Gorky Oblast

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gorky Oblast


part of the RSFSR. Formed on Jan. 14, 1929. Located in the center of the European part of the USSR, along both banks of the Volga River. Area, 74,800 sq km; population, 3,674,000 (1971). The oblast is divided into 46 administrative raions; it has 24 cities and 62 urban-type settlements. Its center is the city of Gorky. It has been awarded the Order of Lenin (1965).

Natural features. The Volga, which bisects the oblast from west to east, divides it into two parts: the Right Bank area, which is primarily an upland, forest-steppe region; and the low-lying forested Transvolga region. The Right Bank area, with the exception of its extreme southwestern edge—the Oka-Tesha Lowland—is occupied by the Volga Upland, which here is called the Mordovian Upland (with elevations to 250 m), with the Peremilov Hills along the Oka River and the Fadeev Hills along the Volga. On the whole, the terrain is one of rounded ridges with numerous ravines, especially along the banks of the Oka and Volga; in places (along the P’iana River) there is karst (Bornukovskaia and other caves). The Transvolga Region is occupied by the Volga-Vetluga Lowland; the spurs of the Viatskii Uval (elevations to 192 m) extend only into the northern part. The climate is moderate continental, with a moderately cold, long winter and a warm summer. The average temperature in January is -12° to -13° C, and in July it is 18°-19° C. The total annual precipitation ranges from 450–500 mm in the Right Bank area to 550–600 mm in the Transvolga region. There are often droughts in the Right Bank area. The growing season, with temperatures above 5° C, lasts 165–170 days in the Transvolga region and 170–175 days in the Right Bank area.

All the rivers of Gorky Oblast are part of the Volga basin. Both the Volga and the Oka flow through the oblast for 260 km. The tributaries of the Volga, other than the Oka (and Tesha), are the Kud’ma and the Sura (with the P’iana and the Alatyr) on the right, and the Uzola, Kerzhenets, and Vetluga on the left. Lakes include the Pustynskie (karst lakes along the Serezha River, in the Right Bank area) and Svetloiar (in the Transvolga region). The Gorky Reservoir is located on the Volga River. Swamps cover about 5 percent of the territory (they are particularly numerous in the Transvolga region).

Soddy-podzolic and podzolic soils (66 percent of the territory) predominate. Gray forest soils occupy 16.3 percent; chernozems, 7.9 percent; alluvial bottomland soils, 3.6 percent; and swampy and peaty soils, 6.2 percent. In the Transvolga region the soils are podzolic under taiga forests and soddy-podzolic under mixed forests; the Right Bank area has gray forest soils with broad-leaved trees (oak groves) and leached chernozems with steppe meadows.

The forests have been drastically cut down and occupy 43 percent of the territory. Taiga forests (spruce and fir together with the Siberian larch) and mixed forests are the most widespread; pines grow in the sandy, dunelike hills, particularly in the Transvolga region; and there are dark spruce forests in the moist lowlands. There is erosion over large areas. Work on restoring the forests is being conducted. The fauna combine northern and southern species: wolf, fox, brown bear, lynx, badger, hedgehog, mole, spotted suslik, and hamster. The elk and beaver are protected (in preserves along the Kerzhenets and other rivers).

Population. Russians constitute 94.4 percent of the oblast’s population (1970 census); about 2 percent are Tatars, and 1.4 percent are Mordovians and others. The average population density is 49.1 per sq km (1971). In the Right Bank area it is three times greater than in the Transvolga region. The urban population is 66 percent, about half of which is in the city of Gorky. Gorodets, Gorky, Arzamas, and Balakhna are ancient cities; and Pavlovo, Bogorodsk, Vyksa, and Kulebaki are old industrial centers; Dzerzhinsk, Kstovo, and Zavolzh’e are new industrial cities.

Economy. Gorky Oblast is noted for its predominance of heavy industry, which uses primarily raw materials and fuel shipped in from other areas. The gross product of heavy industry increased by a factor of 23 during the period from 1913 to 1940, and from 1941 to 1970 the output of all industry increased by a factor of 12. Machine building and metalwork-ing provide more than 40 percent of the oblast’s total industrial production. Gorky Oblast occupies first place in the USSR in the production of motor vehicles. The Gorky Automotive Plant is connected by cooperative agreements with more than 1,000 enterprises, including dozens of plants within the oblast. Buses and driving instruments are produced in Pavlovo, municipal vehicles and spare parts for motor vehicles are made in Arzamas, automobile engines and caterpillar tractors are produced in Zavolzh’e, signals and windshield wipers are made in Lyskovo, glass for motor vehicles is made in Bor.

There is shipbuilding at Krasnoe Sormovo (in Gorky), the oldest shipyard in the country, as well as at yards in Navashino, Gorodets, Chkalovsk, Bor, and Oktiabr’skii. Milling machines, television sets, and various equipment are manufactured in Gorky, chemical equipment in Dzerzhinsk, road-building machinery in Vyksa, railroad braking systems in Pervomaisk, and metal structural components, mechanical assembly tools, medical instruments, knives, and other metal products at plants in the old Pavlovo-Vacha-Sosnovskoe metalworking region. Conversion metallurgical enterprises are in operation in Gorky, Vyksa, and Kulebaki.

A second major group of products is represented by oil refining and petroleum chemistry, basic chemistry, and timber chemistry. There are oil refineries in Kstov (Novo-gor’kovskii) and in Gorky (Neftegaz). A group of plants and combines in Dzerzhinsk (the M. I. Kalinin Chernore-chenskii Plant, the Kaprolaktam plant, and others) are producing mineral fertilizers, herbicides, acids, synthetic semiprecious stones, polyethylene, porophore, polyvinyl chloride, and plastics. The Orgsintez plant in Gorky and plants in the settlements of Vetluzhskii, Krasnye Baki, Uren’, Vakhtan, and Siava are large-scale timber chemistry enterprises.

The considerable cutting of timber in the oblast is reflected in the structure of the lumber, woodworking, and paper and pulp industries. The shipping of felled timber from the oblast decreased by more than one-third from 1950 through 1970. There has been an increase in the production of lumber, fiberboard panels, furniture, and sports equipment (Se-menov, Bor, Balakhna, Gorky, and Uren’). Gorky Oblast is third in the RSFSR (after Perm’ Oblast and the Karelian ASSR) in the production of paper (Pravdinsk is the country’s principal supplier of newsprint) and is fourth (after Arkhangelsk, Moscow, and Tula oblasts) in the production of cardboard (Balakhna and the M. I. Kalinin Settlement). In 1970 paper production was 392,000 tons (as against 133,400 tons in 1940); cardboard, 112,500 tons (25,600 tons in 1940); lumber, 2.7 million cu m (1 million cu m in 1940); and wood fiberboard, 24,800 cu m (386 cu m in 1960).

House-building combines and brick and slag wool plants (in Gorky, Dzerzhinsk, Navashino, Bor, Vyksa, and Kstovo) serve industrial and civil engineering.

Approximately one-quarter of the industrial output is produced by enterprises of light industry and the food industry. There is production of chrome-tanned leather, leather for soles, and synthetic leathers (in Bogorodsk and Gorky), industrial fabrics (in Gorky), and leather haberdashery, footwear, knitted goods, and garments. Flour-milling, macaroni, meat, and dairy industries are also located in the cities and villages of the oblast. A sparkling-wine plant in Gorky produces about 15 percent (1970) of the champagne in the RSFSR.

The fuel and electric power bases play a large role in the economy. The Avtozavod, Kstovo, and Dzerzhinsk heat and electric power plants, as well as the Academician A. V. Vinter State Regional Electric Power Plant in Balakhna and the Gorky Hydroelectric Power Plant, on the Volga near the city of Zavolzh’e, are operating on local peat and mazut (from Kstovo). Electric power is also supplied over the Kuibyshev-Moscow transmission line.

Artistic crafts have been developed, including Khokhloma and Gorodets murals (in Semenov, Semino, and Gorodets), filigree and household metal articles (Pavlovo and Kaza-kovo), and embroidering and lace-making (Balakhna, Chkalovsk, and Katunki).

Approximately 43 percent of the territory of Gorky Oblast is utilized as farmlands; about three-fourths of this is occupied by arable land (2.3 million hectares [ha]), and one-fourth is hayfields and pastureland (802,000 ha). In 1970 the oblast had 544 kolkhozes and 171 sovkhozes. Farm produce accounts for one-half of the total value of agricultural production.

As of 1970 the structure of the sown area was as follows (in percent): grains, 56.3; industrial crops, 2.4; potatoes, 9.4; vegetables and melons, 1; and feed crops, 30.9. Rye, wheat, beans, buckwheat, oats, hemp, sugar beets (commercial), and potatoes are grown in the Right Bank area. In the Trans-volga region the principal crops are rye, oats, long-fiber flax, clover, and alfalfa. Near Gorky there are large areas where potatoes and vegetables are grown, and there are many greenhouses. The kolkhozes of Arzamas Raion are famous for their cultivation of onions, and those of the Lyskovo and Vorotynets raions are known for their horticulture. To extend the sown areas, work is under way to drain swamplands. As of 1969 there were 41,900 ha of lands with a drainage network, as against 14,400 ha in 1960.

There is meat and dairy livestock breeding. At the beginning of 1971 there were 1,117,000 head of cattle (including 519,000 cows), 530,000 pigs, and 888,000 sheep and goats. Local breeds of red Gorbatov cattle (in the central and northern part of the oblast) and Simmental’ cattle (in the South) are raised. Swine raising is more developed in the suburban farms; sheep are raised in the southeastern forest-steppe regions. Large poultry and swine farms have been built. The Arzamas breed of geese is well known.

As of 1970 there were 1,297 km of railroads (17.3 km per thousand sq km), 488 km of which have been electrified. The main lines are Moscow-Gorky-Kirov, Moscow-Arzamas-Kazan, and Gorky-Ruzaevka. There is navigation (some of it for tourism) along the Volga, Oka, Vetluga, and Sura rivers. The Kerzhenets and Uzola rivers are used for floating timber. Gorky is connected by paved roads with all raion centers; the main highway is Moscow-Gorky-Kazan. The oil pipeline from Al’met’evsk to Yaroslavl and Riazan’ and natural gas pipelines from Saratov and Minnibaev (Tatar SSSR) to Cherepovets pass through Gorky.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. The Transvolga region is a lumbering region with flax cultivation and dairy livestock breeding. The Oka-Volga industrial region has the huge Gorky agglomeration, along with suburban farming. The Right Bank area is an agricultural region that also has food and metal-working industries.


Cultural construction and public health. During the 1970–71 school year, 691,200 students were enrolled in 2,951 general-educational schools, 72,300 in 58 secondary specialized educational institutions, and 37,200 in 82 vocational-technical schools and colleges. As of the end of 1967 there were 115,484 children attending 1,083 kindergartens. Before the Great October Socialist Revolution there were no institutions of higher learning in the oblast. During the 1970–71 academic year there were 11 such institutions (a university and nine institutes in Gorky and a pedagogical institute in Arzamas), with a total enrollment of 62,300 students.

As of Jan. 1, 1971, there were 1,445 public libraries (with a total of 2,230,600 books and journals) and 2,212 club institutions in Gorky Oblast. The oblast had 13 museums: the M. Gorky Museum (and its branch, the Kashirin Cottage), the Art Museum, and the Historical and Architectural Museum and Sanctuary in Gorky; the A. S. Pushkin Museum and Sanctuary in the village of Bol’shoe Boldino; the memorial museums of V. P. Chkalov in the city of Chkalovsk and A. P. Gaidar in Arzamas; museums of local lore in Dzerzhinsk, Arzamas, Vetluga, Balakhna, and Gorodets; an industrial museum in Pavlovo; and an arts and crafts museum in Semenov. There were seven theaters and 2,403 film projection units, 2,385 of which are stationary.

The oblast newspapers are Gor’kovskaia Pravda (Gorky Pravda; published since 1917) and Leninskaia smena (Lenin’s Followers; since 1919). The oblast radio and television broadcast on one radio and two television channels, as well as relaying broadcasts from Moscow. The television center is located in the city of Gorky.

As of Jan. 1, 1971, there were 38,600 hospital beds functioning in Gorky Oblast (that is, 10.5 beds per thousand inhabitants), and 10,200 physicians were working (one physician per 361 inhabitants).


Stankov, S. S. Ocherkifizicheskoigeografii Gor’kovskoi oblasti, 3rd ed. Gorky, 1951.
Trube, L. L., and A. F. Shubin. Gor’kovskaia oblast’: Priroda i naselenie. Gorky, 1968.
Khorev, B. S. Gor’kovskaia oblast’: Ekonomikogeograficheskii ocherk, Priroda, naselenie, khoziaistvo. Gorky, 1967.
Goroda nashei oblasti. Gorky, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Three cars on a train carrying the explosive substance hexogen to Kazakhstan detonated in Arzamas, Gorky Oblast, USSR, killing 91 and injuring about 1,500.