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URAL MOUNTAINS

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Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 787 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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URAL MOUNTAINS, a system of mountains which extends from the Arctic Ocean southwards nearly to the Caspian Sea, and is regarded as separating Europe from Asia. Russians describe them either as Kamen (stone) merely, or by the appropriate name of Poyas (girdle), while the name of Urals (Uraly)—derived either from the Ostyak urr (chain of mountains) or from the Turkish aral-tau or ural-tau--has with them become a generic name for extensive mountain chains. Although the real structure of the Urals, both orographical and geological, is imperfectly ascertained, enough is known to warrant the statement that they have been affected by a series of separate upheavals, some having a north-western strike and some a north-eastern, and that they reach their maximum altitudes along a zone stretching nearly north and south. The composite nature of the Urals is best seen at the northern and southern extremities of the system, where the upheavals assume the character of distinct chains of mountains. The Pa-khoy or coast ridge (Samoyedic " stony ridge ") is quite independent of the Urals proper, from which it is separated by a marshy tundra, some 30 m. wide. It has a distinct north-northwesterly and north-westerly trend along the shores of the Kara Sea; and, although it is cut through by the Ugrian Strait (Yugorskiyshar), there is no doubt that it is continued in Vaygach Island and Novaya-Zemlya. Its dome-shaped summits, which rise woo ft. above the tundra (Vozaipae, 1312 ft.), are completely destitute of trees, and its stony crags are separated by broad marshy tundras. The Obdorsk or Northern Urals, which begin within a few miles of the head of Kara Bay (Konstantinov Kamen, in 68° 30' N., 1465 ft.), and extend south-west as far as the 64th parallel, form a distinct range, stony and craggy, sloping steeply towards the south-east and gently towards the marshes of European Russia. Its highest elevations (e.g. Khard-yues, 3715 ft., and Pae-yer, 4650 ft.) are on the 66th and 67th parallels. Sometimes the main chain has on the west two or three secondary chains, formed by the upheaval of sedimentary rocks, and it is towards the southern extremity of one of these that the highest peaks of the Urals occur (Sablya, 5135 ft., in 64° 47' N., and To11-poz-iz or Murai-chakhl, 5535 ft. in 6 ° 55'). Dense forests, chiefly fir, pine and larch, clothe the slopes of the mountains and the narrow valleys; but, as the less hospitable latitudes are approached, every species except the larch gradually disappears and the upper limit of vegetation (2400 ft. in the south) rapidly descends till it reaches the very base of the mountains towards the Arctic Circle, and forest vegetation disappears altogether about 65° N. (67° in the plains of Russia and Siberia). Although usually reckoned to the Northern Urals, the section between 64° and 61° N. has again a wholly distinct character. Here the main chain (or, more correctly, the main water-parting) of the Urals is a succession of plateaus stretching in a north-westerly direction, and dimpled with broad, flat, marshy valleys, rising here and there into isolated dome-shaped, flattened summits, mostly under 3000 ft. (Yang-tump, 62° 43' N., 4170 ft.). The whole region, except the mountain summits, is densely clothed with coniferous forests, birch appearing only occasionally in the south, and even the Scotch pine only in a few valleys. This part of the range is also uninhabited. The Middle Urals, between 61 ° and 55° 30' N. and about 8o m. in breadth, are the best known, as they contain the richest iron, copper and gold mines (Bogoslovsk, Goroblagodatsk and Ekaterinburg Urals). The Denezhkin Kamen in the north (5355 ft.) andthe Tara-tash in the south (2800 ft.) may be considered as marking the limits of this section. Here the orographical structure is still more complicated. In the north (61st to 6oth parallel) there is a succession of chains with a distinct north-eastern trend ; and it still remains an open question whether, for two degrees farther south, the whole of the Bogoslovsk Urals (4795 ft. in the Konzhakovski-Kamen, and from 3000 to 4000 ft. in several other summits) do not consist of chains having the same direction. South of Kachkanar (2885 ft.), i.e. from the 58th to the 56th parallel, the orals assume the appearance of broad swellings woo to 2000 ft. in height, deeply trenched by ravines. These low and ravine-broken plateaus, the higher parts of which can be reached from Russia on a very gentle gradient, have been utilized for centuries as the chief highway to Siberia. The water-parting between the Russian and Siberian rivers is here not more than 1245 ft. above sea-level on the great Russo-Siberian highway (W. of Ekaterinburg). The eastern slope is steeper, but even there Ekaterinburg is only 435 ft. below the water-parting. The valleys have a decidedly south-eastern direction, and such is also the course of the railway from Perm to Tyumen, as soon as it reaches the Siberian slope. The Middle Urals are densely forested. The valleys and lower slopes are covered with a thick sheet of rich humus and have become the site of large and wealthy villages. The mines also support a considerable population. The Southern Urals (55° 30' to 51° N.), instead of being made up of three chains of mountains radiating from Mount Yurma, as was formerly supposed, consist of three parallel chains running north-east and south-west, and therefore constitute a quite independent part of the Ural system. The Urals proper are a low sinuous chain extending due south-west and hardly exceeding 2200 to 2800 ft. in altitude. They slope gently towards the north-west and abruptly towards the south-east, where several short, low spurs (Ilmen, Irenly) rise in the basins of the Miyas and the Ui. In the west a chain, separated from the main range, or Ural-tau, by a longitudinal valley, accompanies it throughout its entire length. This, although pierced by the rivers which rise in the longitudinal valley just mentioned (Ai, Upper Byelaya), nevertheless rises to a much greater height than the main range. Its wild stony crest reaches an extreme altitude of 5230 ft. Farther west, another series of chains reach nearly the same altitudes. The gorges by which the rivers pierce the Devonian limestones on their way towards the lower terraces are most picturesque in the west, where the Urals assume an alpine character. The forests are no longer continuous; the gentle slopes of the hilly tracts are dotted with woods, mostly of deciduous trees, while the hollows contain rich pasture grounds. The whole region, formerly the exclusive abode of the Bashkirs, is being colonized by Russians. Farther south, between the 53rd and 51st parallels, the main range continues in the same direction, and, except when deeply trenched by the rivers, assumes the appearance of a plateau which hardly reaches 1500 ft. It is continued farther south-west (towards the Volga) under the name of Obshchiy Syrt. As a rule, the Urals are not considered to continue south of the great bend of the Ural river, where quite independent ranges of hills, or flat swellings, appear (e.g. Dzhaman-tau, Mugodzhar Hills). It appears, however, that the Mugodzhar Hills may safely be regarded as an actual prolongation of the upheavals which constitute the Urals. These consist of diorites and crystalline slates, and reach their maximum in AIryuk (1885 ft.). A range of heights connects the Mugodzhar Hills with the Ust-Urt plateau (see TRANSCASPIAN REGION). Geology.—The Ural Mountains are no more than the western edge of a broad belt of folding of which the greater part is buried beneath the Tertiary deposits of western Siberia. Throughout the greater portion of the chain a broad strip of granites, diorites, peridotites, gneisses and other crystalline rocks rises directly from the Siberian plain, and is covered towards the west by Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic strata, which are thrown into numerous folds parallel to the length of the chain and usually rise to much greater heights than the crystalline zone. In the north, however, folded sedimentary rocks lie to the east as well as to the west of the crystalline axis, and between 6o° 40' and 46° 5o' N. Fedorov distinguishes three zones: (i.) the eastern hill region, where one finds Mesozoic rocks (Chalk, Jurassic) in the north, and Devonian limestones, porphyrites and quartz-porphyries farther south; in this zone most gold placers are found; (ii.) the central mountain zone consists of various amphibolitic metamorphic slates, and also of syenite and gabbro; granites, gneisses, and occasionally serpentines and porphyrites are found subordinately; and (iii.) the western hilly zone consists chiefly of Carboniferous and Permo-Carboniferous deposits; Middle and Upper Devonian limestones and, occasionally, crystalline slates are found in a few meridional ridges. The crystalline rocks are usually believed to be of Archean age. The Carboniferous deposits—coal-bearing in the Middle and Southern Urals—although appearing at the surface only as a narrow strip in the west Urals, occupy an extensive area, but are concealed by the largely developed Permian deposits, and that series of sediments which must be considered as intermediate between the Carboniferous and the Permian. These latter, described as " Permo-Carbon " by Russian and German geologists, are largely developed in the west Urals. The Permian deposits cover a wide zone all along the western slope of the Urals from north to south, and are most important on account of their copper ores, salt beds and salt springs. They are also covered with variegated marls which are almost destitute of fossil organisms, so that their age is not yet quite settled. Climatic, Geo-Botanical and Geo-Zoological Importance.—The importance of the Urals as a climatic and geo-botanical boundary can no longer be regarded as very great. Most European species of plants freely cross the Urals into Siberia, and several Siberian species travel across them into northern Russia. But, being a zone of hilly tracts extending from north to south, the Ural Mountains necessarily exercise a powerful influence in pushing a colder northern climate, as well as a northern flora and fauna, farther south along their axis. The harshness of the climate at the meteorological stations of Bogoslovsk, Zlatoust and Ekaterinburg is not owing merely to their elevation a few hundred feet above sea-level. Even if reduced to sea-level, the average temperatures of the Ural meteorological stations are such as to produce a local deflexion of the isotherms towards the south. The same is true with regard to the limits of distribution of vegetable and animal species. The reindeer, for instance, is met with as far south as the 52nd parallel. The Southern Urals introduce into the Cis-Caspian steppes the flora and fauna of middle Russia. In the distribution of the races of mankind the Urals have played an important part. To the present day the Northern Urals are inhabited by Finnish races (Samoyedes, Syryenians, Voguls and Permians) who have been driven from their former homes by Slav colonization, while the steppes on the slopes of the Southern Urals have continued to be inhabited by the Turkish Bashkirs. The Middle Urals were in the 9th century the abode of the Ugrians, and their land, Bjarmeland or Biarmia (now Perm), was well known to the Byzantine historians for its mineral wealth,—there being at that time a lively intercourse between the Ugrians and the Greeks. Compelled to abandon these regions, they moved (in the 9th century) south along the Ural slopes towards the land of the Khazars, and through the prairies of south-eastern and southern Russia (the Ae$edta of Constantine Porphyrogenitus) towards the Danube and to their present seat—Hungary—leaving but very few memorials behind them in the Northern and Middle Urals.' At present the Urals, especially the Middle and the Southern, are being more and more colonized by Great Russian immigrants, while the Finnish tribes are rapidly melting away. Metallurgy and Mining.—The• mineral wealth of the Urals was known to the Greeks in the 9th century, and afterwards to the Novgorodians, who penetrated there in the 11th century for trade with the Ugrians. When the colonies of Novgorod (Vyatka, Perm) fell under the rule of Moscow, the Russian tsars soon grasped the importance of the Ural mines, and Ivan III. sent out German engineers to explore that region. in 1558 the whole of the present government of Perm was granted by the rulers of Moscow to the brothers Stroganov, who began to establish salt-works and mines for iron and copper. Peter the Great gave a new impulse to the mining industry by founding several iron-works, and from 1745, when gold was first discovered, the Russian colonization of the Urals took a new departure. The colonization was of a double character, being partly free chiefly by Nonconformists in search of religious freedom—and partly compulsory,—the government sending peasant settlers who became serfs at the iron and copper works. Until 1861 all work at the mines was done by serfs belonging either to private persons (the Stroganovs, Demidovs and others) or to the crown. Not only are the Urals very rich in minerals, but the vast areas covered with forests afford an almost inexhaustible supply of cheap fuel for smelting purposes. Thus for a long time the Urals were the chief mining region in Russia. But when coal began to be used for smelting purposes, south Russia generally, and Ekaterinoslav in particular, became the chief iron-producing region. Attention has, however, again been directed to the great mineral wealth locked up in the mountain region, and the last two years of the 19th century witnessed a " boom " in the purchase of iron and gold mines by foreign companies. The chief pig-iron and iron-works are at Nizhniy-Tagilsk, and the principal steel-works at Bogoslovsk. The manufacture of agricultural machinery has increased in the southern Urals, especially at Krasno-ufimsk, and the manufacture of tea-urns has grown in importance at Perm. Gold is met with in the Urals both in veins and in placers; the output increased from about 30,000 oz. in 1883 to three times that amount at the end of the century. The Urals have also rich placers of platinum, often mixed with gold, iridium, osmium and other rare metals, and supply annually some 13,000 Ib, i.e. 95% of all the platinum obtained in the world. Silver, mercury, nickel, zinc and cobalt ores are found. Rich mines of copper are found at Turinsk, Gumishev and other places, yielding as much as 5% of pure copper; nickel is obtained at Revdinsk, and the extraction 'Comp. Moravia and the Madiars, by K. J. Groth ; Zabyelin's History of Russian Life, and the polemics on the subject in Izvestia of the Russ. Geogr. Soc., xix. (1883).of iron chromates has developed. Coal exists in many places on the western slope of the Urals, mainly on the Yaiva river, in the basin of the Kama, and on the Usva (basin of the Chusovaya), and about 500,000 tons are raised annually. Several. beds of coal have been found on the eastern..slope; excellent anthracite exists at Irbit and good coal at Kamyshlov. Sapphires, emeralds beryls, chrysoberyls, tourmalines, aquamarines, topaz, amethysts, rock-crystals, garnets and many kinds of jade, malachite and marble are cut and polished at several stone-cutting works, especially at Ekaterinburg; and diamond-mining may prove successful. Good asbestos is extracted, and pyrites is worked for the manufacture of sulphuric acid Many varieties of mineral waters occur in the Urals, the best being those at Serginsk, Klyuchevsk and Elovsk. (P. A. K.; J. T. BE.)
End of Article: URAL MOUNTAINS
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