Penza Oblast

(redirected from Penzenskaya Oblast', Russia)
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Penza Oblast


part of the RSFSR. Formed on Feb. 4, 1939. Area, 43,200 sq km. Population, 1,504,000 (1974). The oblast is divided into 27 administrative raions and has ten cities and 14 urban-type settlements. The administrative center is the city of Penza. On June 13, 1967, the oblast was awarded the Order of Lenin.

Natural features. Penza Oblast is located in the Middle Volga Region. Much of it is occupied by the western slopes of the Volga Upland. Deep river valleys dissect the slopes, forming separate uplands and ridges with a dense network of ravines and gullies. In this area are the Sura Plateau (elevation 270–300 m), Sura Hill (elevation to 324 m), and the Sura-Moksha and Kerensk-Chem-bar uplands (elevation to 292 m). The extreme western part of the Oblast is occupied by the Oka-Don Plain (elevation 150–180 m).

Penza Oblast has a temperate continental climate. The mean January temperature varies from – 113°C to — 13.3°C, while the mean July temperature varies from 18.8°C to 20.5°C. Precipitation totals approximately 680 mm a year in the northeast and 550 mm in the south. The frostfree season ranges from 125 days in the north to 139 days in the south. The oblast has a dense network of small rivers (Volga and Don river basins). The most important river is the Sura; the Moksha flows through the northwest, and the Khoper (upper course) and Vorona through the southwest.

Chernozems cover more than 65 percent of the oblast. Leached podzolized chernozems predominate in the north and northwest; light gray and gray forest soils in the northeast; and weakly leached and typical chernozems in the south and southwest. Meadow chernozem and alluvial soils are found in the river valleys.

Much of Penza Oblast lies in the forest-steppe zone, with forests covering 20 percent of the oblast’s territory. Most of the forests are in the east, where pine and broad-leaved forests predominate, oak being the prevalent tree in the latter. In the north and northeast there are mainly linden and birch-and-lin-den forests, and in the forest-steppe, maple, linden, elm, European aspen, and sometimes ash. Pine forests are found in the Sura River region and the Moksha River basin. Animals include talpids, foxes of the genus Vulpes, pine martens, ermines, the weasels Mustela nivalis, Putorius putorius, and Putorius evers-manni, badgers, elk, blue and European hares, squirrels, beavers (reacclimatized), and muskrats (acclimatized).

Population. In 1970 the population included Russians (86.2 percent), Mordovians (6.9 percent), Tatars (4.9 percent), Ukrainians, and Chuvashes. The average population density is 34.8 persons per sq km (1974). The greatest density of the rural population is in suburban regions and in several regions of the north and northwest. Urban dwellers constitute 49 percent of the population (17.3 percent in 1939). The main cities are Penza, Kuznetsk, Serdobsk, Kamenka, and Nizhnii Lomov.

Economy. Before the October Revolution of 1917, Penza Province was one of the most backward agrarian provinces in Russia. In the years of Soviet power, Penza Oblast has become a major industrial and agricultural region. Gross industrial output increased 17.1 times from 1940 to 1973. The oblast’s most important industry in terms of all-Union output is machine building, which yields about 50 percent of the oblast’s gross industrial output and employs about 60 percent of the working population. Light industry and the food-processing industry account for about 20 percent of the gross output each.

Branches of the machine-building industry include chemical-machine building (equipment for producing synthetic materials and mineral fertilizers) and textile-machine building (looms), both of which are centered in Penza and Kuznetsk. The oblast produces compressor equipment (Penza, Bessonovka), diesel engines (Penza), potato planters and tractor seeders (Kamenka), automobile and tractor dump trailers and driving mechanisms (Serdobsk), mobile gas stations (Grabovo), machines for municipal services and refrigerators (Penza), and fittings (Penza, Kuznetsk). The oblast produces such instruments as keybroad accounting machines and computers, electronic computers (Penza), and watches (Penza, Serdobsk). It also manufactures bicycles and motorbikes (Penza).

The textile industry, which had its beginnings before the reforms of the 1860’s, specializes in the production of woolen fabrics, industrial textiles, and baize for footwear (Sursk, Sos-novoborsk, Verkhozim, Zolotarevka). The leather-goods and footwear industry is also developed (Kuznetsk). The oblast is a major producer of hemp fiber, and Kuznetsk has a rope and binder twine factory. Penza shawls, made of goat’s down, have long been famous. Branches of the food-processing industry include sugar refining, hulling and milling, production of alcoholic beverages and starch, and butter-making. The woodworking industry uses local raw materials in sawmilling and the production of plywood (Nizhnii Lomov), matches (Verkhnii Lomov), and furniture. The oblast has an upright-piano factory and a paper factory (Penza) and a prefabricated house building plant (Kuznetsk Raion). There has been a rapid development of the building-materials industry, which produces bricks, cinder blocks, lime, and especially prefabricated reinforced-concrete structural members and components (Penza, Kuznetsk, Serdobsk, Kamenka, Nizhnii Lomov). The oblast receives electric power from the Integrated Electric Power Grid of the European part of the USSR and from local thermal electric power plants united into the Penzenergo System.

Agriculture is concentrated in grain farming and animal husbandry. Arable lands account for 83 percent (2,552,000 hectares [ha] in 1973) of agricultural lands, while hayfields and pastures account for 15.9 percent (488,000 ha). As of Jan. 1, 1974, there were 173 kolkhozes and 235 sovkhozes. Grain crops are the most heavily cultivated. In 1973, 2,449,000 ha were under cultivation, 1,580,000 of which were sown with grain crops, including wheat (577,000 ha), rye, barley, legumes, oats, millet, and buckwheat. The main industrial crop is sugar beet (55,000 ha); 46,000 ha are sown with sunflowers and 14,000 ha with hemp. Vegetables account for 13,000 ha; potatoes, 78,000 ha; and fodder crops, 653,000 ha. Onions have been grown from time immemorial. Grain crops are cultivated throughout the oblast, hemp mainly in the north, sugar beets in the west and southwest, sunflowers in the south and southeast, potatoes in the east and north, and vegetables in the suburban zone. Fruit and berry plantings cover 23,700 ha.

Animal husbandry produces meat and dairy products. In early 1974, Penza Oblast livestock included 875,000 head of cattle, including 347,900 cows; 600,000 hogs; 873,900 sheep and goats; and 5,949,400 fowl.

By early 1974 the oblast had 828 km of railroads, of which 446 km were electrified. Penza is the oblast’s major railroad junction. There are 11,600 km of roads, 1,900 km of which are paved. The oblast is traversed by nationally important air routes and pipelines.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. The Eastern Region, which comprises the Sura River basin, is the economic and cultural nucleus of the oblast. It accounts for the bulk of the population and industrial output. Industry includes machine building, light industry, and the glass, food-processing, and building-materials industries (Penza, Kuznetsk, Nikol’sk, Sursk). Agriculture is concentrated in hemp and animal husbandry, but grain farming is also developed. The region is the principal area of potato and vegetable farming. Fruit orchards are cultivated.

The Western Region is primarily agricultural, with large plantings of sugar beets, hemp, and potatoes; grain and poultry farming are developed. Industry includes woodworking, machine building, and sugar refining (Nizhnii Lomov, Verkhnii Lomov, Kamenka, Zemetchino).

The Southern Region is an agricultural region whose main crops are sugar beets and grains. Hog farming is developed in the west, and grain and sunflower farming in the east. Industry includes machine building, sugar refining, and groats production (Serdobsk, Bekovo, Tamala).


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. In the 1914–15 academic year there were 1,635 general educational schools (chiefly primary schools) with about 129,000 students, three specialized secondary schools with 550 students, and no institutes of higher learning. In the 1973–74 academic year the oblast had 1,421 general educational schools of all types with 279,100 pupils, 37 vocational schools with 18,100 students, 28 specialized secondary schools with 25,800 students, four institutes of higher learning—polytechnic, civil engineering, agricultural, and pedagogical, all in Penza—with 21,600 students, and a department of the All-Union Correspondence Finance and Economics Institute (in Penza) with 1,500 students. There were 49,300 children in 527 preschool institutions in 1974.

In 1974 the oblast had 853 public libraries, with 8.8 million books and magazines, and eight museums: an oblast museum of local lore and the K. A. Savitskii Oblast Picture Gallery (in Penza); the M. Iu. Lermontov Museum Estate, Tarkhany (village of Lermontovo); the A. N. Radishchev Memorial Museum (village of Radishchevo, former Verkhnee Abliazovo, where Radishchev spent his childhood); the V. G. Belinskii Museum (city of Belinskii, formerly Chembar, where Belinskii lived from 1816 to 1824); and museums of local lore in Kuznetsk, Serdobsk, and the village of Narovchat. In 1975 an oblast museum of folk arts was opened in Penza. Penza also has an oblast drama theater and a puppet theater. The oblast has 1,250 clubs, 1,184 motion-picture projection units, and 27 palaces and houses of Pioneers and other extracurricular institutions.

There are two oblast newspapers: Penzenskaia pravda (since 1917) and the Komsomol newspaper Molodoi leninets (since 1920). Oblast television programs are broadcast three hours a day, and programs of Central Television Network are relayed. Oblast radio programs are broadcast 1.5 hours a day, and the first and second programs of the All-Union Radio are relayed.

As of Jan. 1, 1974, Penza Oblast had 151 hospitals with 15,200 beds (10.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), 2,700 doctors (one doctor per 551 inhabitants), seven sanatoriums, and five houses of rest.


Penzenskaia oblast’: Priroda, Naselenie, Khoziaistvo. Sb. st. Saratov-Penza, 1968.
Rossiiskaia Federatsiia: Evropeiskii Iugo-Vostok, Povolzh’e, Severnyi Kavkaz. Moscow, 1968. (In the series Sovetskii Soiuz.)
Priroda Penzenskoi oblasti. Saratov, 1970.
50 let v edinoi mnogonatsional’noi sem’e narodov SSSR: Penzenskaia oblast’ v tsifrakh. Statistich. sb. Penza, 1972.
Priroda i geograficheskie problemy sel’skogo khoziaistva Penzenskoi oblasti. Penza, 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.