Smolensk Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Smolensk Oblast


part of the RSFSR. Formed on Sept. 27, 1937. Area, 49,800 sq km. Population, 1,087,000(1975). It is divided into 23 administrative raions and has 14 cities and 18 urban-type settlements. The administrative center is Smolensk. The oblast was awarded the Order of Lenin on Mar. 10, 1958.

Natural features. Situated on the East European Plain, Smolensk Oblast lies along the upper reaches of the Dnieper and Zapadnaia Dvina and in the Volga River basin. Topographically, it is a hilly undulating plain, essentially of glacial origin, with a well-preserved rolling morainic relief in the northwest. The Smolensk Upland stretches across the oblast in a latitudinal direction. In the northeast the Viaz’ma Upland rises to 319 m, the highest point in the oblast.

Mineral resources include brown coal, mined at the Safo-novo and other deposits, peat, and limestone and other building materials. The climate is moderately continental, with a mean January temperature ranging from - 8°C in the west to - 10°C in the east and a mean July temperature of 17°C in the northwest and 18°C in the southwest. The precipitation totals about 600 mm a year, with the maximum occurring in July. The growing season is 180 to 190 days. The main rivers are the Dnieper and its major tributaries, the Desna and Sozh, both of them originating in the oblast; the Vazuza and Ugra, which belong to the Volga River basin; and the Kasplia, a tributary of the Zapadnaia Dvina. Lakes of glacial origin, of which the largest is Lake Sapsho, are found in the northwest. Soddy-podzolic, pod-zolic, and soddy soils predominate. Forests cover 31 percent of the oblast’s area, or 1,658,000 hectares; the largest tracts are in the northwest and east. Conifers cover 37 percent of the wooded area, with spruce accounting for 25 percent. A forest preserve of spruce and broadleaf trees is located in Demidov Raion. Oak forests have survived in Iartsevo Raion in the Dnieper River valley. The forests are inhabited by foxes, wolves, brown bears, squirrels, boars and blue hares. The oblast’s rivers and lakes abound in bream, perch, pike perch, pike, and other valuable fish.

Population. Russians make up the bulk of the oblast’s population, which also includes Byelorussians, Ukrainians, and other ethnic groups. The average population density is 22 persons per sq km; in rural areas it is 10.5 persons per sq km. The most densely settled rural areas (19–21 persons per sq km) are found in the west, in Rudnia, Smolensk, and Pochinok raions, and the most sparsely populated rural areas (7-10 persons per sq km) occur in the east, in Ugra, Gagarin, and Viaz’ma raions. Urban dwellers account for 57 percent of the population. The most important cities are Smolensk, Roslavl’, Safonovo, Viaz’ma, Iartsevo, and Gagarin.

Economy. The oblast has a well-developed industry and an intensive agriculture. Its economy suffered enormous losses during the Great Patriotic War, when the oblast was occupied by fascist troops, but it was restored in the postwar period. In 1974 the gross industrial output was seven times that of 1940. Several new branches of industry have been introduced, among them the production of instruments and chemicals. The oblast’s power industry uses local brown coal (more than 1 million tons mined), local peat (more than 400,000 tons mined), and raw materials obtained from other parts of the country, including gas, petroleum, mazut, and coal. The largest power plants are the Dorogobuzh State Regional Electric Power Plant and the Smolensk Heat and Electric Power Plant No. 2. The Smolensk State Regional Power Plant (SmolGRES) is under construction in the north (1976), and an atomic power plant is being built in the south. The oblast’s power system is included in the power grids of the Central Zone and the Byelorussian SSR.

The leading branches of industry are machine building, met-alworking, light industry, and food processing. Of national and republic significance is the production of automation equipment, computing machines, household refrigerators, automotive spare parts, electric lamps, water heaters, laundry equipment, pianos, mineral fertilizers, tricot underwear, hosiery and linen fabrics. The machine-building and metalworking industries are concentrated in Smolensk, Safonovo, Roslavl’, and Viaz’ma, and light industry enterprises are found in Smolensk, Iartsevo, and Viaz’ma. Milk processing is the leading food industry. In 1974, 89.6 million standard containers of condensed milk were produced, along with 12,200 tons of butter and 16,300 tons of cheese. The main enterprises are in Smolensk, Rudnia, and Gagarin.

The main branches of agriculture are the growing of flax and potatoes and livestock raising for milk and meat. The oblast accounts for 8.5 percent of the area planted under flax in the USSR. Of the oblast’s 2,604,800 hectares (ha) of farmland in 1974, arable land occupied 1,575,700 ha, hayfields 556,400 ha, and pastures 443,700 ha. On Jan. 1, 1975, there were 150 kolkhozes and 277 sovkhozes. The sown area totaled 1,554,000 ha (1974), with cereals covering 665,000 ha (oats, rye, barley, wheat, and buckwheat), flax 103,000 ha, potatoes 125,000 ha, and feed crops 654,000 ha.

Livestock raising for milk and meat is well developed, as is swine raising. In 1974 the oblast livestock population numbered 814,000 head of cattle (including 375,000 dairy cows) and 408,000 pigs. Poultry raising is also important (3.9 million birds). The two poultry farms near Smolensk provide 33 percent of the oblast’s egg output. A state stud farm established in 1922 at Aleksino in Dorogobuzh Raion specializes in raising the Russian trotter.

In 1975 the oblast had 1,175 km of railroads. The most important trunk line, the Moscow-Smolensk-Minsk line, is electrified from Moscow to Viaz’ma (1974). Heavy-freight traffic characterizes the Briansk-Viaz’ma-Sychevka railroad, which is connected with a Leningrad line. The major railroad junctions are Smolensk, Viaz’ma, and Roslavl’. There are more than 3,000 km of paved roads, the most important being the Moscow-Minsk highway, which passes near Smolensk (7 km), Viaz’ma, and Gagarin, and the Riga-Orel highway, which crosses Smolensk and Roslavl’. There were about 10,000 km of bus routes in 1974, as compared to 1,400 km in 1955. Smolensk is linked by air with Moscow, Velikie Luki, Vitebsk, Minsk, and Tula, as well as with all the raion administrative centers and large settlements. River ships carry passengers and freight on the Dnieper for a distance of 42 km upstream and 47 km downstream from Smolensk. Two gas pipelines cross the oblast: the Briansk-Roslavl’-Smolensk-Safonovo-Verkhnedneprovskiiand the Torzhok (Kalinin Oblast)-Smolensk-Minsk-Ivatsevichi (ByelorussianSSR).


Schools, scientific and cultural institutions, and public health. In 1914 the oblast had 2,070 primary schools, in what is now Smolensk, with an enrollment of 171,200 pupils, and three specialized secondary schools, with 259 students. There were no higher educational institutions. In the 1974–75 academic year, 179,200 students attended 1,307 general-education schools of all types, 12,100 were enrolled in 30 vocational-technical schools, and 25,700 were being trained in 28 specialized secondary schools. The oblast’s three higher educational institutions (medicine, pedagogy, and physical culture) and the branches of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute and the Timiriazev Moscow Agricultural Academy in Smolensk had a total enrollment of 14,400 students. The oblast also has a branch of the All-Union Correspondence Institute of Finance and Economics. In 1974,37,900 children attended 549 preschool institutions.

The oblast’s leading scientific institutions are the Research and Design Institute of Thermal Power Engineering Equipment in Smolensk, the Zonal Reclamation Experiment Station, also in Smolensk, and the A. N. Engel’gardt Oblast State Agricultural Experiment Station in Pochinok Raion.

On Jan. 1, 1975, the oblast had 713 public libraries, containing 8,581,000 copies of books and magazines. The principal museums are the Museum of Fine and Applied Art in Smolensk (whose branches include the S. T. Konenkov Museum of Sculpture), the Oblast Museum of Local Lore in Smolensk (with branches in Viaz’ma and El’nia), the museums of local lore in Gagarin and Sychevka, the Museum of Art History in Roslavl’, and the Iu. A. Gagarin Museum in Gagarin, which has a branch in the village of Klushino, the cosmonaut’s birthplace. Theatrical performances are given by the oblast drama theater and the puppet theater in Smolensk. Among other cultural facilities are 1,088 clubs, 1,291 motion-picture projection units, a palace of Pioneers and schoolchildren, a station for young technicians, and a station for young naturalists.

The oblast newspaper Rabochii put’has been published since 1917, and Smena, a Komsomol newspaper, has appeared since 1919. The oblast receives three Central Television programs (22 hours a day) and two All-Union Radio programs (38 hours a day). Oblast radio broadcasts are on the air 1.5 hours daily.

On Jan. 1, 1974, there were 123 hospitals, with 13,100 beds (12 per 1,000 inhabitants), and 2,800 doctors (one for every 386 people). Medical services are also provided by ten sanatoriums and two houses of rest.


Narodnoe khoziaistvo Smolenskoi oblasti ν 1970: Statistich. sb. Smolensk, 1972.
Tsentral’nyi ekonomicheskii raion. Moscow, 1973.
Priroda Smolenskoi oblasti. part 1. Smolensk, 1973.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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