Orenburg Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Orenburg Oblast


part of the RSFSR. Formed on Dec. 7, 1934 (from 1938 through 1957, Chkalov Oblast). Area, 124,000 sq km; population, 2,057,000 (1974). The oblast is divided into 34 raions; it has ten cities and 25 urban-type settlements. Its administrative center is the city of Orenburg. The oblast has been awarded two Orders of Lenin (Oct. 23, 1956, and Oct. 28, 1968).

Natural features. Orenburg Oblast extends in a latitudinal band through southern Cis-Uralia, the spurs of the southern Urals, and the extreme south of Trans-Uralia. The terrain is predominantly flat, although it is considerably dissected in places. In the west are the Orenburg Steppe and the low ridges of the Obshchii Syrt, with elevations to 350–400 m. In the east is a meridional band of hilly ridges, including the Guberlia Mountains, with elevations of 500–600 m. Located farther to the east are the Trans-Ural Plain, with elevations to 400–450 m, and the western edge of the Turgai Plateau. Orenburg Oblast is rich in minerals; its central and western sections have deposits of natural gas, petroleum, salt, and shales, while the eastern part has primarily ores of ferrous and nonferrous metals.

Orenburg Oblast is situated in the steppe zone and forest-steppe zone. It has an arid, sharply continental climate, especially in the east and southeast. Winters are cold, with little snow; winter weather is usually clear and calm, with occasional snowstorms. Summers are hot, with frequent dry winds. The average January temperature varies from — 14°C in the west to — 18°C in the east; in July the temperature varies from 19°C in the north to 22°C in the south. The period with temperatures above 10°C lasts for 135–145 days, with temperature totals of 2200°C and more. Precipitation ranges from 450 mm in the northwest to 300 mm and less in the southeast.

The principal river is the Ural with its major tributaries—the Sakmara on the right and the Or’, the Bol’shoi Kumak, and the Ilek on the left; in the northwest are the tributaries of the Samara, the Kama, and the Belaia (the Volga Basin), all of which have an irregular water regime. Hydroelectric power resources total 0.4 gigawatts. The southeast has lakes with no outlet, such as the Shalkar-Ega-Kara.

Chernozem soils predominate: in the northwest and north there are both leached and typically fertile chernozems, while farther south ordinary and southern chernozems predominate. The extreme south has dark chestnut soils, some of which are of the solonetz type. The steppe landscape, with its various types of grasses, is extremely varied. Forested areas make up less than 4 percent of the total area, with sections of broad-leaved forests in the north-west, floodplain forests in the valleys of the large rivers, and pine forests on sandy soils, including the extensive Buzuluk Pine Forest. Timber reserves total approximately 30 million cu m.

Fauna includes steppe, semidesert, and some forest species: fox, blue hare, European hare, suslik, marmot, and, in smaller numbers, wild boar. Among the birds are ducks, geese, snipes, and bustards.

Population. Russians predominate in the oblast (72 percent according to the 1970 census). The remainder of the population includes Tatars (7 percent), Ukrainians (5.5 percent), Kazakhs, Mordvinians, Bashkirs, and Chuvash. The average population density is 16.6 persons per sq km; in the northwest it is more than 20 persons, while in the southeast it is about 12 persons. Before the October Revolution of 1917 the urban population made up approximately 10 percent of the total population; in 1974 it constituted 58 percent. Cities include Orenburg, Orsk, Novotroitsk, Abdulino, Buzuluk, Buguruslan, Gai, Kuvandyk, Mednogorsk, Sol’-Iletsk, and Sorochinsk. They are situated, for the most part, along the main railroad lines and the valleys of major rivers. Mednogorsk, Gai, Novotroitsk, and other industrial centers have sprung up in Soviet times. There is a significant concentration of rural inhabitants in large settlements of as many as 5,000 to 8,000 persons.

Economy. During the period of Soviet power, various minerals have been prospected in Orenburg Oblast, resulting in the development of new branches of industry and the construction of major industrial enterprises. Today, the oblast combines well-developed industrial and agricultural production. One-half of all the industrial output is provided by ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, machine building, and metalworking. About one-tenth is provided by the fuel industry (petroleum and gas), and more than one-fourth by food processing and light industries. There is large-scale production of ferrous metal utilizing local and outside iron ores—for example, at the Orsk-Khalilovo Metallurgical Combine in Novotroitsk. Progress has been made in the exploitation of copper-ore deposits, such as the Gai Deposit, and in smelting copper (Mednogorsk). The nickel-cobalt industry is also highly developed (the Iuzouralnikel’ Combine in Orsk and the Buruktal’skii Plant). Nonferrous metals are processed in Orsk, and gold and several other rare metals are mined. The machine-building industry uses locally produced metals and metals produced by other Urals factories. It consists primarily of enterprises manufacturing heavy machinery (Iuzhuralmashzavod in Orsk and a heavy-machinery plant in Buzuluk); electrical engineering items (the Uralelektromotor Plant in Mednogorsk); machine tools, instruments, and hydraulic presses (Orenburg); and parts for tractors and farm machinery (the Kirov Mechanical Plant in Buzuluk).

The scope of the oil and gas industry encompasses the extraction of petroleum (10.4 million tons in 1973) and natural gas (3.6 billion cu m) in Cis-Uralia, as well as oil refining in Trans-Uralia. The oil is refined at the Orsk Oil Refinery, which obtains crude oil from western Kazakhstan and Bashkiria. A large gas deposit discovered near Orenburg at the end of the 1960’s has been extensively developed.

The combination of petroleum and gas refining with metallurgy has fostered the creation of a diverse chemical industry, including enterprises producing petrochemicals, coke-oven byproducts, sulfur, and nitrogenous fertilizers. Rubber goods are manufactured (Orenburg), as are various building materials, such as reinforced concrete, cement, gypsum, chalk, and refractories. A large asbestos deposit at Kiimbaisk is being developed.

A number of enterprises in the food-processing industry and in light industry are of national importance; their production is especially outstanding in flour, groats, and processed and canned meat (Orenburg, Orsk, Sorochinsk, Buzuluk); mixed feed (Orenburg); and butter, cheese, vegetable oil, knitwear and other garments, silk cloth, and leather footwear. Table salt is extracted at Sol’-Iletsk, and Orenburg shawls, made from the soft downy undergrowth of Orenburg goats, have long been famous. Most of the enterprises of the manufacturing industry—especially those that process food—utilize local raw materials. Fuel for energy and technological needs is supplied by other regions (coking coal from Karaganda and the Kuznetsk Basin and petroleum, gas, and energy-producing coal from Kazakhstan, Middle Asia, and Bashkiria) and in increasing amounts by local oil and gas fields, whose output is primarily shipped out of the oblast to the Volga Region, the Central Zone, and elsewhere. There is a network of thermal power plants, which includes the huge Iriklin State Regional Power Plant.

Agricultural production in Orenburg Oblast is concentrated in grain and livestock. At the end of 1973 the oblast had 389 kolkhozes and 196 sovkhozes. Agricultural lands accounted for more than 85 percent of the entire territory, or 10.6 million hectares (ha). Of these, plowlands accounted for 6.3 million ha, hayfields for 0.6 million ha, and pastures for 3.7 million ha. The proportion of plowlands decreases from north to south and southeast. In 1973, 6,010,000 ha were under cultivation, or almost three times more than in 1913. In 1954 and 1955, 1.3 million ha of virgin and fallow lands were plowed. Crops are sown in the following percentages: grain crops, 77 percent; fodder, 20 percent; potatoes and other vegetables, 1 percent; and industrial crops, 2 percent. The leading crop is spring wheat (3,366,000 ha); other crops include rye and millet. Sunflowers are cultivated, primarily in the west and northwest. In the south watermelons and other melons are grown, and orchards are cultivated.

A total of 31,000 ha of land is irrigated. Field-protective forestation is being developed—the state shelterbelt along the Ural River and plantings on kolkhozes and sovkhozes.

The principal branches of livestock raising are the breeding of cattle for meat and dairy purposes and the breeding of sheep for their wool and meat. Hogs, goats (including the down-producing Orenburg breed), and various kinds of poultry are also raised. As of Jan. 1, 1974, there were 1,671,000 head of cattle (including 584,000 cows), 584,000 hogs, 2,511,000 sheep and goats, and 8,312,000 fowl.

In 1972 the total length of railroad was 1,600 km. The principal railroad lines include sections of the Moscow-Kuibyshev-Orenburg-Tashkent main line, with branch lines to Ufa and Orsk, as well as the Cheliabinsk-Kartaly-Orsk-Oktiabr’sk line. The principal cargoes are fuel, ores, grain, lumber, and building materials. A network of fuel pipelines has been developed, including the Emba-Orsk and Ishimbai-Orsk petroleum pipelines; a section of the Bukhara-Urals gas pipeline, with a branch line to Orsk; and the Orenburg City-Bashkiria condensate pipeline.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. There are three major regions in Orenburg Oblast: the Orenburg Cis-Uralia, the Orsk-Khalilovo Region, and the Western (Buguruslan-Buzuluk) Region.

The Orenburg Cis-Uralia is a region with well-developed machine building. It also has a large petroleum and gas industry, a food-processing industry, and light industry. Agricultural production is concentrated in wheat and livestock.

The Orsk-Khalilovo Region is important for its ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy and for its machine-building and chemical industries. Grain is cultivated on virgin lands, and livestock raising is being developed.

The Western (Buguruslan-Buzuluk) Region is a center for grain and industrial crops and livestock raising. There is some industry.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. In the 1914—15 academic year what is now Orenburg Oblast had 1,093 general-education schools, mostly primary schools, with 82,500 pupils; five specialized secondary schools, with 260 students; and no institutions of higher learning. In the 1973–74 academic year the oblast had 2,147 general-education schools of all types, with 450,500 students; 58 vocational training schools, with 25,900 students; and 44 specialized secondary schools, with 43,500 students. There were five institutions of higher learning—polytechnic, medical, pedagogical, and agricultural institutes in Orenburg and a pedagogical institute in Orsk—with a total enrollment of 18,300 students. In 1973, 786 preschool institutions provided schooling for 74,500 children.

Also in Orenburg Oblast are the Scientific Research Institute on Raising Livestock for Meat and the Scientific Research Institute of Agriculture (in Orenburg), an oblast state agricultural experiment station (Cheben’ki station), and the Borovaia Forest Experiment Station of the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Forestry and the Mechanization of Lumbering (Koltubanka station).

As of Jan. 1, 1974, there were 1,170 public libraries, with 12.6 million books and journals, and five museums—museums of local lore in Orenburg (oblast-wide), Buguruslan, Buzuluk, and Orsk and the Oblast Museum of Fine Arts in Orenburg. The oblast had five theaters—a theater of musical comedy, the M. Gorky Drama Theater, and a puppet theater in Orenburg; the A. S. Pushkin Drama Theater in Orsk; and the N. V. Gogol Drama Theater in Buguruslan—1,751 clubs, and 2,052 motion-picture projection units. Extracurricular institutions included a palace of Pioneers, 40 houses of Pioneers, three young technicians’ stations, one young naturalists’ station, and ten children’s sports schools.

Two oblast newspapers, Iuzhnyi Ural (since 1917) and Komsomol’skoe plemia (since 1919), are published. An oblast television station broadcasts for two hours a day and relays the 1-A program of Central Television for ten hours. Oblast radio broadcasting occupies two hours a day, and programs of the All-Union Radio are transmitted for 18 hours.

As of Jan. 1, 1974, Orenburg Oblast had 247 hospitals with 22,300 beds (10.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants) and 4,700 physicians (one physician per 436 inhabitants). There were nine sanatoriums, including two for treating tuberculosis with koumiss therapy, and eight houses of rest.


Rossiiskaia Federatsiia: Ural. Moscow, 1968. (In the series Sovetskii Soiuz.)
Pochvy Orenburgskoi oblasti. Cheliabinsk, 1972.
Orenburgskaia oblast’ za 50 let Sovetskoi vlasti Cheliabinsk, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.