the W., Samara and Orenburg on the N., Turgai and the Sea of Aral on the E., and the Caspian Sea and Transcaspian region on the S. It is geographically situated mostly within the boundaries of Asia, i.e. E. of the Ural river, and both its physical features and its inhabitants are, to a very large extent, Asiatic. Administratively, it belongs to the " Kirghiz provinces," or governor-generalship of the Steppes. Apart from a narrow strip of land in the north, where the slopes of the Obshchiy-Syrt plateau, covered with fertile black earth and stretches of forest, descend towards the Ural river, and the gentle slopes of the Mugojar Hills in the north-east, Uralsk consists of arid steppes and deserts, which incline with an imperceptible gradient towards the Caspian. Most of the province is below sea-level, the zero altitude line running from Kamyshin on the Volga to the south of the town of Uralsk.

Uralsk is drained by the river Ural or Yaik, which rises in Orenburg and flows south, west and south, entering the Caspian after a course of 900 m. Its chief tributaries, the Sakmara, the Qr and the Ilek, are in the north ; along its lower course the Great and Little Uzen and many small streams on the left bank become lost in lakes before reaching the Ural. The Emba, which flows through the north of the Ust-Urt plateau, reaches the Caspian by a series of shallow lagoons, which were navigable in the 18th century.

The climate is influenced by the Central Asian steppes. A cold and dry winter is succeeded by a hot and still drier summer, during which the grass, and sometimes all the crops, are destroyed by the burning heat. Uralsk, although lying wholly to the south of 52 N., has the same average yearly temperature as Moscow and south Finland (39-5); its January is colder than that of north Finland (3), while July averages 73.

The estimated population in 1906 was 730,300. It consists of three different elements Ural Cossacks, who constitute about one-fifth; some 15,000 Russian peasants, and Kirghiz. The Kirghiz are almost entirely dependent on pastoral pursuits. The Cossacks, descendants of those independent communities of free settlers and Raskolniks who are so often mentioned in Russian history under the name of Yaik Cossacks, owing to theiriunwillingness to submit to the rule of the tsars, are fine representatives of the Great Russian race, though not without some admixture of Tatar and Kalmuck blood. Their chief occupations are live-stock breeding and fishing.

History. In the first half of the 16th century Uralsk was occupied by the Nogai horde, a remnant of the Mongol Golden Horde, which retired there after the fall of Astrakhan and Kazan; the khans resided at Saraichik on the river Ural. At the same time the lower parts of the Ural were occupied by Russian runaway serfs and free Cossacks who did not recognize the authority of Moscow. They took Saraichik in 1560 and formed an independent community, like that of the Zaporogian Cossacks. When the Moscow princes attempted to bring them under their rule and prosecuted them for nonconformity, the Cossacks revolted, first under Stenka Razin (1667-71) and afterwards under Pugachev (1773-75). After the latter rising, the name of Ural was officially given to the Yaik river and the Yaik Cossacks. The disbanding of their artillery, the planting of Russian garrisons within the domains of the voisko, and the interference of Russian officials in their interior organization during the 1pth century occasioned a series of smaller outbreaks, the latest of which, in 1874, resulted in the deportation of 2500 Cossacks, with their families, to Turkestan.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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