Essays on the Law of Nature (1664)
(117,562), next to the British empire the most extensive empire in the world, embracing one-sixth of the land-surface of the globe, including one-half of Europe, all Northern and a part of Central Asia; on the N. it fronts the Arctic Ocean from Sweden to the NE. extremity of Asia; its southern limit forms an irregular line from the NW. corner of the Black Sea to the Sea of Japan, skirting Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, East Turkestan, and the Chinese empire; Behring Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan wash its eastern shores; Sweden, the Baltic, Germany, and Austria lie contiguous to it in West Europe. This solid, compact mass is thinly peopled (13 to the sq. m. over all) by some 40 different-speaking races, including, besides the dominant Russians (themselves split into three branches), Poles, Finns, Esthonians, Servians, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, Kurds, Persians, Turco-Tartars, Mongols, &c. Three-fourths of the land-surface, with one-fourth of the population, lies in Asia, and is treated under Siberia, Turkestan, Caucasia, &c. Russia in Europe, embracing and (.), is divided from Asia by the Ural Mountains and River and Caspian Sea; forms an irregular, somewhat elongated, square plain sloping down to the low and dreary coast-lands of the Baltic (W.), White Sea (N.), and Black Sea (S.); is seamed by river valleys and diversified by marshes, vast lakes (. Ladoga, Onega, Peipus, and Ilmen), enormous forests, and in the N. and centre by tablelands, the highest of which being the Valdai Hills (1100 ft.); the SE. plain is called the (.). The cold and warm winds which sweep uninterrupted from N. and S. produce extremes of temperature; the rainfall is small. Agriculture is the prevailing industry, engaging 90 per cent. of the people, although in all not more than 21 per cent. of the soil is cultivated; rye is the chief article of food for the peasantry, who comprise four-fifths of the population. The rich plains, known as the "black lands" from their deep, loamy soil, which stretch from the Carpathians to the Urals, are the most productive corn-lands in Europe, and rival in fertility the "yellow lands" of China, and like them need no manure. Timber is an important industry in the NW., and maize and the vine are cultivated in the extreme S.; minerals abound, and include gold, iron (widely distributed), copper (chiefly in middle Urals), and platinum; there are several large coal-fields and rich petroleum wells at Baku. The fisheries, particularly those of the Caspian, are the most productive in Europe. Immense numbers of horses and cattle are reared, . on the Steppes. Wolves, bears, and valuable fur-bearing animals are plentiful in the N. and other parts; the reindeer is still found, also the elk. Want of ports on the Mediterranean and Atlantic hamper commerce, while the great ports in the Baltic are frozen up four or five months in the year; the southern ports are growing in importance, and wheat, timber, flax, and wool are largely exported. There is a vast inland trade, facilitated by the great rivers (Volga, Don, Dnieper, Dniester, Vistula, &c.) and by excellent railway and telegraphic communication. Among its varied races there exists a wide variety of religions—Christianity, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Shamanism, &c.; but although some 130 sects exist, the bulk of the Russians proper belong to the Greek Church. Education is backward, more than 85 per cent. of the people being illiterate; there are eight universities. Conscription is enforced; the army is the largest in the world. Government is an absolute monarchy, save in (.); the ultimate legislative and executive power is in the hands of the czar, but there is a State Council of 60 members nominated by the czar. In the 50 departments a good deal of local self-government is enjoyed through the village communes and their public assemblies, but the imperial power as represented by the police and military is felt in all parts, while governors of departments have wide and ill-defined powers which admit of abuse. The great builders of the empire, the beginnings of which are to be sought in the 9th century, have been Ivan the Great, who in the 15th century drove out the Mongols and established his capital as Moscow; Ivan the Terrible, the first of the czars, who in the 16th century pushed into Asia and down to the Black Sea; and (.). Its restless energies are still unabated, and inspire a persistently aggressive policy in the Far East. Within recent years its literature has become popular in Europe through the powerful writings of Pushkin, Turgenief, and Tolstoi.