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ASTRAKHAN, a government of S.E. Russia, on the lower
Volga, bounded N. by the governments of Samara and Saratov,
W. by Saratov and the government of the Don Cossacks, S. by
Stavropol and Terek, and E. by the Caspian Sea and the government
of the Urals. Area, 91,327 sq. m., of which 6730 sq. m.
belong to the delta of the Volga and its brackish lagoons, and
62,290 sq. m. are covered by the Kalmuck and Kirghiz Steppes.
The surface is a low-lying plain, except that in the west the
Ergeni Hills (500-575 ft.) form the water-parting between the
Volga basin and that of the Don. The climate is very hot and
dry, the average temperature for the year being 50° Fahr., for
January 21°, and for July 78°, rainfall 7.3 in., but often there
is no rain at all in the summer. Pop. (1897) 1,005,460, of whom
132,383 were urban. The Kalmucks (138,580 in 1897) and
Kirghiz (260,000) are semi-nomads. In addition to them the
population includes nearly 44,000 Tatars, 4270 Armenians, with
Poles and Jews. fishing off the mouth of the Volga gives
occupation to 50,000 persons; the fish, chiefly herrings and
sturgeon, together with the caviare prepared from the latter, are
sold for the most part at Nizhniy-Novgorod. Over 300,000 tons
of salt are extracted annually from the lakes, principally those
of Baskunchak and Elton. Cattle-breeding is an important
industry. Market-gardening (mustard, water-melons, fruit) is
on the increase; but pure agriculture is relatively not much
developed. The government is divided into five districts, the
chief towns of which are Astrakhan, Enotayevsk (pop. 2810
in 1897), Krasnyi-yar (4680), Chernyi-yar (5140), and Tsarev
(8900). The Kalmucks and Kirghiz have their own local
administrations, and so have the Astrakhan Cossacks (25,600).
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