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Prince Peter A. Kropotkin
Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, 1910,
vol 25, pages 293-4

SMOLENSK, a government of middle Russia, belonging partly to' Great Russia and partly to White Russia, bounded by the governments of Moscow and Kaluga on the E., Orel and Chernigov on the S., Mogilev and Vitebsk on the W., and Pskov' and Tver on the N. It covers an area of 21,632 sq. m. in the W. of the great central plateau, its N. districts extending towards the hilly region of the Valdai. The rivers being deeply cut in the plateau; the surface is also hilly in the W. districts (Smoiensk, Dorb gobuzh), whence it slopes away gently towards vast plains on the E. and S. Carboniferous limestones, containing a few deposits of coal (in Yukhnov) and quarried for building purposes, occupy the E. of Smolensk; chalk appears in the S. extremity; while tertiary sands, marls and ferruginous clays cover all the W. The whole is Overlain with a thick sheet of boulder clay, with irregular extensions to the N.; post-tertiary sands are spread over wide surfaces; and peat-bogs fill the marshy depressions. The soil, mostly clay, is generally unfertile, and stony and sandy in several districts. The rivers Vazuza and Gzhat, both flowing into the Volga, and the Moskva and the Ugra, tributaries of the Oka, are channels for floating timber. The two tributaries of the Dvina—the Kasplya and the Mezha—are of ?much moie importance, as they' and their affluents carry considerable numbers of boats to Riga. The Dnieper takes its origin in Smolensk and dra~r.s ~L for more than 300 m.; but neither this river nOr its tributaries (Vop, Vyazma, Sozh and Desna), whose upper courses belong to Smolensk, are navigable; timber only is floated down some of them. Many small lakes and extensive marshes occur in the N.W. More than one-third of the area is under forests. The climate is like that of middle Russia generally, although the moderating influence of the damp climate of ?W. Europe is felt to some extent. The average yearly temperature at the city of Smolensk is 45'5· Fahr. (January, 13'5·; July, 67'2·).

The estimated population in 1906 was 1,762,400. It is chiefly composed of White Russians (~%) in the W., and Great Russians (z~%) in the E Most of the inhabitants (gS%) belong to the' Orthodox Greek Church; the rest' are Nonronformists. The government is divided into twelve districts, the chief towns of which are Smolensk, Byelyi, Dorogobuzh, Dukhovshina, Elnya, Gzhatsk, Krasnyi, Poryechie, Roslavl, Sychevka, Vyazma and Yukhnov.

Notwithstanding the unproductive soil and the frequent failures Of crops (especially in the N.W.), the chief occupation is agriculture. Out of the total area 38~ % is held by the village communities, 52% by private persons and a~% by the crown; 7% is uncultivable. Nearly 30% of the surface is arable land, and over 20% is under meadows. , The principal crops are rye, wheat, oats, barley, ?buckwheat and potatoes. Grain has to be imported. Improved agricultural implements are beginning to be manufactured within the government,' and to be used by the landlords, and partly also by the peasants. Flax and hemp are important crops, and some tobacco is grown. The live stock of the peasantry suffer from a, want of meadow and pastOre land, which is chiefly in private ownership. The peasantry are mostly very poor, in consequence not only of the French invasion in 1812, the effects of which are still felt, but also of insufficient allotments and want of meadows. In the way of mining phosphorite only is extracted. The most important industries are cotton, oil and paper mills, distilleries and breweries. The timber trade and boat-building are important sources of income, but more than one- half of the male population of west Smolensk leave their homes every year in search of work principally as, navvies throughout Russia. A lively traffic is carried on on the rivers, principally the Kasplya, the Obzha and the Ugra, corn, hemp, hempseed, linseed and especially timber being shipped. A considerable quantity of corn is imported into the W. districts. Smolensk is crossed by two important railways, from Moscow to Warsaw and from Riga to Saratov; a branch line connects Vyazma

with Kaluga. (P. A. K.; J. T. BE)

SMOLENSK a town of Russia, capital of the government of the same name, on both banks of the Dnieper, at the junction of the railways from Moscow to Warsaw and from Riga to Ore!, 252 m. by rail W.S.W. of Moscow. Pop. (1900) 57,405. The town, with the ruins of its old kreml, or citadel, is built on high crags on the left bank of the Dnieper. Its walls, built during the reign of Boris Godunov (1598—1605), are rapidly falling into decay. But the city has much improved of late years. It has monuments in commemoration of the war of 1812 and of the Russian musical composer, M. I. Glinka (i88~). It has three public libraries, an historical and archaeological museum, a people's palace, and several scientific societies. The cathedral was erected in 1676—1772, on the site of a more primitive building (dating from 1101), which was blown up in 161x by the defenders of the city during a siege by the Poles. The picture of the Virgin brought to Russia in 1046, and attributed to St Luke, which is kept in this cathedral, is much venerated throughout central Russia. Two other churches, built in the ,3th century, have been spoiled by recent additions. Smolensk is neither a commercial nor a manufacturing centre.

Smolensk is one of the oldest towns of Russia, and is mentioned in Nestor's Chronicle as the chief town of the Slav tribe of the Krivichis, situated on the great commercial route “from the Varyangias to the Greeks.” It maintained a lively traffic with Constantinople down to the 11th century, when the principality of Smolensk included Vitebsk, Moscow, Kaluga and parts of the present government of Pskov. The princes of Kiev were often recognized as military chiefs by the vyeche (council) of Smolensk, who mostly preferred Mstislav and his descendants and Rostislav, son of Mstislav, became the ancestor of a series of nearly independent princes of Smolensk. From the 14th century these fell under the influence of the Lithuanian rulers, and in 1408 Smolensk was annexed to Lithuania. In 1449 the Moscow princes renounced their claims upon Smolensk; nevertheless this important city, with nearly 100,000 inhabitants, was a constant source of contention between Moscow and Lithuania. In 1524 it fell under Russian dominion; but during the disturbances of 1611 it was taken by Sigismund III of Poland, and it remained under Polish rule until 1654, when the Russians retook it. In 1686 it was definitely annexed to Russia. In the 18th century it played an important part as a basis for the military operations of Peter the Great during his wars with Sweden. In 1812 it was well fortified; but the French, after a two days' battle, defeated the Russians here and took the city, when it suffered much.