Saratov Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Saratov Oblast


an oblast of the RSFSR, formed on Dec. 5, 1936, as a successor to Saratov Krai (formed Jan. 10, 1934). Area, 100,200 sq km; population, 2,505,000 (Jan. 1, 1975). The oblast is divided into 37 raions and has 17 cities and 30 urban-type settlements. The administrative center is the city of Saratov. Saratov Oblast has been awarded two Orders of Lenin (Oct. 23, 1956; Nov. 30, 1970).

Natural features. Saratov Oblast is situated in the southeastern part of the East European Plain, in the Lower Volga Region. The Volga divides the oblast into a western, or right-bank, part and an eastern part—the Trans-Volga Region. A considerable part of the right bank is occupied by the Volga Upland (maximum elevation 370 m, the highest point in the oblast), which is strongly dissected by ravines and gullies. The density of ravines and gullies reaches 0.5–0.9 km per 1 sq km of area. The Oka-Don Plain is situated in the western part of the oblast. A watershed upland plain is situated in the Trans-Volga Region, and the Caspian Lowland is in the southeastern part of the oblast. The slopes of the Obshchii Syrt stretch along the eastern border of the oblast.

The climate is continental. The average January temperature is - 11°C in the southwest and - 14°C in the northeast. The average July temperature is 20°C in the northwest and 24°C in the southeast. Annual precipitation is approximately 450 mm in the northwest and 250 mm in the southeast. The growing season is 127 days in the north and no more than 150 days in the south.

Saratov Oblast is drained by the Volga (420 km), whose flow has been regulated since the construction of the Volgograd and Saratov reservoirs. Water from the reservoirs is used for irrigation and as a source of water supply for the Trans-Volga Region. The Saratov Irrigation and Water-Supply Canal (120 km) and the Eruslan Canal (48 km) carry water from the Volga to the rivers of the Trans-Volga Region. The western part of the oblast is drained by left tributaries of the Don; the Khoper, Medveditsa, and Ilovlia rivers. The density of the river network and the water content of the rivers decrease from northwest to southeast.

A total of 80 percent of the oblast’s territory lies in the steppe zone. The right-bank part and the Trans-Volga Region north of the Bol’shoi Irgiz River have chernozem soils (ordinary and southern), which cover up to 52 percent of the oblast. The rest of the steppe in the Trans-Volga Region has dark chestnut and chestnut soils (34 percent). The steppes are under cultivation. The northwestern part of the oblast is in the forest-steppe zone (15 percent), which has a thick layer of leached chernozems; the southeastern part is in the semidesert zone (5 percent) and has light chestnut soils with patches of solonetz. There are meadow soils in the river valleys, where shrubs constitute the main type of vegetation. Forests, consisting of elm, oak, birch, and other trees, cover 5 percent of the oblast’s territory. Great attention has been devoted to artificial forestation: there are three state forest strips, as well as many shelterbelts and forest strips to prevent the formation of gullies.

The oblast’s wildlife includes such rodents as the suslik, jerboa, and members of the subfamilies Microtinae and Criceti-nae. Other forms of wildlife are the European hare, true fox, wolf, and polecat. The European elk inhabits the oblast’s forests, and the Saiga antelope, the steppes of the Trans-Volga Region. Muskrats, raccoon dogs, minks, and Japanese deer have been acclimatized, and beavers, desmans, and wild boars have been reacclimatized. The Volga and its tributaries, the Khoper and Medveditsa, abound in sheatfish, European pike perch, and European bream.

Population. Russians constitute the bulk of the population, approximately 88 percent according to the 1970 census. Other nationalities include Ukrainians, Kazakhs, Tatars, Mordovi-ans, Byelorussians, Chuvashes, and Jews. The average population density is 25 inhabitants per sq km (Jan. 1, 1975); it increases to 35 inhabitants per sq km in the northwest and decreases to ten inhabitants per sq km in the Trans-Volga Region. In 1975 the urban population constituted 71 percent of the total (34.7 percent in 1939). The major cities are Saratov, En-gel’s, and Balakovo. Seven cities have been formed since the October Revolution of 1917.

Economy. Prior to the Great October Socialist Revolution, the economy of what is now Saratov Oblast was clearly agrarian. Industry was limited mainly to certain food-processing enterprises. As a result of socialist transformations, the oblast has become a region with developed industry and agriculture. The gross output of the major industries increased by a factor of approximately 249 from 1913 to 1974. In the period 1971–74 alone, output grew by more than one-third. Particularly rapid has been the development of the electric power industry, machine building, and the chemical and petrochemical industries.

The power base is formed by the Lenin Komsomol Saratov Hydroelectric Power Plant, the Saratov State Regional Electric Power Plant, the Saratov heat and electric power plants TETs-1 and TETs-2, the Engel’s heat and electric power plant TETs-3, and the Balakovo heat and electric power plant TETs-4. Another heat and electric power plant, the TETs-5, is under construction in Saratov (1975).

Saratov leads the oblast in machine-building and metalwork-ing industries, having plants that produce aircraft, heavy machinery, and bearings. It has the Serp i Molot, the Sardizel’, and the Neftemash plants. The city of Engel’s has the Uritskii Trolleybus Plant, as well as a machine shop and plants producing metal structural components, automotive spark plugs, and ventilation equipment. Balakovo specializes in the manufacture of diesel engines and in ship repair. Balashov produces automotive trailers, and Petrovsk, automotive spare parts. In Atkarsk, the Udarnik Plant produces equipment for digging out peat. Fittings are produced in Krasnyi Kut.

The oil and gas industry has developed from the Sokolovo-gorskoe, Peschano-Umetskoe, Lysye Gory, and Stepnoe oil and natural-gas deposits. Gas extraction totaled 1.5 billion cu m in 1974. The city of Saratov has an oil-refining industry. The chemical industry produces synthetic fibers and thread, cord, sulfuric acid, ethyl alcohol from inorganic sources, and industrial rubber goods. Among the major enterprises are the Saratov Nitron Production Association, the Engel’s and Balakovo Khimvolokno production associations, which produce man-made fibers, and the plants producing industrial rubber goods in Saratov, Balakovo, and Kalininsk.

The building-materials industry produces bricks (Saratov, Engel’s, Balakovo, Pugachev, Vol’sk), cement (Vol’sk; 3.9 million tons in 1974, compared with 187,000 tons in 1913), rein-forced-concrete structural members (Saratov, Engel’s, Pugachev), keramzit (artificial porous filler [Saratov, Balakovo]), window and plate glass (Saratov), and roofing shingles (Vol’sk).

The sawmilling and woodworking industry, which is supplied by logs floated down rivers of the Kama River basin, has enterprises in Saratov, Engel’s, Balakovo, Vol’sk, Pugachev, and Petrovsk. Saratov also has a printing combine. There are textile mills in Balashov, Krasnoarmeisk, Engel’s, and Krasnyi Tekstil’shchik. Leather goods are produced in Saratov, Vol’sk, Pugachev, and Bazarnyi Karabulak, and there are footwear factories in Saratov and Balashov. The most important branches of the food-processing industry are concerned with the milling and hulling of grain and the processing of meat, fat, vegetable oil, and milk. The Lower Volga Region’s first sugar mill has been built in Balashov.

In 1974 Saratov Oblast accounted for 95 percent of the all-Union output of trolleybuses, 21 percent of plate glass, 32 percent of viscose rayon fabrics, 16.8 percent of man-made fibers, and 7.9 percent of household refrigerators.

Saratov Oblast is one of the most important agricultural regions of the USSR. It has 403 kolkhozes and 237 sovkhozes (1974). Agricultural land covers (1974) 8,485,700 hectares (ha), with 6,126,300 ha (1974) under cultivation. Of the area under cultivation, 4,476,300 ha are under grain crops, 420,600 ha under industrial crops, 80,900 ha under potatoes, vegetables, and melons, and 1,148,500 ha under feed crops. There are 216,300 ha of irrigated land (1974). Wheat, which is grown in all parts of the oblast, is a principal grain crop, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all grain crops produced. In the Trans-Volga Region, wheat is grown on nearly 70 percent of the area under cultivation. Rye, another principal grain crop, occupies 11–12 percent of the plowland. Millet, barley, oats, and corn are also grown. The most important industrial crop is the sunflower, grown mainly in the southern part of the oblast’s right-bank region.

Animal husbandry is geared toward meat and dairy products, with meat predominating in areas east of the Volga. At the beginning of 1975, there were 1,587,000 head of cattle (including 615,000 cows), 2,964,000 sheep and goats, and 894,000 hogs.

The oblast has 2,217 km of railroads (1974). The main railroad junction is Saratov, where the Moscow-Saratov-Ural’sk-Orenburg line crosses the Volgograd-Kazan line. The Penza-Rtishchevo-Povorino line is electrified. Navigation is primarily on the Volga and Bol’shoi Irgiz. The principal river ports and landings are Saratov, Balakovo, Vol’sk, Engel’s, and Khva-lynsk. There are 22,700 km of highways (1974), with principal routes leading from Saratov to Volgograd, to Voronezh, and to Penza. Saratov Oblast is traversed by several gas pipelines, namely the Saratov-Moscow, the Saratov-Penza-Gorky-Cherepovets, and the Middle Asia-Tsentr pipelines.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. The Khoper region is planted with rye, wheat, oats, sugar beets, and sunflowers. Animal husbandry is geared toward meat and dairy products. Industries in this region include the processing of agricultural raw materials, machine building, and the production of textiles and building materials. Centers of this region are Balashov, Rtishchevo, and Ar-kadak.

The Medveditsa region is planted with wheat, rye, millet, and sunflowers. Animals are raised for meat and dairy products. There are machine-building, metalworking, chemical, and glass industries. Centers are Petrovsk, Kalininsk, Atkarsk, and Khvatovka.

The Volga region, which straddles the river, is the principal industrial region, with machine-building, chemical, glass, building-materials, and food-processing industries. There is also light industry. Oil and gas are extracted. This region of the oblast is planted with sunflowers as well as with such grain crops as rye, wheat, and millet. Animals are raised for meat and dairy products. There is also poultry husbandry, vegetable growing, and fruit growing. Centers are Saratov, Engel’s, Balakovo, Vol’sk, Khvalynsk, Krasnoarmeisk, and Marks.

The Trans-Volga Region is planted with wheat, rye, barley, millet, and feed crops. Industries include the processing of agricultural raw materials, the extraction of oil and gas, and the production of building materials. Centers are Pugachev, No-vouzensk, Ershov, Krasnyi Kut, and Stepnoe.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. Prior to 1917, the area that is now Saratov Oblast had 2,036 schools, with 208,500 pupils, six specialized secondary schools, with approximately 900 students, and three higher educational institutions, with 1,500 students. In the 1974–75 academic year, there were 1,952 general-education schools of all types, with 420,100 pupils, 77 vocational and technical schools, with 32,400 students, 47 specialized secondary schools, with 54,100 students, and 12 higher educational institutions. This last group included the University of Saratov, the Saratov Conservatory, and the polytechni-cal, agricultural, pedagogical, medical, economics, and zoovet-erinary institutes in Saratov. There is a pedagogical institute in Balashov. Total enrollment in the oblast’s higher educational institutions was 58,600 in the 1974–75 academic year. In 1975 there were 122,600 children in 1,342 preschool institutions.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, Saratov Oblast had 1,191 public libraries, with 16.8 million books and periodicals. Its 13 museums (with branches) included the oblast museum of local lore and its branch the Memorial Apartment-Museum of the Ul’ianov family (who lived in Saratov from 1910 to 1913), the A. N. Radish-chev Art Museum, and the N. G. Chernyshevskii House-Museum (Chernyshevskii was born in and died in Saratov), all of which are in Saratov. There are museums of local lore in Balashov, Vol’sk, Pugachev, Petrovsk, Engel’s, and Khvalynsk (with an art gallery). Other museums are the V. I. Chapaev Memorial House-Museum in Pugachev (in 1918, Chapaev was appointed military commissar of Nikolaevsk, now Pugachev) and the V. I. Chapaev Museum in the city of Balakovo (where Chapaev lived from 1897 to 1913). The oblast’s seven theaters are the theater of opera and ballet, the dramatic theater, the young people’s theater, and the puppet theater, all in Saratov; the operetta theater in Engel’s; and the dramatic theaters in Balashov and Vol’sk. There is a philharmonic society and a circus in Saratov. The oblast also has 1,755 clubs, 1,915 motion-picture projection units, three palaces of Pioneers, and two stations for young naturalists.

Newspapers include the oblast paper Kommunist, published since 1906, and the Komsomol paper Zaria molodezhi, published since 1919. There are three radio stations, which together broadcast for 70 hours a day. The stations relay programs from Moscow and, for 1½ hours a day, carry the oblast’s own programs. There are 11 hours a day of television programs relayed from the Central Television Studio and 1½ hours a day of oblast programs.

As of Jan. 1, 1974, Saratov Oblast had 251 hospitals, with 27,800 beds (11.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants). There were 9,100 doctors (one doctor per 276 inhabitants). The V. I. Chapaev Balneologic and Pelotherapeutic Health Resort is located in the oblast; there are 15 sanatoriums.


Rossiiskaia Federatsiia: Evropeiskii Iugo-Vostok: Povolzh’e, Severnyi Kavkaz. Moscow, 1968. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
Priroda rodnogo kraia i ee okhrana: Sb. st. Saratov, 1971.
Malinin, G. A. Pamiatniki i pamiatnye mesta Saratovskoi oblasti. Saratov, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
4.3 The State Archive of Saratov Oblast (GASO) and the State Historical Archive of the Volga Germans in Engels (the "Engels Archive")
We paid extensive visits to the State Archive of Saratov Oblast (GASO) and Engels Archives--the region's two largest repositories of Volga German materials--on two separate days over the course of our week-long visit to Saratov.
4.4 The State Archive of Contemporary History of Saratov Oblast (GANISO/"KGB Archives")
Donald Raleigh, Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was among the first Western scholars to get an access to various provincial archives of Saratov oblast', and Experiencing Russia's Civil War is a manifestation to the author's strenuous labor in these archives over the last decade.
"An end will be put to various demonstrations of extremism, religious, political, and other," said the Governor of Saratov Oblast, in southeast Russia.