part of the Byelorussian SSR; formed on Jan. 15, 1938. Located in the southeastern part of the republic. Area, 40,400 sq km; population, 1.545.000 (1971). It is divided into 21 raions, with II cities and 23 urban-type settlements. The center is the city of Gomel’.
Gomel’ Oblast was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1967.
Natural features. Gomel’ Oblast lies in the southwestern part of the Eastern European Plain, with the western part of the oblast occupying the Pripiat’ Poles’e area, a very swampy and forested lowland (elevation, 120–140 m). On the right bank of the Pripiat’ River there are heavily eroded morainic hills and rises, the largest of which is the Mozyr’ Ridge (206 m). To the east of the Poles’e lowland lies the Dnieper lowland, and to the east and northeast of the Dnieper, the lowland gradually rises and becomes the Chechersk Plain.
The climate is moderate continental, with a warm summer and comparatively mild winter. The mean temperature of the coldest month (January) is -6.5° C; of the warmest month (July), 18.5° C. The annual precipitation varies from 550 to 650 mm, decreasing from the northeast to the southwest. Two-thirds of the precipitation falls during the warm season. The growing season lasts 190–200 days.
The main river of the oblast, the Dnieper, crosses the oblast from north to south over a distance of 420 km. The major tributaries of the Dnieper (the Berezina and Pripiat’ on the right and the Sozh on the left) are used for navigation and timber flotation. The numerous tributaries of the Pripiat’ (the Sluch’, Ptich’. Tremlia, Ipa, Stviga, Ubort’. and Slovechna), which are important flotation arteries, as well as receivers for the reclamation canals draining swamplands, are also of major economic significance. The oblast has numerous lakes, the largest of which is Chervonoe (area, 44 sq km). Soddy-podzolic and peaty-swampy soils predominate. In the east are soddy-podzolic loam and sandy-loam soils. Large areas in the Pripiat’ basin are occupied by weakly podzolic sandy soils, as well as peaty and peaty-swampy soils. In the region of Turov there is a considerable area of humus-calcareous soils, which are marked by high fertility.
Forests cover 38.6 percent of the oblast. The main forested areas lie in the western part, where the forest coverage in individual regions reaches 60 percent. Among the forest-forming varieties, conifers make up 63 percent (mainly pine), and leaf-bearing trees 37 percent (oak. hornbeam, birch, alder, and others). Gomel’ Oblast has more than one-half of all the oak groves in Byelorussia. Swamps, predominantly floodplain swamps, cover 12.6 percent of the territory.
Animal life, in addition to the usual inhabitants of the mixed-forest subzone, also includes animals characteristic for the forest steppe (the hamster and spotted suslik), as well as the pond tortoise. The game animals include the mountain and European hares and the squirrel and fox; among the birds are the grouse, common partridge, capercaillie, and hazel hen. The beaver is strictly protected.
Population. Byelorussians account for 84.4 percent of the population (according to the 1970 census); there are also Russians (9 percent), Jews (2.8 percent), Ukrainians (3 percent), and Poles (0.3 percent). The average density is 38.2 persons per sq km. The eastern part of the oblast is the most densely populated; the density decreases in the western region of the Poles’e lowlands. The urban population is 41 percent (1971). The most important cities are Gomel’, Mozyr’, Rechitsa, Zhlobin, Kalinkovichi, and Dobrush and the new cities of Svetlogorsk and Khoiniki.
Economy. In the years of Soviet power, Gomel’ Oblast has changed from a backward agrarian area into a rich part of the Poles’e region, with highly developed industry and mechanized socialist agriculture. During the occupation by the fascist German invaders (1941–44), the economy of the oblast suffered enormous losses. The economy was rebuilt in a very short time; it then began to develop rapidly. In 1970 the gross product of all industry had increased by a factor of 7.8 in comparison with 1940.
In terms of the volume of industrial production, Gomel’ Oblast occupies second place in the republic. It accounts for 100 percent of the production of cord fabrics and superphosphate fertilizers, 55 percent of the paper, 23 percent of the hosiery, and 31 percent of the matches, as well as about 20 percent of the food industry product. The oblast produces more than 99 percent of the forage-harvesting combines and about 7 percent of the window glass produced in the USSR. A large energy base has been created. The Vasilevi-chi State Regional Electric Power Plant has been built, and the Gomel’ Heat and Electric Power Plant has been enlarged; the Mozyr’ Heat and Electric Power Plant is under construction (1971). In 1970, 1.800.500,000 kilowatt-hours of electric power were generated. The peat industry has also developed greatly. Gomel’ Oblast has 17 percent of the peat reserves and more than one-fifth of the entire mining production of fuel peat in Byelorussia. The largest peat bogs are located in Zhlobin, Rechitsa. Bragin. and Svetlogorsk raions. Major peat enterprises, such as -Belitskoe, Svetlogorsk, Vasilevichi III, and Rudnia-Greben’, have grown up on the sites of previously impassable bogs. The Lukskoe peat-briquette plant has been built in Zhlobin Raion. Natural gas delivered through the Shchors-Gomel’ gas line, as well as coal from the Donbas. is also significant in the fuel balance of the oblast.
Petroleum-extraction industry has been created on the basis of petroleum deposits that have been discovered (Rechitsa, Ostashkovichi, and Vishanskoe). A refinery is under construction in Mozyr’ (1971). Large reserves of rock salt (in the region of Mozyr’ and Davydovka) and potassium salts (Petrikov Raion) have been discovered. Machine building (including metalworking) accounts for 19.8 percent of the total gross industrial product (1970); it is represented by plants in Gomel’ producing farm machinery, machine tools, peat harvesters, bearings, measuring instruments, and starter engines and a plant in Mozyr’ producing land-reclamation machines. The Tsentrolit plant was built in 1969. Electrical engineering, a new sector of machine building, has grown up.
The chemical industry has been created anew. In addition to plants already operating (a yeast-hydrolysis plant in Rechitsa; chalk and insulation-material and timber-chemistry plants in Gomel’), an artificial fiber plant has been built in Svetlogorsk, and chemical, plastics, and paint and lacquer plants in Gomel’. The lumber, woodworking, and paper industries have become a highly mechanized sector of production.
Gomel’ Oblast occupies first place in the republic in terms of the volume of timber felling. The oblast has furniture factories (Mozyr’. El’sk, and Zhlobin), a plywood-furniture combine (Rechitsa), woodworking combines (Gomel’ and Mozyr’), a plywood and match combine (Gomel’), a pulp and paper combine (Dobrush), and a pulp and cardboard combine (Svetlogorsk). The building materials industry is also widely developed (prefabricated reinforced concrete is produced in Gomel’, Svetlogorsk, Kalinkovichi. and Mozyr’; ceramic sewage pipe is produced in Rechitsa). In Kostiukovka (near Gomel’) there is a large glass plant.
Light industry (knitwear, garments, and footwear) also plays an important role in the economy of Gomel’ Oblast, as does the flax-processing industry, with plants in Rechitsa and Uvarovichi. The food industry occupies first place in terms of the value of gross product (31.9 percent). There are fat-and-oil and confectionery combines in Gomel’, meat and milling combines in Gomel’ and Kalinkovichi, a milk canning combine in Rogachev, 21 creameries, and 16 fruit and vegetable canneries and starch and syrup plants.
In 1971 there were 302 kolkhozes and 158 sovkhozes. Agricultural land occupies 1,674,900 hectares (ha), or 41.5 percent of the total land fund, including 23.2 percent as plowed land and 17.5 percent in hayfields and pastures. In the western part of the oblast there are large areas of swamps and marshy land. In 1971 the area of land with a drainage network was 441,300 ha, of which 325,100 ha were in agricultural use. Open drainage predominates. The sown area of all agricultural crops in 1970 was 941.400 ha (21 percent more than in 1940). Cereal crops occupied 379.500 ha, or 40.3 percent (including 13.4 percent rye, 8 percent wheat, 8.5 percent barley, 5 percent oats, and 1.1 percent buckwheat); industrial crops, 2.2 percent (flax fiber in all raions; hemp mainly in Kalinkovichi Raion); potatoes and vegetables, 18.8 percent; and feed crops, 38.7 percent. In terms of the proportion of potatoes in the total plantings. Gomel’ Oblast occupies first place in the republic. Horticulture (30,000 ha) is well developed, particularly in the eastern and southeastern parts of the oblast.
Livestock raising, which is of national significance, is the main sector of agricultural specialization in the oblast. Cattle and pigs predominate among productive livestock. As of Jan. 1. 1971, there were 950,400 head of cattle (including 446,000 cows), 605,200 pigs, and 96,900 sheep and goats: there were 58 head of cattle (including 27 cows) per 100 ha of agricultural land and 56 pigs per 100 ha of plowed lands.
The main mode of transportation is by rail; there are 876 km of railroad lines (1970). The most important main railway lines, which cross Gomel’ Oblast in various directions, are Minsk-Kharkov, Leningrad-Odessa, and Briansk-Gomel’-Brest. The main railroad junctions are Gomel’. Zhlobin. and Kalinkovichi. Motor transportation also occupies an important place in the total freight and passenger turnover. In 1970 the length of hard-surfaced roads was 3.000 km (including the Moscow-Brest and Leningrad-Kiev highways). River transportation also plays a prominent role. There is regular navigation along the Dnieper and its tributaries (the Sozh, Pripiat’, and Berezina). The ports are Gomel’ and Pkhov. The Friendship oil pipeline and the Shchors-Gomel’ gas pipeline cross the oblast from east to west. Air transport is being developed, linking Gomel’ and Mozyr’ with Minsk and other cities of the nation.
Cultural construction and public health. During the 1970–71 academic year the 1,853 general-education schools were used by 339,900 students, the 27 vocational-technical schools had 14,600 students, and the 18 secondary specialized schools had 19,000 students. Before the October Revolution, Gomel’ Oblast had no higher educational institutions. In Gomel’ Oblast in the 1970–71 academic year there were three higher educational institutions (a university and a railroad engineers’ institute in Gomel’ and a pedagogical institute in Mozyr’), with a total of 12,400 students. In 1970 the 420 preschool institutions took care of 45,600 children.
As of Jan. 1, 1971, Gomel’ Oblast had 1,165 people’s libraries (with a total of 7,755,000 books and magazines), 997 club institutions, and six museums, including museums of local lore in Gomel’ (the oblast museum), Rechitsa, Mozyr’, and Turov and museums of national glory in Rogachev and the urban-type settlement of Oktiabr’skii. There are two theaters (the oblast drama theater and the puppet theater in Gomel’) and 995 motion picture projection units. Extracurricular facilities include 28 Pioneer palaces and houses, seven young engineers’ stations, and two young naturalists’ stations.
The oblast newspaper, Homel’skaia Prauda (Gomel’ Pravda) has been published since 1917 (in Byelorussian). The oblast radio and television system broadcasts one radio program and two television programs. Radio broadcasts are relayed from Minsk and Moscow; television broadcasts, from Moscow. There is a television broadcasting center in Gomel’.
As of Jan. 1, 1971, there were 3,100 physicians (that is, one for every 495 inhabitants), and 15,400 hospital beds (that is, 9.9 beds per thousand inhabitants).
REFERENCESGeografiia Belorussi. Minsk, 1965.
Ekonomicheskaia geografiia BSSR. Minsk, 1967.
Belorussiia. Moscow, 1967. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
Belorusskaia SSR: Gomel’skaia oblast’. Minsk, 1968.
I. I. TRUKHAN