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Kamchatka (kămchătˈkə), peninsula, 104,200 sq mi (269,878 sq km), Kamchatka Territory, Russian Far East, separating the Sea of Okhotsk in the west from the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean in the east. Extending from lat. 51°N to lat. 61°N, it is 750 mi (1,207 km) long and terminates in the south in Cape Lopatka, beyond which lie the Kuril Islands. Petropavlovsk is the chief city. There are many rivers and lakes, and the eastern shore is deeply indented by gulfs and bays. The peninsula's central valley, drained by the Kamchatka River, is enclosed by two parallel volcanic ranges that extend north-south; there are about 120 volcanoes. The highest point is Klyuchevskaya Sopka (15,600 ft/4,755 m), itself an active volcano. Kamchatka is covered with mountain vegetation, except in the central valley and on the west coast, which has peat marshes and tundralike moss. The climate is cold and humid. There are numerous forests, mineral springs, and geysers.

Kamchatka's mineral resources include coal, gold, mica, pyrites, sulfur, and tufa. Fishing, sealing, hunting, and lumbering are the main occupations. The seas surrounding the peninsula are a rich Russian fishing area (notably for crabs, which are exported worldwide), and fur trapping on the peninsula yields most of the furs of the Russian Far East. Some cattle raising is carried on in the south and farming (rye, oats, potatoes, vegetables) in the Kamchatka valley and around Petropavlovsk. Reindeer are also raised on the peninsula. Industries include fish processing, shipbuilding, and woodworking. Russia's only geothermal power station is on the peninsula. There is some tourism, particularly in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, noted for its geysers.

The majority of the population is Russian, with large minorities of Koryak peoples. The northern part of the peninsula was formerly administered as the Koryak Autonomous Area, but it was merged with the Kamchatka region to form the Kamchatka Territory in 2007. Its capital was Palana.

The Russian explorer Atlasov visited Kamchatka in 1697. The region's exploration and development continued in the early 18th cent. under Czar Peter I, and Russian conquest was complete by 1732. Heavy Russian colonization occurred in the early 19th cent. From 1926 to 1938, Kamchatka formed part of the Far Eastern Territory. The peninsula, subsequently part of the larger Kamchatka oblast [region], now is part of Kamchatka Territory, which includes offshore islands and areas of the mainland bordering the penisula. Petropavlovsk is the territory's capital.

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



a peninsula in northeastern Asia, in the USSR. To the west lies the Sea of Okhotsk; to the east, the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea. Length, 1, 200 km (from north-north east to south-southwest); width, up to 450 km; area, 370, 000 sq km. It is linked to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, the Parapol’skii Dol (up to 100 km wide). The eastern shore of the peninsula is strongly indented and forms large gulfs (Kronotsk, Kamchatka, Ozernoi, Karaga, and Korfa) and bays (Avacha, Karaga, and Ossora). Rocky peninsulas jut far into the sea (Shipunskii, Kronotsk, Kamchatka, Ozernoi). The western shore is weakly indented.

The western part of Kamchatka is occupied by the Western Kamchatka Lowland, which gives way to a sloping plain in the east and north. The Sredinnyi Range, with elevations up to 3, 621 m, is situated in the axial part of the peninsula, north of the Plotnikovaia River; the Ichinskaia Sopka volcano in the range has a leveled-out lava plateau in the center and an alpine landscape in the south and north. The Central Kamchatka Lowland east of the Sredinnyi Range, has low ridges that sometimes rise to 100–200 m above sea level; the lowland is narrowest in the south (5–10 km) and gradually widens toward the north, attaining a width of 80 km. The Kamchatka River and its left tributary, the Elovka River, flow through the lowlands in the north, and the Bystraia River flows in the south. The volcanoes of the Kluichevskaia group, which rise on the lowlands, include Kliu-chevskaia Sopka (4, 750 m), one of the world’s tallest active volcanoes. The active Shiveluch volcano (3, 283 m) is north of the group. The lowland is bounded in the east by steep ridges, the Vostochnyi Range, which is in fact an entire system of ranges: the Ganal’skii (elevations to 2, 277 m), Valaginskii (to 1, 794 m), Tumrok (to 2, 485 m), and Kumroch (to 2, 346 m). Between Cape Lopatka and the Kamchatka gulf lies the Eastern Volcanic Plateau (elevations of 600–1,000 m), with extinct and active volcanoes, including the Kronotsk (3, 528 m), Koriak (3, 456 m), Avacha (2, 741 m), and Mutnovskaia (2, 323 m). There are more than 160 volcanoes on Kamchatka, 28 of which are active.

Kamchatka is a plicate structure formed during the Alpine fold era. It has widespread Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic geosynclinal rock complexes. The Paleozoic rock emerge in the nuclei of the anticlinorium of the Sredinnyi and Vostochnyi ranges and are metamorphic schists and phyllites. The most frequent rocks are volcanogenic and sandy shale deposits of the Cretaceous and Paleocene periods, as well as Quaternary basalts and andésites (less frequently rhyolites and their oceanic and continental sedimentary analogues). Intrusive rocks include small hypabyssal bodies of granitoid and hyperbasic rock in the east. The main characteristic of the tectonic structure is the presence of genetically different structures of two strikes: the northeastern strike, which is associated with the development of the Kuril-Kamchatka volcanic arc, and the northwestern, which corresponds to the strikes of the major structures of the Okhotsk region. The first system is characterized by the development of overthrust folding; the second, by steeply sloping dislocations.

The minerals of the peninsula include various types of coal (from brown to coking, hard coal, anthracites), associated with Paleocene deposits; gold, silver, mercury, and complex metallic ores; native sulfur; and various building materials. Kamchatka has many carbon-dioxide and nitrogen mineral waters and thermal waters, with a temperature of up to 100°C (geysers, boiling lakes, and mud volcanoes), located mainly in the Vostochnyi Range.

Kamchatka has a maritime monsoon climate, more severe in the west than in the east. In the south the climate is maritime, in the central and northern parts it is moderate continental. The average February temperature is — 15°C in the west, —11 °C in the east, and — 16°C in the central part; the corresponding August temperatures are 12°, 12. 5°, and 16°C. Annual precipitation is 600 to 1, 100 mm. There are modern glaciers in the highest part of the mountains. The total area of glaciation is 866 sq km; glaciation is encountered at the summits of the Sredinny Range and on the slopes of the active Shiveluch and Kliuchevskaia Sopka volcanoes. The largest rivers of the peninsula are the Kamchatka, Avacha, and Ozernaia in the east and the Bol’shaia, Icha, and Tigil’ in the west. Kamchatka has many lakes, some of which form in craters (Khangar) and in volcanic calderas (Kronotskoe and Kuril’skoe).

The soil structure of Kamchatka is dominated by soddy pod-zolic soils that are rich in humus and mineral nutrients. In the Central Kamchatka lowlands spruce and broad-leaved forests and, less frequently, deciduous forests grow on these soils. The ridges, foothills, and lower parts of the mountain slopes have soddy meadow soils under high-grass birch groves of Erman’s or common birch. Soddy peat soils are well developed in the lowlands of western Kamchatka. All types of soils have various impurities of volcanic ash. The chernozem-like meadow and alluvial soils encountered in the valley of the Kamchatka River are the most fertile. The northern, low-lying part of Kamchatka (Parapol’skii Dol) is a mossy treeless tundra. There is also a narrow belt of tundra in low-lying areas of the western shore.

The remaining regions of Kamchatka have extremely rich vegetation. The central part of the peninsula is covered with coniferous forests of Dahurian larch and Yeddo spruce. The river floodplains are covered with poplar, willow, and alder forests, as well as meadows. Siberian fir grows on the eastern shore, near the mouth of the Semiachik river. There are many park-type forests of large sparsely growing Erman’s birch and, to a lesser extent, white birch; the depressions are covered with high-grass vegetation (queen of the meadows and small-reed). Higher up on the mountain slopes, the birch groves give way to dense, impassable groves of Japanese stone pine and dwarf alder, and above about 1,000 m, to alpine meadows and mountain tundras.

The fauna of Kamchatka is poor in terms of the number of species and is insular. Among the industrially important fur-bearing animals of the peninsula are the sable, fox, bear, wolf, wolverine, otter, ermine, blue hare, arctic fox, and squirrel. The muskrat and mink are becoming industrially important. Bighorn sheep and reindeer are found in the mountains up to 1,000 m, and the Kamchatka marmot (or Mongolian bobak) and Kamchatka suslik in the mountain tundras. The western coastal waters are inhabited mainly by seals (sea hare and ringed seal) and sea lions. The sea otter has been preserved on Cape Lopatka. With the coming of spring the peninsula is visited by ducks, geese, swans, various species of seagulls, murres, cormorants, woodcocks, and guillemots. The main wealth of inland waters in the sea is migratory fishes of the family Salmonidae (the humpback, Siberian, blueback, silver, and king salmon); there are also herring, cod, and navaga. Large Kamchatka crabs are caught off the western shore of Kamchatka. The Kronotsk Preserve, with a valley of geysers and a relict grove of Siberian fir, is on Kamchatka.

The first description of Kamchatka was presented in 1701 by the Siberian cossack V. Atlasov, who made several raiding campaigns on the peninsula in 1697–99. Between 1737 and 1741, S. P. Krasheninnikov made a thorough study of Kamchatka and presented the results of his observations in Description of the Land of Kamchatka (1756).


Komarov, V. L. “Botanicheskii ocherk Kamchatka” In Kamchatskiisb., vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Zanina, A. A. DaVnevostochnye raiony: Kamchatka i Sakhalin. Leningrad, 1958. (Klimat SSSR, fasc. 6.)
Liubimova, E. L. Kamchatka. Moscow, 1961.
Liverovskii, Iu. A., and I. I. Karmanov. “Pochvy.” In DaVnii Vostok. Moscow, 1961.
Geologiia SSSR. Vol. 31: Kamchatka, KuriVskie i Komandorskie ostrova. Moscow, 1964.
Parmuzin, Iu. P. Severn-Vostok i Kamchatka. Moscow, 1967.
Sever DaVnego Vostoka. Moscow, 1970
Kashintsev, B. Kamchatska segodnia i zavtra. Petropavlosk-Kamchatskii, 1970.

S. L. KUSHEV and V. I. TIKHONOV (geological structure)



(in its upper course, the Ozernaia Kamchatka), a river in Kamchatka Oblast, RSFSR. Length, 758 km, basin area, 55,900 sq km. In its upper course it is a mountain river, with many sandbars and rapids; it then flows through the Central Kamchatka Lowlands, meanders a great deal, and in places breaks up into branches. Bending around the Kliuchevskaia Sopka massif in the north, the Kamchatka turns east, crosses the Kumroch Range in its lower course, and empties into the Kamchatka Gulf of the Pacific Ocean. The mouth of the river, which is blocked by an offshore bank, is about 0.5 m deep. The Kamchatka is fed by various sources, with ground water (35 percent) predominant. The groundwater is replenished by a considerable amount of precipitation that seeps through the water-permeable volcanic rock. Snow accounts for 34 percent; glaciers 28 percent; rain, 3 percent of the water supply. High water is from May to September, and low water is from October to April. The average water discharge is 965 cu m per sec at Nizhnekamchatsk, 35 km from the river’s mouth. The river freezes in November and the ice breaks in April or May; in places, where hot springs come to the surface, it never freezes. The Kamchatka is used for flotation of timber and is navigable up to 486 km from its mouth. It is a spawning ground for salmon. The port of Ust’-Kamchatsk is situated at the mouth of the river.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a peninsula in E Russia, between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. Length: about 1200 km (750 miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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