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My Life at Home and at Yasnaya Polyana 

By T. A. Kuzminskaya, sister-in-law 

of Leo Tolstoy 


By Andrei Y. Vyshinsky, Deputy Minister 
for Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R. 


By N. K. Gudzy, member, Academy of 
Sciences of the U.S.S.R. 


Edited by S. S. Balzak, V. F. Vasyutin, 
and Y. G. Feigin 


By P. I. Lyashchenko, member, Academy of 
Sciences of the U.S.S.R. 


By L. S. Berg, President, All-Union 
Geographical Society of the U.S.S.R. 


By Y. M. Sokolov 


(Seventeenth through Nineteenth Century) 
By B, V. Varneke, Philologist and Theatre Historian 

and numerous others 

Natural Regions of th 

U. S. S. R. 

By L. S. gERG President of 
the All-Union Geographical Society 
of the U.S.S.R. 

Translated from the Russian by 

Edited bij JOHN A. MORRISON 

Consultant on Soviet Geography, formerly 
Chief, Eastern European Branch, Division of 
Research for Europe, Department of State 


Soil Scientist, Department of Agriculture 



All rights reservedno part of this 
book may be reproduced in any form 
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the publislier, except by a reviewer 
who wishes to quote brief passages in 
connection with a review written for 
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First Printing 

Certain material reproduced in this volume, namely, 
33 illustrations which are specifically identified by the 
use of captions appearing thereunder, was taken from 
the German work, Vegetationsbilder, Vols. 3, 5, 11, 17, 
18, 19, 20 and 23, by Dr. G. Karsten and Dr. II. Sclienck 
(Editors), published by Verlag von Gustuv Fischer, 
Jena. The German interests in the United States Copy- 
right in this work (25 volumes, 1904-1935) were vested 
in 1949, pursuant to law. The use of these illustrations 
in this volume is by permission of the Attorney General 
of the United States in the public interest under License 
No. JA-1359. 



THE Russian Translation Project of the American Coun- 
I cil of Learned Societies was organized in 1944 with the 
aid of a subsidy from the Humanities Division of the Rockefeller Founda- 
tion. The aim of the Project is the translation into English of significant 
Russian works in the fields of the humanities and the social sciences which 
provide an insight into Russian life and thought. 

In the difficult problem of the selection of books for translation, the 
Administrative Committee has had the counsel and cooperation of Slavic 
scholars throughout the United States and Great Britain. It is thought that 
the books chosen will be useful to general readers interested in world 
affairs, and will also serve as collateral reading material for the large 
number of courses on Russia in our colleges and universities. 

Since Russian history is a continuum, the volumes translated are of 
various dates and have been drawn from both the prerevolutionary and 
postrevolutionary periods, from writings published inside and outside of 
Russia, the choice depending solely on their value to the fundamental aim 
of the Project. Translations are presented in authentic and unabridged 
English versions of the original text. Only in this way, it is believed, can 
American readers be made aware of the traditions, concepts, and ideolo- 
gies by which the thinking and attitudes of the people of Russia are 

It should, of course, be clearly understood that the views expressed in 
the works translated are not to be identified in any way with those of the 
Administrative Committee or of the Council. 



IT is surprising that out of the hundreds of books on 
the Soviet Union published in this country and Great 
Britain there has been, until very recently, _ no systematic geographic 
description of that vast country in English.jTet there will be few who 
will deny that without a knowledge of the natural features and condi- 
tions of a country and the manner in which its people have adjusted 
themselves to their natural environment, there can be no real under- 
standing of that country^ One would think that the great contrasts in 
the natural conditions of the U.S.S.R. arctic tundras and subtropical rain 
forests, the greatest lowland plain in the world and mountains over 
20,000 feet and the conspicuous manner in which the natural conditions 
have affected the development of the Russian State would early have 
attracted the attention of American geographers. The lack of concern 
may in part be due to the difficulties placed in the way of individual 
travel and study in the Soviet Union by the Soviet authorities. But in 
large measure it must be charged to the willingness of American and 
British geographers to get their information on the Soviet Union second- 
hand from the writings of German and French geographers. However, 
even these sources were unavailable to the average American under- 
graduate student of geography. The writer of this prefatory note taught 
a university course on the geography of the U.S.S.R. for several years 
in the early 1930's; aside from what they could get out of a somewhat 
propagandists popular account of Soviet achievements in developing 
the country's natural resources, the students (with rare exceptions) had 
to depend entirely on the lectures of the instructor. One of the excep- 
tions was the translator of this work. 

Fortunately for the greatly increased number of students now studying 
the geography of the Soviet Union, two general geographies of the 
U.S.S.R., one British, the other American, have been published since the 
war. But while satisfactory as textbooks, they necessarily do not provide 
the systematic detailed description of the Soviet natural environment 
which the student needs if his interest is primarily in the physical, rather 
than in the human or economic aspects of Soviet geography. That lack, 
it is hoped, this book will fill. 



The science of geography-in all its aspects is no new subject in Russia. 
Even in tsarist days it was well established as a university discipline, and 
the Imperial Russian Geographical Society ranked with the national 
societies of Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. 
Under the present regime, with its concern for inventorying the natural 
resources of the country and its emphasis on planned economic develop- 
ment, the geographical sciences have developed rapidly. The problem 
facing the Administrative Committee of the Russian Translation Project 
was thus one of selection. 

Fortunately it was not a difficult one to solve. In the first place, since 
the Committee had decided to translate also a Soviet economic geogra- 
phy, the field was narrowed to that of physical geography. In the second 
place, while the literature on the various aspects of physical geography 
is voluminous, there are few comprehensive treatments of the entire 
Soviet Union on what we would call in this country the "college level/' 
Finally, the eminence of Professor Berg, the wide range of his experi- 
ence and interest, and the recognition which he has received both at 
home and abroad pointed clearly to his Priroda S.S.S.R., first published 
in 1937, as the most authoritative work in the field. 

On the occasion of his seventieth birthday and the completion of fifty 
years of scientific activity, a tribute to Berg by A. G. Grumm-Grzhimailo 
was published in the Vestnik of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. 
(No. 3, 1946). In giving a brief account of Berg's place in Russian geo- 
graphical science, we cannot do better than to draw extensively from 
this testimonial. 

While Lev Semenovich Berg has been a productive scholar in physical 
geography and geomorphology, geology, soil science, climatology, lim- 
nology, paleogeography, geobotany, zoogeography, ethnography, and the 
history of geographic discoveries and investigations, he began his scien- 
tific career in ichthyology and it is in that field that he made his first 
and perhaps his greatest contributions. Nevertheless, the fact that he 
came under the influence, during his student days at the University of 
Moscow, of the distinguished geographer, anthropologist, and ethnog- 
rapher, Professor D. N. Anyuchin, undoubtedly laid the basis for the wide 
range of his interests. 

His work in ichthyology provided opportunity for field work in various 
parts of the vast Russian Empire. In 1895, while still a student in the 
University of Moscow, he investigated the ichthyological fauna in the 
basin of the Dniester near his birthplace at Bendery in Bessarabia* In 
1897 we find him studying the sturgeon beds at Guryev on the Ural River* 


In the summer following, the West Siberian section of the Imperial 
Geographical Society, jointly with the Moscow Society of the Friends 
of the Natural Sciences, sent him to western Siberia to make a field study 
of the region of the lakes of Selety-Dengiz, Teke, and Kyzyl-Kak. With 
his appointment as supervisor of the fisheries at the mouth of the Syr- 
Darya in 1899, he began a scries of exhaustive field studies of the Aral 
Sea which occupied him for several seasons. Beginning with ichthyologi- 
cal studies, his investigations broadened out to include all aspects of the 
hydrography of that as then little known body of water, with particular 
attention to the causes of the changes in the level of the lake. The results 
of his studies were later published in his classical monograph The Aral 
Sea, in which he systematized all the data about this basin, displaying 
a profound understanding of the mutually active phenomena occurring 
in it and characterizing it as a landscape of the earth's surface. Accord- 
ing to Grurnm-Grzhimailo, "for completeness of information and definite- 
ness of conclusion, there has been nothing to equal it in Russian geo- 
graphical literature." In recognition of this achievement, Berg was 
awarded the P. P. Semenov-Tian Shansky Gold Medal of the Imperial 
Russian Geographical Society and the University of Moscow named him 
an honorary Doctor of Geographical Sciences. 

Although sent by the Ministry of Agriculture to Bergen in 1902 for 
oceanographic study at the Oceanographic Institute, his interest in lim- 
nological studies in Central Asia continued. In the summer of 1903 he 
was again in Central Asia, this time on Lake Balkhash. He was intrigued 
by the extreme shallowness of this large body of water and by the para- 
dox that although located in a desert country and without an outlet, its 
waters were nevertheless fresh. While in Central Asia that year, he also 
spent some time investigating the large mountain lake Issyk-Kul, which 
led the following year to a report on its physical geography, geology, 
and climatology. 

In 1904 and 1905 he studied the fisheries of the Middle Volga, which 
resulted in the publication "Sketch of Fisheries in the Volga Basin from 
the River Vetluga to the Mouth of the Kama/' In 1905 he was made 
director of the Department of Fishes, Amphibians, and Reptiles in the 
Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, where 
he remained, except for summer field trips, until 1914. This was an 
especially active period even for Berg. Possessed of an astounding capac- 
ity for work, in the year 1905 alono he published eigfrt monographs and 
articles, including his classic work on the fishes of Turkestan and the 
provocative article "Is Central Asia Drying Up?" which was translated 


into German and published in the Geographische Zcitschrift; in 1907. 

The concern with both ichthyology, the field in which Berg first won 
his spurs, and the broader aspects of physical geography which these 
two studies illustrate, continued throughout his St. Petersburg period. 
Thus in 1906 and 1907 he worked on the fresh-water ichthyological 
fauna of the Caucasus, Lake Baikal, the Amur, Manchuria, Korea, North 
China, Siam, and other countries, using materials at hand in the Zoologi- 
cal Museum. But in the same years he also prepared a note on the sands 
of Bolshie Barsuki in which he established their aeolian origin from local 
ferruginous sandstones rather than from the Aral Sea sands to which they 
had formerly been attributed; he also wrote a report on the results of 
a trip in the summer of 1907 to the glaciers at the headwaters of the river 
Isfara in the Turkestan range. In 1909 he published a large work on the 
fishes of the Amur basin in which he concluded that they bear a strongly 
relict character and are a survival of a subtropical fauna which was well 
distributed all over Eurasia at the end of the Tertiary and the beginning 
of the post-Tertiary era. In the summer of the same year ho made; an ex- 
tended trip through the Caucasus collecting ichthyological specimens for 
the Zoological Museum. 

Berg's study of the lakes of Transcaucasia and other now data led him 
to write the remarkable article "On the Changes of Climate in the His- 
torical Epoch" which appeared in 1911, In this article Berg came to the 
conclusion that although die so-called "Bruckner" periodic variations in 
climate had taken place in the historical epoch, iu general the cli- 
mate of the Northern Hemisphere had not changed, while in the im- 
mediate postglacial period of prehistoric time it was considerably drier 
and warmer. 

His studies of fish life keeping pace with his broader geographic inter- 
ests, Berg in the same year (1911) published his study "Fauna of Luko 
Baikal and Its Origin" in which he came to the conclusion that the fauna 
of this great inland sea could not be of marine origin and assigned it lo 
a special "Baikal" subdivision of the subarctic region. To 1911 also 
belong two of Berg's great contributions, The Fauna of ntiwhi and the 
article "Forms of the Russian Deserts." In an introduction to the former 
work he divides the globe into zoogeographical realms, regions, and sub- 
regions on the basis of the geographical distribution of fresh-water fish. 
In the latter he develops an interesting classification of deserts; sanely, 
clayey, salty, and stony. His increasing interest in geomorphology loci 
him in 1912 and 1913 to undertake a study of the relief of Chernigov 
oblast, in 1913 to publish an article oil "An Experiment iu Dividing 


Siberia and Turkestan into Landscape and Geomorphological Zones/' 
and in 1914 to a sketch on "Structure of the Surface of Asiatic Russia." 
In the last-named he proposed a division of Asiatic Russia into fourteen 
geomorphological regions. 

During the St. Petersburg period Berg began his close connection with 
the Geographical Society which has continued to the present. Elected an 
active member on January 28, 1904, that is, before he took up his post 
in the Zoological Museum, from the time of his arrival in the capital, 
Berg was an active member of several committees of the society, among 
them those dealing with hydrography, sand, meteorology, glaciers, bio- 
geography, and physical geography. With his eager mind and with the 
stimulation of the other natural scientists of the society, it was inevitable 
that Berg should attempt a definition of geography, a temptation to 
which all geographers succumb sooner or later. In a report to the Geo- 
graphical Society on "The Subject and Aims of Geography," he defined 
geography as the science which studies landscapes. In his opinion the 
sphere of geography includes "the entire outer crust of the earth subject 
to weathering, down to the level of the ground water, and in the sea the 
whole depth of the water down to the bottom, and the bottom itself to 
a depth as far as the influence of the ocean water is felt." While few 
American geographers would accept this as a definition of their field, 
it is of interest in its bearing on the subsequent development of geo- 
graphic thinking in Russia. Berg himself later developed these proposi- 
tions into the integrated theory of landscapes of which the present book 
is the latest expression. 

However, his larger interests did not completely replace his interest in 
ichthyology. In 1914 he moved to Moscow to accept a professorship in 
that subject in the Fisheries Department of the Moscow Agricultural 
Institute. The period of his work in Moscow (1914-1918) coincided with 
the First World War; nevertheless, even under war conditions he pro- 
duced more than twenty books and monographs. Among these was his 
compendium, Fresh-Water Fishes of Russia which, along with its other 
scientific merits, has value as a definitive work, unique in its complete- 
ness and detail; a fourth edition of this three-volume work has recently 
been published. Another outstanding contribution, which but for the war 
would have received wider attention in the outside scientific world, was 
his monograph "On the Origin of Loess," in which he departed from the 
classical aeolian theory to advance an original hypothesis which, although 
it has not been widely accepted, has aroused much interest among geolo- 
gists and soil scientists abroad as well as in Russia. 


In 1918 Berg's achievements in the broad field of physical geography 
received official recognition with his appointment to the professorship 
in that subject at the University of Petrograd. He also lectured on physi- 
cal geography in the Pedagogical Institute of the university and the newly 
created Geographical Institute. With his return to Petrograd, Berg im- 
mediately renewed his activity in the Geographical Society. 

The extremely difficult conditions of life and work in the period of 
the Civil War did not break him down. On the contrary, he displayed in 
these years an extraordinary capacity for work and accomplished re- 
search notable for its range of interest and valuable for its contents. To 
the difficult year 1920 belongs his challenging monograph on "Bipolar 
Distribution of Organisms and the Glacial Epoch," in which he ex- 
plained the interrupted character of the geographic distribution of organ- 
isms in terms of climatic changes which took place during the glacial 
period. In 1922 there appeared his Climate and Life, a collection of ar- 
ticles most of which had already been published but which were rewrit- 
ten to take into account the most recent materials. However, this volume 
contains also an article "On the Postglacial Epoch of the Desert Steppe" 
which had not previously been published. In this article Berg demon- 
strated that in the glacial epoch the dry zones, both of the Southern and 
the Northern Hemispheres, contracted strongly, but that in the dry post- 
glacial period they were greatly extended, both northward and south- 
ward. This was the epoch of the steppes and of the xerophytcs, of the 
formation of loess, of the drying up of the lakes. In the contemporary 
epoch, he pointed out, we see the reverse phenomenon: the moist zone 
broadens at the expense of the dry, forests invade the steppes, the mois- 
ture and shade-loving species of trees advance at the expense of the spe- 
cies requiring dryness and light, the chernozems are developed on the 
loess soils, the steppe fauna is crowded to the south, dry basins are filled 
with water, and the salinity of previously salt lakes is reduced by the 
inflow of water. 

His long interest in climate culminated in Principles of Climatology 
which appeared in 1926 and which has become a standard Soviet text 
in this field. It was extensively revised and added to for the 1936 edition. 

All of the preceding work in zoogeography, geobotany, geomorphol* 
ogy, soil science, and climatology was preparation for his great synthe- 
sis of physical geography, The Landscape-Geographical Zones of the 
[7.S.S.R., which was first published in 1930, A second edition of this 
fundamental work appeared in 1936; it included a new section devoted 
to the zone of the forest steppe. Berg's teachings about landscape zones 


won immediate acclaim, and to meet the needs of students he incor- 
porated them in textbook form in Priroda S.S.S.R. (Natural Regions of 
the U.S.S.R.), which was first published in 1937 and brought out the 
following year in a second edition. It is this volume which has been 
chosen for translation as best serving the needs of American students of 

Great as has been Berg's work in physical geography, beginning in 
1920 he also found time for important contributions to the history of 
geographical discoveries, especially those of Russian explorers. In 1920 
he published a long article entitled "Information About Bering Strait and 
Its Coasts, from Bering and Cook to the Present.'* In 1924 appeared his 
article on "The History of the Discovery of the Aleutian Islands" in 
Zemlevedenie and in the same year a book The Discovery of Kamchatka 
and the KamcJiatka Expeditions of Bering. In 1925 Zemlevedenie pub- 
lished his article on "The Role of the Academy of Sciences in the History 
of Geologic Discoveries in the Eighteenth Century" and in 1926 his 
article on "Services Rendered by the Russians in the Investigation of the 
Pacific Ocean/* In 1927 he wrote "The History of Geographical Explora- 
tions of the Yakutsk Region" for the collection "Yakutia of the Academy 
of Sciences. A similar study appeared in the Academy's Turkmenia col- 
lection the following year. In 1929, as part of the Trudy of its Commis- 
sion on the History of Knowledge, the Academy issued his "A Sketch 
of the History of Russian Geographical Science/' Most recently he com- 
pleted the centennial history of the Ail-Union Geographical Society. 

Although Berg's interest in the geographical sciences has been, as we 
have seen, wide ranging, he has never given up the field in which he first 
made his mark ichthyology. In 1939 he resumed his work as an ichthyol- 
ogist at the Zoological Institute, and in 1940 produced a study on "The 
System of Ichthyoids and Fish, Both Living and Fossilized/' which, 
according to Professor I. F. Pravdin, is the best embodiment of all our 
knowledge of the evolutionary grouping of these fauna. During the last 
war, while in Kazakhstan (to which he was evacuated on orders of the 
Academy of Sciences ) he occupied himself with a study of the ichthyology 
of several lakes. On his return to Leningrad in August, 1944, he resumed 
his work in the Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences, where 
he is now working. 

Only a few of the most significant publications of this great Russian 
scholar have been mentioned here; in all he has published over 480 
articles, monographs, and books. 

It is not surprising that he has been highly honored. In addition to its 


Semenov-Tian Shansky Gold Medal, the Geographical Society in 1915 
also rewarded him with its highest award, the Constantino vsky Medal. 
In 1934 he was elected to the Council of the Society and in 1940 ho 
became its president. On his return to Leningrad in 1944 he devoted him- 
self with his usual energy to restoring the activities of all its departments 
and committees which had been interrupted by the period of the block- 
ade and siege. His services to science have also been recognized abroad. 
He is an honorary member of the Sao Paulo Society of Naturalists and of 
the Ichthyological Society of America, a corresponding member of the 
Royal Zoological Society of London and a member of the Masaryk Agri- 
cultural Academy of Prague and of the American Geographical Society. 
In 1936 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Asiatic Society of India 
for his work in the study of the zoology of Asia. His achievements have 
also been recognized by his government. In 1934, on the completion of 
forty years of scientific endeavor, the Soviet Government awarded him 
the title of Meritorious Worker in Science, and in 1945 conferred on 
him the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. 

The translation of Berg's Priroda S.S.S.R., which is here presented 
as Natural Regions of the C/.S.S.R., follows the original Russian text scru- 
pulously. Certain sections, notably those on flora and fauna, arc probably 
more detailed than are needed for students in American university depart- 
ments of geography. On the other hand, it is believed that this detail 
will be welcomed by plant geographers and zoogeographers. While pri- 
marily for students of geography, it is hoped that the book will servo as a 
reference work on the U.S.S.R. for all students of the natural sciences. 

It cannot be emphasized too strongly, however, that no translation of 
a single work can "open wide the door" to the rich storehouse of Russian 
geographical literature. At best it can provide an introduction; for this 
purpose the extensive references to other Russian works make Burg's 
work especially useful. But the student who wishes to specialize in 
Soviet geography cannot escape the necessity of learning to road Russian. 
Only with this essential tool can he hope to have access to what Russian 
geographers have written about their own country* It is to be hoped 
that in addition to providing a general survey of the physical geography 
of die U.S.S.R., 'this book will stimulate many to learn Russian. 

Ability to read Russian is not enough, however, Rieh as is Russian 
geographical literature, it is no substitute for field study in the country 
itself, for study in Soviet universities and institutes, and for direct con- 
tact with Soviet geographers. It is to be hoped that the Soviet authorities 


will eventually permit the same freedom of study and travel for American 
students in their country which is accorded by the United States to stu- 
dents and scholars from abroad. 

Much credit is due the translator of this work for her devotion to her 
task, her careful attention to the innumerable minutiae of a work of this 
kind, and the very considerable amount of research which she undertook 
to ensure the correct identification of plant and animal names. Only a 
person herself profoundly interested in Soviet geography and impressed 
by the great value of the work she engaged to render into English could 
have produced a translation of this high quality. The writer of this note 
takes great satisfaction from the fact that his teaching provided the 
original stimulus for the undertaking. 

In presenting the translation of Professor Berg's work to the American 
reader, the Administrative Committee of the Russian Translation Project 
believes that it is filling a long-felt gap. It is to be hoped that the book 
will be useful not only to the students of geography and the natural 
sciences, but also to the widening circle of serious-minded nonspccialists 
who wish better to understand the Soviet Union. 

J. A. MORRISON, Chairman, Administrative 
Committee of the Russian Translation 
Project, American Council of Learned 


April 1947 

Translator's Foreword 

^ ANY of the technical terms which appear in L. S. 
Berg's Natural Regions of the U.S.S.R. cannot be 
found in any general Russian-English dictionary. A comprehensive list of 
some seven hundred Russian-language dictionaries, arranged by sub- 
ject, showed that technical dictionaries in the several special fields with 
which this book is concerned are few and in large part inaccessible. In 
order to translate some of the terms, therefore, it was necessary to use 
other sources. Some discussion of the methods used may help explain any 
unique treatment of technical terms in this translation. 

The translation of plant and animal names was facilitated by the pro- 
vision in Berg's text not only of the Russian common name for each plant 
and animal, but of the taxonomic name as well Since the language of 
taxonomy is universal, translation directly from taxonomic to common 
names is likely to be more reliable than translation from the vernacular 
of one language to another. 

Plants. The first source consulted in translating plant names was Stand- 
ardized Plant Names,* which is the most recent and most complete among 
the sources available. Where a plant does not appear in Standardized 
Plant Names, the next source used was L, H. Bailey, The Standard Cyclo- 
pedia of Horticulture, which often gives alternative taxonomic names by 
which a given plant is known; some of these names in turn do appear in 
Standardized Plant Names. Where a plant was to be found in neither of 
these sources, a number of others were used, the most important of which 
appear in a selected bibliography at the end of this foreword. 

In cases where a taxonomic name other than that given by Berg is 
more widely accepted in this country at present, this other name has been 
inserted in the text in brackets. It was thought best not to risk introduc- 
ing errors by substituting outright for the taxonomic names given by 
Berg, and so both names are given in each such case. A few changes have 
been made in Berg's spelling of taxonomic names, in order to make the 
spelling consistent with the Index Kewensis. 

A few plants for which Berg gives only the common names were iden- 

* See Translator's Bibliography for complete reference data for all works cited in 
this foreword. 



tified by means of their taxonomic names as given in a number of Russian 
sources listed in the bibliography. A good source for validating plant 
names is V. L. Komarov, Flora S.S.S.R. (Flora of the U.S.S.R.)- 

The advantage of having taxonomic names given deserves comment. 
In some cases, translation directly from the Russian common name into 
English, with no mention of the taxonomic name of a plant, would leave 
the reader uncertain as to the exact plant in question. For example, 
zheleznoye derevo may be translated as "irontree" or "ironwood." Stand- 
ardized Plant Names identifies the irontree as genus Metrosideros. L. II. 
Bailey, The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, describes Metrosideros 
as one of several genera of the myrtle family called ironwoods. L. H. 
Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey, Hortus Second, identify the irontree as 
Metrosideros. It so happens that Metrosideros is a genus of trees or 
shrubs native to New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, and not- 
found in the Soviet Union at all. Under "ironwood," the following entry 
appears in Hortus Second: "ironwood" Ostnja virginiana, the Ameri- 
can hop hornbeam; "Catalina ironwood 9> Lyonothamuus fioribundtts; and 
"desert ironwood" Olneya Tesota. But the tree to which Berg is refer- 
ring when he uses the term zheleznoye derevo is not Metrosideros, nor 
Ostrya, nor Lyonothamnus, nor Olneya. It is the Persian parrotia, Par- 
fotia persica. If the common name zheleznoye derevo were riot accom- 
panied by the taxonomic name, and if it were translated directly from 
Russian into English as "irontree" or "ironwood," an American reader 
would certainly be misled as to the tree in question. 

In many cases dictionary definitions offer several choices in the trans- 
lation of a given plant name. For example, dictionary definitions of the 
Russian word yel include "fir/* "red fir," "spruce," and "pine," When the 
word yel is accompanied by the taxonomic name Picea orientalis or 
Picea glehni, it is clear that the exact translation for scientific purposes 
can be only "spruce." 

The word kedr has not been translated as "cedar," as it is defined in 
any number of Russian-English dictionaries. According to Standardized 
Plant Names, there is wide misapplication of the term "cedar." On the 
basis of the taxonomic names supplied by Berg, kedr has been translated 
in different parts of the book as "Siberian stone pine" (Finns sihirim 
[P. cembra sibirica]); "Japanese stone pine" (P. pumila); or "Korean 
pine" (P. koraiensis). 

Animals. Animals were identified by means of their taxonomic names 
in a number of sources, the most important of which appear in the bibli- 
ography. A few mammals for which Berg gives only the common names 


were identified by means of their taxonomic names as given in two Rus- 
sian sources which also appear in the bibliography. Many of the fish were 
identified in the same fashion in a book written by L. S. Berg himself, 
Ryby prestiykh vod S.S.S.R. i Sopredelnykh Stran (Fresh-Water Fishes 
o the U.S.S.R. and Adjoining Countries). 

In the case of fish, particularly, dictionary translations from the Rus- 
sian are often misleading, so that identification according to taxonomic 
names is important. For example, nalim appears in the dictionary as 
"burbot" or "eelpout," while according to Berg's own source, nalim is 
"loach" (Lota lota). Golets, which is defined in a dictionary as "loach" 
or "ground gudgeon," may be identified, from its taxonomic name, Sal- 
velinvs, as "charr." 

The word kulik (which is defined in one Russian-English dictionary 
as "woodcock," "wood grouse," or "snipe") is used by Berg in such a 
broad sense that lie is clearly referring to a category larger than that of 
a single species of birds. A list was made of all the birds to which the 
name kulik is applied in Berg's text, to see what they have in common, 
and the word was translated as "shore bird." 

In the section which deals with the subzone of mixed forests, mention 
is made of a bird for which the Russian name is vcrtlyavy dyatel This 
has been taken to be the wryneck, a member of the woodpecker family, 
which is characterized by its habit of twisting its head from side to side. 
The habitat and distribution of the wryneck, as given in H. E. Dresser, 
A Manual of Palacarctic Birds, are not inconsistent with this conclusion, 
SoiJs. In translating the sections concerned with soils and soil chem- 
istry, extensive use was made of the Yearbook of Agriculture, Soils and 
Men. Many soil terms which arc peculiarly Russian will be found in the 
glossary. Two Russian sources which were useful in identifying soil and 
geological terms are listed in the bibliography. 

Place Names. Map sources which were particularly useful in validat- 
ing place names are listed in the bibliography. Many of the place names 
with Russian case endings, such as "sky," "skoy," "skoye," "skaya," have 
been simplified by dropping the suffix after "sk." Thus, "Kronotskaya vol- 
cano" appears in this translation as "Kronotsk volcano,* "Lake Rakhmanov- 
skoyo" as "Lake Rakhmanovsk/' In cases where the adjectival form is de- 
rived from the name of a particular landscape feature (generally a river), 
the nominative form has been substituted for the adjectival form. Thus, 
"Yeniseisky ridge" appears in this translation as "Yenisey ridge," "Burein- 
skiye Mountains" as "Bureya Mountains," "Zeisko-Bureinskaya Lowland" 
as "Zoya-Bureya Lowland." The names of Russian administrative units are 


given in Russian, as in the original, and have not been translated. These 
terms (kray, oblast, okrug, raion) appear in the glossary. The place names 
Predkavkazye and Preduralye have been translated, respectively, as "North 
Caucasus Foreland/* and "West Urals Foreland." (The corresponding 
terms, Zakavkazye and Zauralye, are familiar as "Transcaucasus" and 

Glossary. Because this book deals with several special fields, it was 
thought wise to prepare a glossary. This appears at the back of the book, 
and includes some of the more technical words in each field which may 
be unfamiliar to a reader well versed in one or several of the other fields 

Acknowledgments. A number of biologists at the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution in Washington (D.C.) helped to identify plants and animals which 
do not appear in the sources listed in the bibliography, and gave their 
advice regarding current taxonomic usage. The translation profited greatly 
from the generous counsel of Dr. Egbert H. Walker, who devoted many 
hours of his time to checking the sections which deal with plants. Of the 
animals, the mammals were checked by Dr. Remington Kellogg; the birds, 
by Dr. Herbert Friedmann. Fish were checked by Dr. Leonard P. 
Schultz; Mr. Austin H. Clark was kind enough to identify, by reference 
to Berg's monograph on fish, an entire list of the fish which are men- 
tioned without taxonomic names in the original of this text. Amphibians 
and reptiles were checked by Dr. Doris Cochran, with the help of Dr. 
Ernest Schwartz, who is especially familiar with amphibians and rep- 
tiles of the Old World. Dr. Waldo L. Schmitt, Dr. E. A, Chapin, and 
Dr. J. P. E. Morrison gave their advice on the invertebrates. I am in- 
debted also to Dr. John P. Decker, Department of Botany, University 
of Nebraska, for his generous advice with respect to plants, and for sug- 
gesting excellent source material. 

The ultimate responsibility for the translation of plant and animal 
names rests, of course, with the translator. A file has been kept of the 
source or sources in which each plant and animal was identified, so that 
any questions in this connection may be answered readily. Some of the 
taxonomic names missing in the original Russian edition have been added, 
in brackets, in this translation. 

Since it was not possible to reproduce satisfactorily the illustrations 
which appear in the original work, those for the English translation were 
selected from several Russian and German sources, care being taken 
that those selected would be appropriate to the text The chief sources 
for the illustrations were the excellent German collection, Vegetations- 


bilder (Verlag von Gustav Fischer in Jena) and Aziatskaya Rossiya, the 
monumental descriptive work on Asiatic Russia issued by the Imperial 
Ministry of Agriculture in 1914. 

I am especially grateful to Dr. Constantin C, Nikiforoff of the Bureau 
of Plant Industry, Department of Agriculture, who read the entire manu- 
script with painstaking care and made many and valuable suggestions 
as to the English equivalents of the Russian scientific terminology, espe- 
cially in the sections dealing with climate, relief, and soils. He also ad- 
vised in the selection of the illustrations. 

Of the many people to whom I am indebted for assistance at various 
stages in the preparation of this translation, the one whose contributions 
have been the greatest is Dr. John A. Morrison, formerly of the faculty 
of the Geography Department of the University of Chicago (1928-1938), 
whose course in the Geography of Soviet Russia at that university moti- 
vated this translation. Dr. Morrison read the successive drafts of the 
translation as they were prepared, and made detailed and invaluable 
suggestions and revisions. 

The University of Chicago Libraries and the City Library of Spring- 
field, Massachusetts, extended many courtesies in making materials avail- 
able as they were needed. Extensive use was made of materials at the 
Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Department of 
Agriculture Library, and the New York Public Library. 

Finally, I am deeply grateful to my husband, Dr. Sydney Titelbaum, for 
his invaluable advice and encouragement, and to my sister-in-law, Sylvia 
MaloJQF, for her generous help in proofreading the final typescript, 

Chicago, Illinois 
April 1947 

Translator's Bibliography 


Bailey, L. EL, The Cultivated Evergreens. New York, Macmillan, 1923. 

, The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. New York, Macmillan, 1914. 

, and Bailey, Ethel Zoe, Hortus Second. New York, Macmillan, 1941. 

Carpenter, J. Richard, An Ecological Glossary. Norman, University of Oklahoma 
Press, 1938. 

Index Kcwcnsifi. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1893. 

Jackson, Benjamin Daydon, A Glossary of Botanic Terms. Philadelphia, Lippin- 
cott, 1900. 

Komarov, V. L., eel., Flora S.S.S.R. (Flora of the U.S.S.R.). Moscow, Lenin- 
grad; Akad. Nauk, 1941. 

London's Encyclopaedia of Plants. London, Longmans, ]855. 

Porlilycv, I. A., Flora Scvcmovo Kraya (Flora of Northern Kraj/). Archangel, 
Sovkraigiz, 1934, 1936. 

Rchdcr, Alfred, Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs. New York, Macmillan, 

Schumann, Carl, Mir Rasteny (The Plant World). St. Petersburg, 1906. 

Standardized Plant Names. Salem, Mass., American Joint Committee on Hor- 
ticultural Nomenclature, 2nd cd... 1942. 

van Wijk, H. L. Gerth, A Dictionary of Plant Names. The Hague, Martimis 
Nijhoff, 1911; published by the Dutch Society of Sciences at Haarlem. 

Wulff, E. V., ed., Kulturnaya Flora S.S.S.R. (Cultivated Plants of the U.S.S.R.). 
Moscow-Leningrad, State Ag. Pub. Co., 1935* 


Berg, L. S., Ryby pwsnykh vod S.S.S.R. i Sopradelnykli Stran (Fresh-Water 
Fishes of the U.S.S.R. and Adjoining Countries). Leningrad, 1932, 1938. 

Bikhncr, E. A., MlckopitaywiMito (The Mammals). St. Petersburg, 1906. 

Cambridge Natural History, The. New York, Macmillan, 189J5-1909. 

Check-List of North American Bz'/riv, prepared by a committee of the American 
Ornithologists* Union, 4th ed. Lancaster, Pa,, Amer. Ornith. Union, 1931. 

Dilmars, Raymond L., Reptiles of the World. New York, Macmillan, 1933. 

, Snakes of the World. New York, Macmillan, 1931. 

Dresser, H. E., A Manual of Palaearctic Birds. London, published by the au- 
thor, 1902. 

Hartert, Ernst, Die Vd'grZ der palaarhtichen fauna (Palaearctic Birds), 
Berlin, R. Friedlander und Sohn, 1910. 

Jorgcnscn, Harriet I., and Blackburne, Cecil L, Glossarium Europae Avium 
(Glossary of European Birds). ]0benhavn, Ejnar Munksgaurd, 1941. 



Lydekker, Richard, ed., The Royal Natural History. London, Frederick Warne, 

Neave, Sheffield Airey, Nomenclator Zoologicus. London, Zool. Soc. of London, 

Newton, Alfred, A Dictionary of Birds. London, Adam and Charles Black, 

Ognev, S. I., Zveri S.S.S.H. i PrilezhathchiMi Strati (Animals of the U.S.S.R. 

and Adjoining Countries). Moscow-Leningrad, 1935. 
Phillips, John C., A Natural History of the Ducks. Boston, Houghiou Mifllin, 

Pratt, Henry Sherring, A Manual of Land and Fresh-Water Vertebrate Animah 

of the United States. Philadelphia, P. Blakiston's Son, 1923. 
, A Manual of the Common Invertebrate Animals. Philadelphia, P. Blakis- 
ton's Son, 1935. 

Regan, Charles Tate, Natural History. London, Ward, Lock, 1936. 
Ridgway, Robert, A Manual of North American Birds, Philadelphia, Lippincotl, 

Stejneger, Leonhard, and Barbour, Thomas. Check List of North American Am- 
phibians and Reptiles. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1939. 

Soils and Relief 

Glossary of Terms on Roads and Soih in Roadhuilding. Leningrad, Moscow; 
Gostransizdat, 1932. 

Meister, A. K., Slovar po Geologo-razvedochnomu delu (Geological-Prospect- 
ing Dictionary). Leningrad, Moscow, Novosibirsk, 1933. 

Yearbook of Agriculture, Soils and Men. Washington, U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 
U.S. Dep't. of Ag., 1938. 


Andrees Attgemeincs Handallw. Bielefeld und Leipzig, Vclhagcn wul Klasing* 


Great Soviet World Atlas. Moscow, 1937-1939. 
Literary Digest New Map of Soviet Russia. New York, Funk & Wagnalls Co*, 



Foreword The Russian Translation Project v 

Preface by /. A. Morrison vii 

Translator's Foreword xvii 

Translator's Bibliography xxiii 

Introduction 1 

I* The Tundra Zone 2 

II. The Forest Zone 22 

A. The Taiga Subzone 23 

B. Subzone of Mixed Forests 49 

III. Broad-Leaved Forests of the Far East 60 

IV. The Forest Steppe 68 
V. The Steppe 90 

VI. The Zone of the Semidesert 111 

VII. The Desert Zone 125 

VIII. Mountains of Soviet Central Asia 164 

IX. The Soviet Humid Subtropical Regions 192 

1. The Colchian (Kolkhidskaya) Lowland 192 

2. The Talysh Lowland 198 

X. Mountains of the Caucasus 202 

1. The Glavny (Main) Range of the Caucasus 202 

2. Daghestan 228 

3. The Armenian Plateau and the Dry Regions 

of the Eastern Transcaucasus 232 

4* Mountain Talysh 239 

XI. Mountain Crimea 241 

XII. The Ural Range 263 

XIII. The Altay 274 

XIV. The Sayans 287 
XV. Lake Baikal and the Trans-Baikal Region 299 

XVI. Mountains of Northeastern Siberia 311 

XVII. Mountains of the Far East (The Amur Basin) 318 

XVIII. Sakhalin 328 



XIX. Kamchatka 335 

XX. Mountains of the Arctic 345 

Bibliography 363 

Glossary 369 

Russian Transliteration Table 377 

Index of Plants 379 

Index of Animals 401 
General Index 



1. Temperatures in Eastern Siberia (in C.) 25 

2. Climate of Petrovsko-Razumovsk, in the Subzone of Mixed Forests 49 

3. Precipitation in Blagoveshchensk (in mm.) 61 

4. Temperature, Humidity, and Wind during Sukhoucy in Saguny 91 

5. Precipitation in the Semidesert (in mm.) 112 

6. Quaternary History of the Caspian Sea 116 

7. Temperature in the Desert (at 1:00 P.M.) 126 

8. Wind Velocity in Repetek (m. per second) 131 

9. Temperature and Precipitation in Gaudan, 1898-1914 171 

10. Precipitation in Kheirabad and Ashkhabad, 1928-1931 (in mm.) 171 

11. Crops Cultivated in the Zeravshan Valley 173 

12. Zonal Sequence of Vegetation in Southern and Central Tadzhikistan 184 

13. Precipitation in Colchis (in mm.) 193 

14. Mean Monthly Temperatures in Poti (in C.) 194 
,15. Elevation of Snow Line in the Caucasus 204 

16. Temperature and Precipitation in the Forest-Steppe Zone in the 
Glavny (Main) Range of the Caucasus 209 

17. Temperature in Gagry, 1903-1915 (in C.) 214 

18. Precipitation on the Black Sea Coast 216 

19. Temperature and Precipitation in the Subulpine Zone in the Glavny 
(Main) Range of the Caucasus 225 

20. Climate of Yalta 246 

21. Climate of Ai-Petri 248 

22. Climatic Observations at Ai-Petri and Yalta on October 18, 1906, 

at 9:00 P.M. 248 

23. Climate of the Baikal and Trans-Baikal Regions 304 

24. Temperatures at Listvcnichnoyc and Ulan-Ude (in C.) 306 

25. Elevations in the Western Trans-Baikal Region 308 

26. Distribution of Manchurian Flora in the Southern Sikhote-Alin 324 

27. Climate of Alcksandrovsk and Kirovskoye, on Sakhalin 331 

28. Temperature in Tikhy Bay, 1932-1936 (in C.) 346 

29. Temperature at Cape Zhclaniya, 1931-1936 (in C.) 348 

30. Temperature in the Scvernaya Zcmlya Archipelago (in C.) 350 




1. The Soviet Arctic 3 

2. Areas of permanent ground frost 27 

3. Limits of pine and spruce in the U.S.S.R. 36 

4. Limits of fir and larch in the U.S.S.R. 37 

5. Limits of linden and Siberian and Japanese stone pine in the 

U.S.S.R. 38 

6. Limits of Siberian stone pine, alder, and beech in the European 

part of the U.S.S.R. 55 

7. Limits of maple, ash, and hornbeam (except in the Caucasus and 
Crimea) 56 

8. Limits of oak and linden in the European part of the U.S.S.R* 57 

9. Pamir ranges 168 

10. Vegetation of the central and southern Urals and the West Urals 
Foreland 269 

11. Altay ranges 275 

12. Volcanoes of Kamchatka 337 

13. Landscape zones of the European part of the U.S.S.R. 351 
14 Landscape zones of the- U.S.S.R. ' 352 

15. Average mean temperature, January, 1881-1915 354 

16. Average mean temperature, July, 1881-1915 355 

17. Cloudiness, January, 1896-1915 356 

18. Cloudiness, July, 1896-1915 357 

19. Average precipitation (in mm.), January, 1891-1915 358 

20. Average precipitation (in mm.), July, 1891-1915 359 
11. Average annual precipitation (in mm.), 1891-1915 360 

22. Average duration of snow cover (in days), 1892-1915 361 

23. Mountain ranges of Eastern Siberia and the Far East 362 



Between pages 32-33 


1. The arctic tundra in summer. 

2. Bog vegetation. 

3. The typical, or shrub tundra. 

4. Stunted spruce at the northern limit of tree vegetation on Kunin Peninsula. 

5. Wooded tundra along the southern border of the Bolshczeinelskaya tundra. 

6. Peat mound in the Bolshezemelskaya tundra. 

7. The Irkut River deeply incised in the Central Siberian Plateau. Pine taiga. 

8. The taiga in winter. 

9. Pine taiga in the basin of the Oka River, a left tributary of the Angara. 
10. Yeddo spruce (Picea jezoensis) taiga in Amur oblast. 

1L Forest steppe in Voronezh oblast. 

12. The Baraba steppe in the forest-steppe belt of Western Siberia. 

13. Pine groves in the forest steppe in the Trans-Baikal region, 

14. Meadow steppe in the forest-steppe zone, Voronezh oblast. 

Between pages 128-129 

15. Vegetation of the chalk cliffs. 

16. The steppe in the low Mugodzhar Mountains, the southern extension of 
the Urals. 

17. Typical feather-grass (Stipa) steppe on chernozem soil in Voronezh oblast. 

18. The chernozem steppe in Western Siberia. 

19. Feather-grass (Stipa Ussingiana) steppe in Voronezh oblast. 

20. The pohjn (wormwood) steppe near Krasnoanneisk (Stalingrad oblast) 
in the semidesert zone. 

21. Saltbush (Atriplex canum) in the semidesert near Lake Baskunchak. 

22. White polyn (wormwood, Artemisia maritima) and fescue (Festuca 
sulcata) association in the semidesert near Krasiioarmcisk, Stalingrad 

23. Black polyn (Artemisia pauciflora) in the semidesert near Krasnoarmeisk, 
Stalingrad oblast, 

24. Biyurgun (Anabasis salta) and stony solonchaks on the shores of Lake 

25. Clumps of the halophyte sarsazan (Halocnemum strobilaccwn) on the 
shore of a salt lake (presumably Baskunchak). 

26. Ak-Tyube barkhan sands on Mangyshlak Peninsula. 

27. The eastern shore of Lake Balkhash. 

28. Barkhan dunes in the Kara-Kum, 12 miles cast of the Amu-Darya. 




29. Surface of a takyr in summer. 

30. Sand dune stabilized by saxaul (left) and reeds (right). 

31. Clay desert on the Ust-Urt Plateau, north of Lake Sum. 

32. Boyalych (Salsola arbuscula) and tamarisk (Tamarix) on stabilized sand 
dunes near Farab (several miles east of the Amu-Darya). 

Between pages 192-193 

33. Saxaul (Haloxylon ammodendron) in the Trans-Caspian sandy desert 
near Repetek. 

34. "Sand acacia" (Ammodendron conollyi) in the Trims-Caspian sandy 
desert near Repetek. 

35. Cdttigonum erinaceum on a mound in the Bolshie Barsuki sands. 

36. Reed thickets on the shores of Lake Balkhash. 

37. Chee grass (Las-lagrostis [Stipa] splendens) in the region of Lake Zaisan. 

38. The Airakli table mountains on Mangyshlak Peninsula, 

39. Stalin Peak, the highest point in the U.S.S.R. 

40. The high Pamir. 

41. Khan-Tengri, the highest mountain of the Tian Shan. 

42. The detritus-covered lower end of the Zeravshan Glacier. 

43. Lake Issyk-Kul in the Tian Shan. 

44. Lake Iskander-Kul in the Hisar range (Samarkand oblavt). 

45. Harvesting wheat at an elevation of 2000 meters in ihc Pamirs. 

46. Thick-shell Persian walnut (Jitglans fallax [J. rcgla fallax]) in FtTcpmu 

47. Pistache shrubs in Fergana oblast. 

48. Kwagach (Ulmus densa [U. carpinifolla]) in Samarkand oblast. 

Between pages 256-257 

49. Beech forest with undergrowth of rJiododendron pontlctnn near the 
Black Sea coast south of Gagry in the Colchian Lowland. 

50. The Glavny (Main) range of the Caucasus, from the glaciers of Ml. 

51. Crossing the Glavny (Main) range of the Caucasus at 10,500 feet. 

52. A mountain meadow in the Svanetiya range, Kubardmo-Bulkuriun A.S.S.R. 

53. A yew forest in the mountains of the Caucasus* 

54. Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana) in the mountain forest above Gagry. 

55. Pine forest (Pinus sylvestois) on the northern slope of the Caucasus near 

56. Grove of birch (Betula pubescens) at the timber lino above Kazbek 
station on the Georgian Military Highway. 

57. A subalpine tall-herbaceous meadow in Kabardino-Balkaria. 

58. Alpine rock vegetation in the mountains of Kabardino-Balkaria. 

59. A mountain road in Daghestan. 



60, Lake Sevan on the Armenian Plateau. 

6L The flat summit of the Yaila, the main range of the Crimean mountains. 

Between pages 288-289 

62. Harvesting grapes on the southern slopes of the Yaila near Alushta. 

63. Juniper (Junipcms excelsa) on the south coast of the Crimea. 

64. Crimean form of the Aleppo pine (Finns pityttsa stankcwitschi [P. 
halcpensis pityusa siankewitschi ] ) and juniper (Junipcrus cxcclsa) on the 
south coast of the Crimea at Sudak. 

65. Crimean pine (Finns laricio paUasfana [P. nigra poiretiana]) on the 
soulliorn slopes of the Yaila. 

66. Beech forest on the northern slope of the Yaila. 

67. The Northern Urals. Subalpinc landscape on Mt. Sablya. 

68. Coniferous forest on the slopes of Mt. Kvasya in Sverdlovsk oblast. 

69* The Inner Altay. Lake Vcrkliiic-Multinsk and the Katun belki (snow- 
capped mountains). 

70. Mt. Belukha, the highest peak in the Soviet Altay. 

71. The Katun River near Toguz-Kan in the Inner Altay. 

72. Lake Rakhmanovsk in the Altay. 

73. Larch stand and reindeer on a state farm in tlio Altay (Oirot autonomous 
obi asl)* 

74. Allay ibox. The park-like character of the valley bottom is characteristic 
of the dry valleys of the Altay. 

Between pages 320-821 

75. The Western Sayans from the Little Abakan pass. 

76. Munku-Sardyk Glacier and Mt. Munku-Sardyk in the Eastern Sayans. 
77* Luke Baikal in November. 

78. The Kolyma River in its upper roaches* 

70. Kwnotsk volcano on Kamchatka. 

80. Frimuvul stand of birch (Bctiih mnani) in Kamchatka. 

8 1 . Angelica ursina in a well drained valley meadow in Kamchatka. 


THE area occupied by the U.S.S.R. is so vast and so 
diverse in its natural features that it would not be 
expedient to present a physical-geographical description of this entire 
territory without dividing it into natural regions. We shall distinguish 
first of all the lowlands and the mountains. 

The description of the natural regions of the lowlands will be arranged 
according to landscape zones. These are regions which correspond to 
climatic belts, lying approximately in a latitudinal direction, and char- 
acterized by more or less uniform natural features throughout their 

Among the lowlands of the U.S.S.R. we distinguish, beginning at the 
north, the following landscape scones: (1) the tundra, (2) the temper- 
ate Forest, (3) the forest steppe, (4) the steppe, (5) the semidesert, 

(6) the desert, and (7) the subtropical forest 

Among the mountain landscapes we distinguish: (1) the Caucasus, 
(2) the mountains of the Crimea, (3) the Urals, (4) the mountains of 
Soviet Central Asia, (5) the Altay Mountains, (6) the Sayan Mountains, 

(7) Lake Baikal and the Trans-Baikal region, (8) the mountains of 
northeastern Siberia, (9) the mountains of the Far East, (10) Sakhalin, 
(11) Kamchatka, and (12) the mountains of the Arctic. Within each 
mountain landscape we shall try, so far as possible, to distinguish ver- 
tical zones. 

At the conclusion of this book there appears a bibliography of the 
most important literature concerning the Soviet Union or the greater part 
of It For a more detailed literature, I refer the reader to the works enu- 
merated in the books listed in this bibliography. In the text, reference is 
made only to the most important and most recent works. These are taken, 
moreover, chiefly from among those which are not cited in my other works. 

I The Tundra Zone' 

General Characteristics 

THE zone of the tundras occupies the extreme north 
I of the continents of Europe and Asia. The tundra 
proper is characterized by the following features: It is imforcstcd, with 
the exception of trees occasionally found in the valleys. The winter is 
long and severe. The summer is short and cool, but has long hours of 
daylight. The mean temperature of the warmest month docs not ex- 
ceed 10 C.* (nor does it fall below C.)- Frosts occur even in sum- 
mer. Cloudiness is extensive, and there are strong winds. There is little 
precipitation because, due to the low temperature, a negligible quan- 
tity of moisture passes into the atmosphere. At a certain depth below 
the surface of the ground, there is usually a layer of permanent ground 

To the south, the zone of the tundra proper merges gradually into the 
forest zone, through the intermediate zone of the wooded tuudra. Wo 
shall consider the wooded tundra together with the tundra proper, as 
does Gorodkov. 


Beginning at the north, the tundra zone may be divided into the fol- 
lowing subzones (Map 1): 

1. Along the northern border lies the arctic tundra* whore not only 
trees, but even shrubs are absent (Figs. 1 and 2), The latter, when they 
do appear, are found only along river courses, or, occasionally, in places 
especially sheltered from strong winds. There are no sphagnum peat 
bogs, since peat formation generally dies out as wo move toward the 

a For details and bibliography see L. S. Berg, Fiziko-geograficheskle (landsliaftnic) 
aont/ (Physical-Geographical [Landscape] Zones), I, 1936, pp. 43-94. 

* There is no temperature scale indicated in the original text It would appear, 
however, that the temperatures given are in the Centigrade scale, and this scale will 
be indicated throughout the book. TH. 


north. Vegetation in general is extremely scant. There are large expanses 
of spotty tundra. The arctic tundra is found on the southern island of 
Novaya Zemlya, on the north of the Yamal and the Ob-Yenisey peninsu- 
las, on the north of the Taimyr Peninsula, in the delta of the Lena, on the 
New Siberian Islands, and on Wrangel Island. 

2. South of the arctic tundra lies the subzone of the typical, ny shrub 
(Fig. 3). While there are no trees, shrub thickets (dwarf birches 

41) fiO HO 100 1?0 140 160 

MAP 1. The Soviet Arctic (B. N. Gorodkov, 1935). 

T wooded tundra; IT southern tundra; TTT and TV typical tundra (TV northern, lichen- 
moss portion of the typical tundra); V and VI arctic tundra (VI transition into the ice region); 
VII ice region (mountains of the Arctic). A Urals; U ityrrunga range; C Chukotsk-Anadyr 
mountains; 1) Koryak range; E Verkhoyansk range. 

and willows, and ledum) grow not only along river courses, but are very 
characteristic also in the areas between rivers. There arc some sphagnum 
peat bogs, but they are not strongly developed. Considerable areas are 
occupied by lichen (reindeer-moss) tundra. In the northern part of this 
subzone there are fewer shrub thickets, and lichen-moss tundra predomi- 
nates. The typical tundra has a wide extent. However, on the Kola Penin- 
sula its area is limited; it appears only in the form of a narrow coastal 
strip to the north of the mouth of the Ponoy and extending as far as the 
mouth of the Yokanga. 2 

3. Still farther south lies the subzone of the southern tundra, where 
there arc forests, but only along the river courses. In the interfluves, 
amid the shrub thickets which predominate here, there arc found at most 
individual spruces, birches, larches (Fig. 4). There are many sphagnum 
peat bogs, Gorodkov calls this subzone the northern wooded tundra, 

4. Finally, in the southernmost outskirts of the tundra, where it merges 
into the zone of continuous forests, lies the transitional subzone of the 

2 See vegetation map in the Atlas Leningradskoy oblasti i Karelii (Atlas of Lenin- 
grad oblast and Karelia), 1934. 


/r, nr preforest zone (Fig. 5). Here we find forests not only 
along the rivers, but also in patches on the interfluves, between the rivers. 
Tundra vegetation is represented by thickets of shrub birches and wil- 
lows. In some places there is spotty tundra. Sphagnum peat bogs reach 
a tremendous development, occupying no less than half the entire area 
of the subzone. Gorodkov calls this subzone the southern wooded tundra. 
We regard the subzones of the arctic tundra, the typical (shrub) tundra, 
and the southern tundra, collectively, as the tundra proper, as distin- 
guished from the wooded tundra. 


The southern boundary of the tundra proper, which coincides with the 
southern boundary of the subzone of the southern tundra, extends from 
the shores of the Varanger fiord and the southern end of Kola Inlet 
to the lower course of the Ponoy. The entire Kanin Peninsula is covered 
with tundra as far south as lat 67 N. Beyond this the boundary of the 
tundra crosses the Pechora at Pustozersk, the Gulf of Ob and Tax Bay in 
lat 67 N, the Yenisey north of Dudinka; thence it proceeds to the mouth 
of the Khatanga, the delta of the Lena, Nizhne-Kolymsk, to the middle 
course of the Anadyr, where it turns in the direction of Gizhiga and the 
Parapolsky Dol, which connects Kamchatka with the continent. 3 

Where the land mass extends far to the north, as on Taimyr Peninsula, 
the forests also extend farther north than usual (on the Khatanga as far 
as lat 72KN). 


The southern boundary of the tundra proper coincides approximately 
with the 10 July isotherm, which runs, in general, parallel to the shores 
of the Arctic Ocean. Where the mean July temperature is below 10 C,, 
trees are usually unable to survive. 

Because of the low temperature, little moisture evaporates, over cither 
land or ocean, and hence there is scant precipitation, the annual mean 
being 200 to 300 mm. The sparsity of precipitation creates in the tundra 
conditions which are to some extent similar to those in the desert. Thus, 
leaching of the surface formations and soils proceeds rather slowly. 

3 Gorodkov (1935) draws the southern boundary of the wooded tundra as follows; 
from Kola through the southern part of tile Kanin Peninsula, thence along the Arctic 
Circle to Salegard, thence to the lower course of the Taz, across the Yenisey near the 
mouth of the Khantaifca, along the northern border of the Central Siberian Plateau, 
across the Lena and the Indigirka in lat 70 N, Nizhne-Kolymsk, along the tipper 
course of the Anadyr, across the Gizhiga River, and terminating at Korf Bay on 


As we move from west to east, the climate of the tundra becomes in- 
creasingly continental. The winters grow more severe, and precipitation 
decreases. The Murman coast, with a climate strongly affected by the 
Gulf Stream, has considerable precipitation (Kola has about 400 mm.) 
and very moderate winters; the annual range of temperature in the west- 
ern Murman is approximately the same as that on the Black Sea coast 
of the Caucasus. In the delta of the Lena (lat. 73 N), however, the 
annual precipitation is about 100 mm., and (in 1883) the February tem- 
perature, 42 C, and the July temperature, + 5 C. Beyond the Kolyma 
the influence of the Pacific Ocean is already apparent, and the climate 
becomes perceptibly more marine. The winter temperatures are not as 
low, and the summers are cooler. 

The basic factor which controls plant life in the tundra is the summer 
temperature, particularly the short duration of the summer. The frost 
period (days on which no thawing takes place) in the tundra lasts from 
half a year (in Europe) to eight months and more (in Siberia). The 
vegetative period in the arctic tundra of western Siberia is only two 
months long; in the typical tundra, three. 

The temperature in the Siberian tundra may drop to 50 C. and 
lower. We must note, however, that far inland in Siberia the winters are 
much more severe than along the coast. Thus, at the mouth of the Yana, 
the mean December temperature is 13 C. warmer than in Verkhoyansk, 
which lies higher up along the course of the Yana, 3.5 farther south and 
already within the forest zone. The explanation (even when one takes 
into account the location of Verkhoyansk in a valley basin, with much 
lower winter temperatures) is found in the strong winds along the coast, 
which mix the lower and heavier cold layers of air with the higher warm 
layers. (In northern Siberia in winter the temperature increases with alti- 
tude. ) Winters arc even milder on the Now Siberian Islands; on Kotelny 
Island, in lat. 75 N, the mean winter temperature is 3 to 4 warmer 
than on the continent above the mouth of the Indigirka, in lat. 71 N. 
On the other hand, the summers along the coast are very cool, and, above 
all, the weather is extremely changeable. Bunge describes the summer of 
1884 in the delta of the Lena, in lat. 73 N, as follows: 

At 1:00 P.M. on July 22 the temperature was 21 C. Many insects were fly- 
ing about, among them many mosquitoes. The night was also warm, 15 to 
16 C. The following day it was even warmer. There were many butterflies, 
and the air was laden with the fragrance of flowers. But presently a northwest 
wind came up, it turned cold and rainy, and the temperature at night fell to 
-4 C. 


There may be several warm days, like those just described, during a sum- 
mer in the tundra. Occasionally (although not in the delta of the Lena) 
there are very warm days when the thermometer rises to 30 C. and 
higher (in the shade). 

The disposition of isobars over the Arctic Ocean is such that in winter 
the coastal winds blow from the land, in summer from the sea. Thus, 
there occurs a shift in winds, somewhat suggestive of the monsoon. Due 
to the proximity of the ocean, the force of the winds in the tundra is con- 
siderable. The winds on the shores of the Kara Sea arc particularly 
strong. On Vaigach Island and in the Gulf of the Yeniscy the mean an- 
nual wind velocity is 7 to 8 m. per second. In winter snowstorms some- 
times occur which last for several days. The force of the wind is occa- 
sionally so great as to knock men and deer off their feet. Eastward from 
the Yenisey the force of the wind diminishes. 

Maximum precipitation in the tundra usually occurs in the latter half 
of the summer, in July and August, and in some parts of the European 
tundra, in September. Minimum precipitation occurs in February and 
March. Despite the sparsity of precipitation, it rains often. Snow may 
fall in the tundra during any month of the year, although it falls least 
frequently in August. The snow cover is negligible, due both to the small 
quantity of precipitation in general, and to the strong winds which blow 
the snow away. The thickness of the snow cover is very important for 
organic life. In the subzone of the shrub tundra the snow cover protects 
the shrubs from being frozen in winter. However, in the arctic tundra, 
as Gorodkov points out, the snow cover has a negative effect on the 
shrub vegetation, because it melts slowly during the short and cold sum- 
mer. Soil which is not protected by snow freezes hard in winter; the 
result is permanently frozen subsoil. 

On the seacoast in summer there are frequent fogs. They occur when 
warm air is carried over the cold surface of the ocean; on Vaigach Island 
during the summer months there may be as many as fifteen to twenty 
foggy days. 

There is little sunshine in the tundra. It is very cloudy, more so than 
in any other part of Europe or Asia. The mean annual figure shows 
approximately three-fourths'of the sky covered with clouds. la the Euro- 
pean and West Siberian tundra, the most extensive cloudiness occurs in 
autumn; in the East Siberian tundra, usually in summer. In winter (and 
spring), however, the tundra, from the Lena eastward j has compara- 
tively clear skies. It must be borne in mind, however, that in summer 
the maximum intensity of direct insolation of the earth's surface in the 
tundra is no less than in the tropics. Generally there is enough light in 


the tundra during the vegetative period to support vegetation, but there 
is not enough heat 

The fact that ultraviolet radiation in the north is far more intense than 
in the middle latitudes is very important. 

In the tundra in summer, even at the shallow depth of 1.5 to 2 m. 9 there 
is usually permanent ground frost. It is not found on the Kola Peninsula, 
but from the Kanin Peninsula eastward it occurs throughout the tundra. 
Between Mezen and the Pechora, the sand, which is a porous medium, 
thaws by the end of the summer to a depth of 1.5 m. or more; clay, to a 
depth of 1.25 in.; and peat, which is a poor conductor of heat, to a depth 
of only 35 to 40 cm. Since peat is a far less effective conductor of heat 
than mineral soils, permanent ground frost is found sporadically in the 
peat bogs much farther south than in the clays or sands. 

Along the southern border of the tundra, peat mounds arc widespread 
(Fig. 6). It is in those mounds that the southernmost lenses of perma- 
nently frozen soil are found; they occur even in the south of the Kola 

In Amdcrma, on the coast of the mainland opposite Vaigach Island, 
the frozen layer reaches an enormous thickness;' a borehole sunk here 
passed through 216 m. without reaching unfrozen subsoil. Since at a 
depth of 216 m. the temperature was still 4.8 C., it may be assumed 
that the total thickness of the frozen layer here is about 400 m.; 1 the great- 
est recorded anywhere in the world. 

Despite the presence of permanent ground frost, the upper layer of the 
soil is heated sufficiently to allow the growth of plant life. On Cape Kanin, 
temperatures above 36 C. have been recorded in the clay loam. The 
length of the summer day in the tundra must also be taken into account. 
The frozen layer exerts a great influence on the layer of soil which over- 
lies it. It cools the soil, and does not permit water to penetrate deeply, 
thus contributing to waterlogging; and it decreases the rate of evapora- 
tion from the soil. Flowing ground water hinders the formation of per- 
manent ground frost; at such spots in the tundra one frequently encoun- 
ters willow clumps. In view of the small amount of precipitation in the 
tundra, permanent ground frost offers some advantages for the vegeta- 
tion, since it preserves moisture in the soils. Moreover, it should be noted 
also that water from melted ice, or ice dissolved in water, has the prop- 
erty of stimulating the growth of plants. 5 

Since about 1919, a marked increase in temperature has been observed 

4 V. Ponomarev, Sovetibtya Arhika (The Soviet Arctic), 1936, No. 4, p. 113. 
r 'E. Fritzman, "Novy vzglyad mi prirodu vody" (A New View of the Nature of 
Water), Priroda (Nature), 1936, No. 2, pp. 80-31. 


in the Arctic and in the tundra zone (as well as farther south). Evidence 
may be found in the very favorable conditions for navigation which have 
existed in the Arctic for about the last 'twenty years. The temperature of 
the water in the Barents Sea has shown a marked rise in recent years. At 
Mezen the mean annual temperature for the years 1883-1915 was 
- 1.6 C.,' while for the years 1916-1930 it was only - 0.7 C.; that is, the 
temperature rose almost one degree. The mean for the years 1931-1934 
was still higher; namely, 0.15 C. 

The city of Mezen is located on the southern border of the region of 
permanent ground frost delineated by Schrenk in 1837. However, in 
1933 no ground frost was found at Mezen. Ground frost was found in 
isolated patches only 40 km. to the north of Mezen. Apparently the 
boundary of ground frost retreated to the north with the rise in tem- 

The period during which the Northern Dvina at Archangel is frozen 
has grown shorter by ten days during the last half century. 

1881-1915 1916-1934 DIFFERENCE 

Thawing May 12 May 8 4 days 

Freezing November 8 November 14 6 clays 


The relief of the tundra zone is generally level, although in some 
places it is interrupted by elevations, the most important of which arc 
the Ural Mountains and the mountains of northeastern Asia. These will 
be discussed in the sections which deal with mountainous regions. 

The Munpan region, the coastal strip reaching inland about 100 km, 
from the sea, is a dissected plain which drops rather sharply to the sea. 
Its average elevation is 150 to 200 m. West of the Vorona River, there 
are points along the southern border of the tundra which reach an eleva- 
tion of 500 m. 7 

The western Murman is cut by fiordlike bays. These bays arc narrow 
and long and sometimes deep; in Kola Inlet, for example, there are depths 
of more than 360 m. But in contrast with typical fiords, the shores of the 
Munnan inlets are low and not so steep as are the shores of true fiords, 

L. S. Berg, "Nedavnie Mimaticheskie kolebaniya i yikh vliyanie rm migratsii ryb" 
(Recent Climatic Fluctuations and Their Effect on the Migrations of Fish); Problem/ 
fizteheskoy geosrafii (Problems in Physical Geography), II, 1935, pp. 73-84. 

7 G. D, Richter, "Orograficheskie raiony Kolskovo poluostrova" (Orographic Re- 
gions of the Kola Peninsula), Trudy lust, fa. geografii, Akad. nauk (Proceedings of 
the Institute of Physical Geography, Academy of Sciences), XIX, 1936. 


In some places there is perfect terracing evidences of an uplift of the 
continent. The tundra on the Kola Peninsula (as is the entire peninsula) 
is underlain by pre-Cambrian schists, granites, and gneisses, folded dur- 
ing pre-Cambrian times. The bedrock is covered by new glacial and post- 
glacial deposits: moraines, eskers, sandy stretches, and peat bogs. There 
are many lakes. Rybachy Peninsula and Kildin Island, composed of sedi- 
mentary strata of the Lower Silurian period, are sharply distinct in relief 
and geological structure from the rest of the Kola Peninsula, which is 
composed, as we have said, of pre-Cambrian formations. Rybachy Penin- 
sula is separated from Kola Peninsula by the deep (up to 300 m.) Motov- 
sky Gulf. The origin of this gulf is ascribed to faulting which took place 
during the Tertiary period. Kildin Island is a plateau, up to 280 m. in 
elevation; it drops sharply to the sea on the north. 

On Kanin Peninsula, from Kanin Nos (Cape Kanin) to the southeast, 
stretches the Kanin Kamen range, 150 to 175 m. in elevation (and in 
some places as high as 200 m.). It has a plateaulike appearance, and is 
composed in part of crystalline schists, and in part of Paleozoic strata 
overlain by moraine deposits. The southern part of Kanin Peninsula is 
cut by a trough which reaches from the Gulf of Mezen on the White 
Sea to Cheshskaya Bay. 

The Timan Kryazh (ridge) extends from Cheshskaya Bay to the 
sources of the Vychegda, and on the north reaches into the zone of the 
tundra. It consists chiefly of folded Paleozoic strata. On the north the 
elevation of the ridge does not exceed 255 m. The ridge terminates at 
the sea in rocky promontories. \ 

Kolguyev Island, composed of Quaternary deposits and covered with 
,, mossy tundra, reaches an elevation of 90 m. at its highest points. 
'* Between the Pechora, its tributary the Usa, the seacoast, and the Pai- 
Khoy range lies the Bolshezemelskaya tundra (Figs. 3 and 5). A large 
part of this tundra is overlain by moraine deposits. On the watershed be- 
tween the Arctic Ocean and the tributaries of the Pechora and the Usa, 
there is a ridge which extends approximately from west to east; it has 
an absolute elevation of 160 to 230 m. and a relative elevation of 30 to 
65 m. Ithis is a moraine ridge, in some places having the characteristics 
of a typical terminal moraine. 

The post-Pliocene marine transgression extended far to the south along 
the river valleys. In some parts of the Bolshezemelskaya tundra there 
are a great many small lakes (not over several hectares in area). 

Vaigach Island, separated from the continent by Yugorsky Shar (strait), 
reaches an elevation of 100 in. Here there arc zinc-lead, zinc, and copper 


deposits, while on the continent opposite Vaigach there arc beds of (luoritc 
(in Amderma), associated with the limestones of the Lower Paleozoic. 

In the northern part of the southern island of Novaya Zemlya, ele- 
vations of more than 1000 m. are found, 

Near Matochkin Shar, individual peaks reach 1000 m. in elevation. 
Some 30 to 40 kilometers from Matochkin Shar, on the southern island, 
glaciers begin to appear. On the northern island, in lat. 74 N, glaciers 
reach the heads of typical fiords, which are well developed hero and 
extend inland for 30 to 40 km. At lat 76 N, there is a continuous icecap, 
from under which hills emerge only at the coast. Here we pass from the 
zone of the tundra into the ice (Arctic) zone, where the mean tempera- 
ture of the warmest month very seldom exceeds C., and then only 

The shores of Novaya Zemlya are undergoing an uplift. Admiral- 
teistva Peninsula was an island in the times of Barents and Litke. Kostin 
Strait contained more islands in 1924 than are indicated on the old maps; 
some of the former islands, moreover, have been transformed into pen- 

As we have said, many of the bays of Novaya Zemlya, particularly 
on the western coast, are genuine fiords. They lie along fault lines, which 
have been deepened and worn away by river and ice erosion. Since 
only the southern island of Novaya Zemlya contains any important riv- 
ers, the present drainage system, of course, cannot attain great maturity. 
On the southern island the rivers flow in canyonlikc valleys. Both of the 
islands are composed of extensively dislocated Paleozoic strata. 

There is reason to believe that during the interglacial period the ice- 
cap on Novaya Zemlya melted completely and that the southern edge 
of the ice at that time was to the north of the northern island (M, Ycv- 

During the glacial period the tundras of western Siberia wore cov- 
ered by an icecap. The ice sheet extended south up the Ob as far as 
the mouth of the Irfysh and to the Vakh River (a tributary of the 

The Quaternary marine transgression penetrated somewhat south of 
the Arctic Circle along the valleys of the Ob, the Taz, and the Ycnisey. 

The mouths of the Pechora, the Kara, the Ob, the Taz, the Yenisey, 
and the Khatanga rivers are distinctive in that, in contrast to the Lena, 
for example, they do not form deltas where they flow into the Arctic 
Ocean, but end in bays. Some of the bays, like the gulfs, of the Ob, the 
Taz, and the Yenisey, are very long and narrow. The presence of bays 


rather than deltas indicates that the sea has encroached upon the land, 
submerging the lower reaches of the river valleys. At present the rivers 
are depositing new deltas at the southern ends of the aforementioned 
bays. The very plausible hypothesis has been advanced that the Ob and 
the Yenisey were united at one time, and had a common mouth in the Kara 
Sea at a point considerably farther north than at present. Incidentally, 
this hypothesis is supported by the great similarity between the fish 
fauna of the Ob and of the Yenisey. 

The northern boundary of the Central Siberian Plateau, which is also 
the southern boundary of the Taimyr tundra (to which the Central Sibe- 
rian Plateau drops in steep escarpments), extends from the Pyasina 
River in lat. 70 N approximately to the lower reaches of the Olenek. 
In the northern part of the Taimyr Peninsula lies the Byrranga range; 
composed of dislocated Paleozoic deposits in the vicinity of the Taimyr 
River, it rises to an absolute elevation of 500 to 600 m. 

Between the Byrranga range and the Central Siberian Plateau lies 
the North Siberian Lowland, 50 to 70 m. above sea level. It is composed 
of Mesozoic marine deposits, glacial drift, and sediments of the Quater- 
nary marine transgression; outcrops of trap arc also very common. There 
arc striking traces of glaciation on the Taimyr Peninsula." But farther 
oast, from the Khatanga to Bering Strait, the Siberian tundra was not 
covered by a continuous icecap." According to another theory, all of 
Siberia north of lat. 61 N was covered with ice, 10 but this view is not 
supported by field evidence. 11 

In the northern part of the Taimyr Peninsula there is a series of terraces 
which contain fossils of fauna similar to the fauna of the northern seas 
at the present time. The topmost of these terraces, containing mollusks 
of the species Saxicava arclica, rises to an absolute elevation of 110 m. 
At Cape Chelyuskin there are terraces, 3 to 5 m. above sea level, which 

S N. N. UrvanLsov, "Chctvortichnoye oledencnie Taimyra" (Quaternary Glacia* 
tion on Taimyr), RyulL Kom. po fauch. clwtoert. purfoda (Bulletin of the Committee 
for the Study of the Quaternary Period), izd. Akacl nauk (publication of the Acad- 
emy of Sciences), No. 3, 1981, pp. 23-42. 

Similarly, the arctic coast of North America from Alaska to Greenland was almost 
untouched by glaciation, 

10 V. A. Obruchev, Prfanaki kdnikovovo parioda u sevcrnoy i tscntralnoy Azii 
(Traces of the Glacial Period in Northern and Central Asia), p, 49; N. N. Urvantsev, 
"Geologiya i polcznyo iskopayemye scvcra** (Geology and Mineral Resources of the 
North), Drevneye oleden&nie na severe S.S.S.H. (Ancient Glaciations in the North- 
ern U.S.S.R.), Leningrad, 1936, pp. 129-148. 

11 See also: Ya. S. Edelstdn, Gvologiya i poleznye iskopaycmye sevem (Geology 
and Mineral Resources of the North), 'Leningrad, 1936, p. 110; V. N. Saks, "O 
chetvcrtichnoxn oledenenii sevora Silriri" (Concerning the Quaternary Glaciation of 
Northern Siberia), Arctica, IV, 1936, pp. 3-27, 


are covered with driftwood derived from contemporary Siberian species. 
This indicates that the uplift of northern Taimyr is still in process (G. Al- 
ler). Similar observations have been made also in Novaya Zemlya and 
the New Siberian Islands. 

In the vicinity of Khatanga Gulf the presence of salt domes has been 
discovered recently. (For details regarding this type of structure see 
below, p. 118.) The salt dome (elevation 120 m.) on the shore of Nordvik 
Bay, which has been penetrated by boreholes to a depth of 300 m., con- 
tains vast reserves of excellent salt. This same dome has provided unmis- 
takable indications of oil. 12 

On Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island of the New Siberian group, there are 
elevations as high as 290 m. 13 Outcrops of fossil ice are exposed in the 
coastal cliffs. 

On the surface of the fossil ice, and also in the cracks which formed 
in the ice back in Quaternary times, there are found numerous remains 
of Quaternary animals the mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bull, deer, 
horse, musk ox, and a large cat (Fells spelaea), which combines the 
characteristics of the lion and the tiger. (It is sometimes incorrectly 
called the cave lion.) 

Chukotsk okrug is a predominantly hilly country, with elevations of 600 
to 900 m. It has been partly subjected to glaciation. 

Vegetation M 

The flora of the tundra is unique. The tundra proper is treeless, but 
almost all the plants, both herbage and shrubs, are perennials. The ex- 
planation lies in the fact that the vegetative period is so short that annual 
plants do not have sufficient time to bear fruit. Many of the plants form 
patches of sod, like the dryad (in Europe, Dry as octopetala, in Siberia, 
D. punctata), or spread along the ground, like the arctic willow and 
birch, so that they have a better chance to avail themselves of the 
warmth of the soil in summer, and to protect themselves against evapo- 
ration. There are many evergreen plants, but hardly any bulb or tuber 
plants. Stunted growth is very characteristic. Lichens are numerous in the 

12 N. N* Urvantsev, "Geologiya i poleznye iskopayemye Khatangskovo raiona" 
(Geology and Mineral Resources of the Khatanga Region), Problcmy Arktiki (Prob- 
lems of the Arctic), II, 1937, pp. 17-21. 

18 M. M. Yennolayev, "Geofogichesky ocherk Novosibirskifch ostrovov" (A Geo- 
logical Sketch of the New Siberian Islands), Trudy Arkt, ir^ta. (Proceedings of the 
Arctic Institute), Vol. 87, Pt I, 1937, p. 293. 

14 B. N. Gorodkov, Rastitelnost tunarovoy zony S.S.S.K. (Vegetation of the Tun- 
dra Zone of the U.S.S.R.), Leningrad, 1935, p, 142, izd. Akad. nauk (publication of 
the Academy of Sciences). 


tundra, especially Cladonia, or reindeer "moss" (Cladonia rangiferina). 
These light-loving plants find favorable conditions for development in 
the tundra, where tree shade is absent. The growth of lichens proceeds 
very slowly in the north. While in the wooded region the increment dur- 
ing a summer amounts to 4 to 6 mm., in the typical tundra it is 2 to 3 mm., 
and in the arctic tundra only 1 to 2 mm. (Gorodkov). Sphagnum peat 
bogs are very widespread in the northern part of the wooded region of 
the tundra. As one moves to the north, they gradually decrease in sig- 
nificance. 15 The thickness of peat in the tundra is negligible, due to the 
presence of permanent ground frost and the slow growth of sphagnum 
mosses. Flowering plants are distinguished by the abundance of flowers, 
their large size, and the brightness of their coloring (Fig. 1). 

The absence of trees in the tundra has been explained by a number 
of different factors: insufficient warmth in the north, strong and cold 
winds, high relative humidity in summer. According to Gorodkov, trees 
die in the tundra as a result of evaporation in summer, since little mois- 
ture reaches the shoots by way of the root system from the very cold 
soil. Winter frosts, however, have no effect upon those species of trees 
which make up the northern boundary of the forest. 

The flora of the tundra is remarkably uniform throughout in Europe, 
Asia, and America. There are some species of saxifrage (for example, 
Saxifraga cerntia), which may be found in all tundras throughout the 
polar region. But there are also species which, even though they are 
widely distributed, do not have a circumpolar distribution. Thus, die tun- 
dra sweet grass (Hierochloe paucifipra) is absent to the west of Novaya 
Zemlya as far as the continent of America. A third category of species 
has a sporadic distribution in the tundras of Europe, Asia, and America. 
Such, for example, is the endemic draba (Draba macrocarpa) , a typical 
tundra plant. A fourth category is distributed within very narrow lim- 
its. 10 Endemic species, that is, species of plants not found in regions 
other than the tundra, are not so scarce as was formerly believed. The 
tundra contains many plants which are found also in the forest zone. 
However, there is a group of plants which are found only in the north, 
and also in the mountains of temperate latitudes above the timber line. 
Plants found also in the Altay Mountains are especially numerous in the 
Siberian tundras. 

18 However, small beds of sphagnum mosses are encountered even along Lake 

16 A. I. Tolmachev, "Flora tsentrahioy cliasti vostochnovo Taimyra" (Flora of the 
Central Part of Eastern Taimyr), Trudy Polyam. kom* Akad. nauk (Proceedings of 
the Polar Committee of the Academy oiF Sciences), VIII, 1932. 


Bogs. Contrary to a common belief, the tundra is not a continuous bog. 
In the tundra there are extensive dry areas, although, of course, in gen- 
eral there are many bogs. The upland (sphagnum) bog is not wide- 
spread in the tundra; the prevailing type of bog is the lowland, or sedge 
bog. The southern boundary of the typical tundra is usually the northern 
boundary of upland peat bogs. As we have said, the peat layer in the 
tundra is not very thick. In the region where permanent ground frost 
occurs in patches, that is, primarily iu the wooded tundra and in the 
southern tundra, large-mound bog may be found, with peat mounds 3 
to 5 m. high and 5 to 25 m. in diameter (Fig. 6). This type of bog is 
always situated in sheltered, basinlike depressions. Although these basins 
are not underlain by a continuous layer of permanent ground frost, iso- 
lated lenses of permanently frozen soil are always found in the cores of 
the mounds. The mounds are the result of heaving of the soil caused by 
the freezing of ground water. The mounds consist of mosses sphagnum 
and others and lichens, and are profusely covered with cloudberry 
(Rubus chamaemorus) (Fig. 2), dwarf arctic birch, bog bilberry, black 
crowberry, crystal tea ledum, sheathed cotton sedge (Eriophorum vagina- 
tum), cowberry, and others. Between the mounds there are long winding 
depressions (yersei), filled with wet sphagnum-hypnum bogs. 

Typical shrub tundra is widespread from the Malozemelskaya tundra 
to the Lena. The vegetation of this tundra falls into three levels: the 
upper, or shrub layer society; the middle, or herbaceous layer society; 
and the lower, or lichen-moss layer society. In the upper, or shrub layer 
society, the dwarf arctic birch (Betida nana) predominates (Fig. 3), 
giving way east of the Yenisey to the closely related form, B. cxilis; 
among the dwarf arctic birches there is much crystal tea ledum (Ledum 
palustre), small shrub willow (Salix glauca, S. pulchra), and bog bil- 
berry (Vaccinium uliginosum). In the middle, or herbaceous layer soci- 
ety, the most conspicuous growth is sedge (Carex rigida), black crow- 
berry (Empetrum ragram), fescue (Festuca $upina) 9 and cowberry ( Vflc- 
cinium vitis-idaea) . In the lichen-moss layer society, which covers the 
ground, brown and green mosses (not sphagnum) and lichens predomi- 
nate. The river valleys contain the same shrubs as the tundra, but here 
they reach a greater height (sometimes growing as tall as a man), be- 
cause in the valleys the ground frost lies deeper and thaws more quickly 
in summer. The type of tundra described here occupies almost the entire 
area of the subzone of the typical or shrub tundra, with the exception 
of bogs and valleys. But in the northern part of this subzone the number 
of shrubs diminishes rapidly. 


On the northern tip of the Kanin Peninsula and in other parts of the 
subzonc of the southern tundra, the small-mound type of tundra takes 
the place of the type described above. Here the tundra contains scat- 
tered low mounds, 20 to SO cm. and up to 75 cm. in height, composed of 
peat and overgrown with low birches and willows, under which are 
found the usual tundra shrubs and herbaceous plants. 

East of the Lena, on clayey subsoils, hillock tundra is widespread. The 
surface of the tuudra is covered with hillocks of sheathed cotton sedge 
(Eriophomm vaginatum), sometimes with an admixture of sedge. The 
plant cover of the hillock tundra also includes sphagnum mosses (both 
green and brown) and lichens. 

Where sandy subsoils are extensive, lichen tundra is widespread. To 
the west as far as the Yenisey, and in the extreme east, reindeer moss 
(Cladonia) predominates; in the nortli of Central Siberia, the more hardy 
olcctorias (chiefly Alectoria ochroleuca) predominate. 

Spotty tundra occupies large level areas of well drained heavy soils. 
It is characterized by bare, clayey patches, the size of a plate or a wheel, 
surrounded by a border of mosses and lichens, dwarf arctic birch, ledum 
(Lcdum), bog bilberry, cowberry (Vacciniiim vitis-idaea) , black crow- 
berry, alpine ptarmiganbcrry (Arctostaplujlos alpina [Arctous alpinus]), 
dwarf willows, and others. Gorodkov explains the origin of the spotty 
tundra as follows. As a result of the thin snow cover, the surface of the 
clayey soils cracks from the frost, forming irregular polygons. The edges 
of the cracks crumble, and in the crevices which result plant life takes 
root, while on the surface of the patches plants cannot take root because 
of the winds. In the spring the bare patches thaw quickly and, their mois- 
ture spreads. 

The Wooded Tundra. The forests of the wooded tundra zone are com- 
posed of a variety of tree species. On the Kola Peninsula the north- 
ernmost forests consist of birch; between the White Sea and the Urals, 
of Siberian spruce (Fig, 4); between the Urals and the Pyasina, of Sibe- 
rian larch; between the Pyasina and the upper reaches of the Anadyr, 
of Dahurian larch; and in the extreme northeast of Asia, along the rivers, 
are found peculiar small woods of Mongolian poplar (Populus suaveo- 
1en$), Korean willow (Salix or Chosenla macrohpis), and birch (Betula 

Extending far to the north, patches of tundra forest are distinguished 
by their stunted growth (except in the river valleys, the height of the 
trees is 6 to 8 m.), and by their sparse stand (Fig. 5). As a result, the 
light in such forests is good, and light-loving lichens reach a consider- 


able development. According to Gorodkov, the reason for the sparseness 
of the tundra forests lies in the subsoil conditions: where permanent 
ground frost is present, the tree roots are obliged to spread not down- 
ward but laterally, so that there is a smaller number of trees per unit 
of surface. In general, however, forest vegetation in the tundra zone 
seeks to avoid areas where there is permanently frozen soil. Since drain- 
age is better in the immediate vicinity of streams, the level of the per- 
manent ground frost is lower along the water courses. This encourages 
the growth of trees on the banks of rivers and on their flood plains. For 
this reason, as Tanfilyev has pointed out, the forest border bends sharply 
to the north along the rivers. 

At one time the forests in the tundra extended much farther north than 
they do today. Evidence is found in the fact that the peat bogs of the 
typical tundra often contain stumps and trunks of firs, birches, and 
larches, sometimes as far as 200 km. north of the present northern, edge 
of the wooded tundra. The period during which the forests extended 
much farther north than they do today must have been the dry and rela- 
tively warm postglacial period (the so-called "xerothermic" period). Un- 
der present climatic conditions, however, the forest is dying out on its 
northern boundary and the tundra is encroaching upon the forest. Tan- 
filyev was not inclined to attribute this encroachment to a change in 
climate; he regarded the extermination of the outskirts of the tundra 
forests as being the result of their natural waterlogging, and not as a ' 
result of climatic changes. However, as Sukach'ev has pointed out, the 
extermination of the forest outskirts in the north of the wooded tundra 
is not accompanied at all by waterlogging. Gorodkov ( 1935) notes a great 
number of forest forms in the plant life of the typical tundra. These bear 
witness to the fact that in place of the present moss and lichen tundra 
there extended at one time a forest region, with sphagnum peat bogs 
and coniferous forests: "The lichen and moss tundras appear as the lower 
layers of forests which existed here at one time, layers rich in arctic 
forms and poor in forest forms/' Where there are deep peat deposits 
(4 to 6 m.) in the tundra, they were formed not under present climatic 
conditions, but during the warmer xerothermic period. 

Gorodkov divides the forests of the wooded tundra into several for- 
mations. On the sandy and rubbly soils are found lichen forests, or, more 
exactly, thin forests. Due to the sparseness of the forest stand, the ground 
vegetation of these forests resembles, on the one hand, the lichen cover 
of pine groves, on the other hand, the lichen tundra. Lichens (Cladonia 
and others) are the basic species, while under the trees the light-loving 


lichens give way to mosses. In these forests there is much cowberry, bog 
bilberry, bilberry, alpine ptarmiganberry, and black crowberry; there are 
some grasses. The shrub layer society, which consists of dwarf arctic birch, 
does not grow tall; it reaches only half a meter in height. In the wooded 
tundra of the Kola Peninsula, lichen birch groves predominate, consisting 
of the low ( 3 to 5 m. ) and crooked Lapland birch ( Eetula kusmisscheffii ) , 
closely related to the pubescent birch. In the wooded tundra of Siberia, 
lichen forests of larch are widespread; on river terraces these forests attain 
a greater height and contain a profuse undergrowth of birch and alder 
(Alnus -frnticosa). 

On the clayey subsoils of the wooded tundra there are many green- 
moss forests, with a ground cover of green mosses, chiefly hypnum. In 
the wooded tundra between the Pechora and the Yenisey there are mossy 
fir groves with an admixture of birch and Siberian larch. In Siberia there 
are also mossy larch groves. Among the shrubs in the green-moss for- 
ests, dwarf arctic birch, willow, crooked birch (Betula tortuosa), and 
alder (Alnus fruticosa) are common. 

In the river valleys of Siberia there are herbaceous-shrubby larch 
groves. They contain much willow, dwarf arctic birch, currant, and 
sweetbrier rose. In the larch forests along the Ob and Yenisey gulfs, 
where the level of permanent ground frost is lower, the trees grow to a 
considerable height, up to 15 m. 

In the Khatanga basin and apparently farther east, the subzone of the 
wooded tundra docs not appear. The tundra borders directly upon the 
zone of thin forests. 


The fauna of the tundra is distinguished in general by its remarkable 
uniformity throughout in Europe, Asia, and America. The number of 
species is not large, but many of the species are represented in ex- 
tremely large numbers. The land fauna of the tundra is characterized 
by its sjmall variability. Those species which contain many varieties far- 
ther south, manifest either no local forms in the tundra, or only a few. 
This suggests that the fauna of the tundra 1T is new in its present sur- 
roundings. Of the mammals, 18 the reindeer, both wild and domestic, is 

17 G. P. Dementyev, "Ptitsy poluostrova Kanina" (Birds of the Kanin Peninsula), 
Sborn. trudov Zool muzcya (Collected Proceedings of the Zoological Museum), II, 
Moscow, 1935. 

a * G, P* Adlerberg, V. S, Vinogradov, N. A. Smirnov, K. K. Flerov, Zveri Arkttki 
(Animals of the Arctic), Leningrad, 1935, izd. Glavsevmorputi (Board of the North- 
ern Sea Koute), p. 579. 


very characteristic for the tundra, as are, to a lesser degree, the lem- 
ming, the arctic fox, and the domestic dog. In the European tundra the 
wild reindeer (Rangifcr tarandus) is at present almost extinct. In the 
fall the reindeer moves from the tundra into the wooded tundra, where 
it is wanner; but in summer it returns to the tundra, where it seeks 
refuge from the mosquitoes. The domestic reindeer is a universal ani- 
mal in the tundra: it is used as a draft animal; its meat is eaten; its skin 
is used to make clothing, shoes, chamois, and tent coverings. Clothing 
made of reindeer skin, which retains its elasticity even in severe frost, 
has no substitute in regions where the winters are severe. The reindeer 
grazes all winter long, subsisting on reindeer moss and other lichens and 
mosses; it feeds readily on berries, mushrooms, and young greens. In the 
Bolshezemelskaya tundra the reindeer stags begin to shed their antlers 
in the middle of April, and by the end of the month they are all horn- 
less; the does shed their antlers in May, after dropping their fawns. The 
dogs which tend the reindeer herds are Eskimo dogs small dogs with 
long white fur and pointed ears. Tundra Eskimo dogs constitute a dis- 
tinct group, which differs sharply from taiga Eskimo dogs. Tundra trac- 
tion dogs, that is, dogs which may be hitched to sledges, arc related to 
the Eskimo dog type, but differ somewhat from the type which tends 
herds. East of the Yenisey, dogs are used only for haulage, and not to 
tend reindeer. 

Lemmings (genera Lemmus and Dicrostonyx) are typical tundra ro- 
dents. In some years they appear in great numbers. The arctic fox 
(Alopex lagopus], a carnivore of the dog family, has a while colora- 
tion in winter, brown in summer. Besides the arctic fox, there is a whole 
series of white animals in the tundra: the willow ptarmigan, the snowy 
owl, the varying hare, the polar bear, the white wolf, and the Eskimo 
dog. Some of these animals are always white, others change to white 
coat only in winter. 

Life in the Bolshezemelskaya tundra does not begin until the middle 
of June and ends in September. In winter the tundra is inhabited only 
by the arctic fox and sometimes by the willow ptarmigan (Lagopua 
hgopus). In spring the first birds to appear are the swans, and next 
the wild goose and the white-fronted goose. In the typical tundra there 
are no amphibians or reptiles. 

Among the fish of the tundra, salmonids predominate: on the Murman 
coast, the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar); farther east, various whitefish 
(Coregonus), the Siberian nelma (Stenodus [S. Icudchthys nelma], a 
fish which is closely related to the Caspian-Volgan whitefish), and charr 


(Sdlvellnus) , which is found farther north than any other fresh-water 
fish (it is found on Novaya Zemlya and on the New Siberian Islands). 
In the Anadyr, chum and pink salmon (Pacific salmon of the genus 
Oncorhynchiis) appear in considerable numbers. 

After warm weather sets in, swarms of mosquitoes appear; they con- 
stitute a real hardship for the reindeer. There are fewer mosquitoes on 
the scacoast; but in the wooded tundra they occur in unbelievable num- 

Professor Birulya (1907) wrote an excellent account of animal life in 
the arctic tundra of Siberia, particularly on the New Siberian Islands and 
on northern Taimyr. Apparently, of the birds on northern Taimyr, only 
the tundra ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and the snowy owl (Nyctea 
nijclca) remain during the winter. On the New Siberian Islands, the wil- 
low ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus] is known to spend the winter. Some 
of the tundra ptarmigan retire to the south for the winter, to the edge of 
the forests, while others remain through the winter. On Taimyr, rein- 
deer, wolf, both types of lemming, and ermine remain throughout the 
winter, along with the tundra ptarmigan and the snowy owl. Migratory 
birds appear very early in spring. On western Taimyr, in lat. 76 N, 
the first of the migratory birds to appear at the beginning of May is the 
snow bunting (Plcctrophcnax nivdlis), followed by the shore birds. In 
the latter half of June the birds begin to nest. In the latter half of July 
they begin to fly south, and by the middle of August the tundra is 
empty. However, the snow bunting remains until September, and indi- 
vidual birds remain as late as October. Of the mammals, only the rein- 
deer, wolf, polar bear, arctic fox, hare, ermine, and two types of lem- 
ming arc found in northern Taimyr. The same species, with the excep- 
tion of the hare, are found on the New Siberian Islands. 

Among the animals of the tundra there are some endemic genera. 
Those include the lemmings (Lcmmus and Dicrostonyx), which are found 
predominantly in the tundra. 10 Many birds nest exclusively in the tundra. 
Such, for example, arc the eider ducks the king eider ( Somateria specta- 
bilis) and Steller's cider (S. stclleri [Polysticta stelleri]), the white- 
fronted goose (Anscr albifrons), the brant (Branta bernicla), the red- 
breasted goose (B. ruficottis), Bewick's swan (Cygnus bewicki), the 
black-bellied plover (Squatarola squatarola), Rosa's gull (Rhodostethia 
rosca), and others. Some of the birds are circumpolar in distribution, 

10 This is evidence of the fact that the tundra fauna contains archaic elements, 
which were developed, apparently, under different geographic conditions. This con- 
clusion is not contradicted by the fact that the animals of the tundra are new in 
their present environment (see above, p. 17). 


being represented both in the U.S.S.R. and in the tundras of North 
America by the same species, without even forming different varieties. 
Among these are the king eider, the red-throated loon, the snowy owl, 
the glaucous gull, and the phalarope. 20 

Origin of the Tundra Landscape 

During the glacial period a large part of the tundra was covered by 
an ice sheet, and the tundra vegetation, pushed far to the south, was 
found, in the form of tundra and wooded tundra, along the periphery 
of the glacial cover. At the same time, during this period the mountain 
vegetation in the Arctic, as well as in temperate latitudes, was also 
forced to move down into the lowlands, and the interchange of organ- 
isms between the mountains and the tundra was facilitated considerably. 
This interchange explains a certain similarity which may be observed 
between the plant and animal life of the Arctic, on the one hand, and 
of the mountains which have an alpine zone, on the other. To this simi- 
larity Forbes and Darwin had called attention even in their time. The 
plants common to both the tundra and the alpine zone include the 
dryad (Dry as), the dwarf arctic birch (Bctula nana), the ptarmiganberry, 
the butterbur, the black crowberry, the spring gentian (Gentiana verna), 
and others. The animals include the tundra ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) 9 
which is native to the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Altay Mountains, 
and others. 

But, in addition, among the plants and animals of the tundra there arc 
also steppe, or, more exactly, chiefly mountain-steppe forms, native pre- 
dominantly to the tundras of eastern Siberia. Although the tundra and 
the steppe, as Gorodkov (1935) rightly points out, were never adjacent, 
nevertheless during the dry postglacial period the steppe, or, more ex- 
actly, the forest steppe, extended far to the north as far as the basins 
of the Onega and the Northern Dvina rivers, as is indicated by the dis- 
covery in these areas of loesslike clay loams. If this conclusion is cor- 
rect, it would have been easy for the tundra to acquire elements of 
steppe life. Such plants include the legumes Astragalus and Oxytropis 
(Gorodkov calls the tundra species of these genera, mountain-steppe 
species), and the Siberian campion (Lychnis sibirica). The animals in- 
clude the rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus) and the arctic horned 

20 Concerning tundra fauna, see N. Ya, Kuznetsov, "Arkticheskaya fauna Yevrazii i 
yeyo proiskhozhdenie" (The Arctic Fauna of Eurasia and Its Origin), Trudy Zoolog. 
Inst. Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences? 
V, No. I, 1938, pp. 1-79. 


lark (Otocoris alpestris). The suslik* (Citellus eversmanni buxtoni) 
inhabits the wooded zone of northeastern Siberia (Bunge saw it daily in 
Verkhoyansk), but it is found also in the tundra. In the tundras of Alaska, 
in Quaternary deposits, there have been found remains of the camel. 
The New Siberian Islands were inhabited at one time by wild horses 
and saiga antelope. And at present, steppe landscapes extend far to the 
north in eastern Siberia (for example, along the Lena). 

The basic element of tundra flora, according to A. Tolmachev (1931), 
was developed during the early glacial period in the north of eastern 
Siberia and part of America, where the ice cover was not continuous; in 
Europe, however, tundra vegetation appeared from the east, as a result 
of migration. Gorodkov (1935), however, describes the history of tun- 
dra vegetation otherwise: The formation of tundras began in the north 
toward the end of the Tertiary or at the beginning of the Quaternary 
period, as the climate gradually became cooler. The bog type of Ter- 
tiary vegetation was transformed into the peculiar tundra type. Perma- 
nent ground frost must have appeared first of all in the Pliocene peat 
bogs. Those habitats which became inaccessible to trees and arbores- 
cent shrubs were occupied gradually by associations of northern peat 
mosses. Furthermore, plants from the arctic mountains also descended 
into these regions. The tundra dwarf evergreen shrubs, such as the 
ledum or the black crowberry, in the opinion of Gorodkov, are de- 
scendants of Tertiary forest plants, which at first had become adapted 
to life in the peat bogs of the northern Pliocene forests, and then, at the 
beginning of the glacial period, had moved into the tundra. (Litvinov, 
on the other hand, held that the ledum, the cranberry, and the an- 
dromeda were mountain plants which had descended into the lowlands.) 
But we must keep in mind that in northeastern Siberia and in the Bering 
Sea region a temperate climate prevailed during Upper Tertiary times, 
and it is here that the peculiar "Okhotsk'* fauna and flora had their be- 
ginning, spreading somewhat to the west. In this region some of the vege- 
tation of the tundra may also have had its origin, 21 

* Known in the United States as the ground squirrel.-TR. 

21 Cf, concurring opinion of B, Stegman, "O priritsipakh zoogeograf. deleniya 
Palearlctiki" (Concerning the Principles of the Zoogeographical Subdivision of the 
Palearctic), 1st). Mad. nauk, seria biol (Report of the Academy of Sciences, Biological 
Series), 1936, No. 2-3, p. 529, on the subject of the origin of the bird fauna of the 

II The Forest Zone' 


THE forest zone, or, more exactly, the zone of temper- 
ate forests with severe winters, is situated between 
the tundra on the north and the forest steppe on the south. The south- 
ern boundary of the forest zone coincides approximately with the south- 
ern boundary of spruce. Occupying a vast expanse (close to half the 
entire area of the U.S.S.R.), this region in eastern Europe extends about 
as far south as the line through Pulavy ( formerly Novaya Aleksandriya- 
on-the-Vistula), Lutsk, Zhitomir, Kiev, Karachev, Kaluga, along the Oka 
to Ryazan, Gorky, Kazan, the mouth of the Vyatka, along the Kama to 
the mouth of the Belaya, north of Birsk, north of the Ufa, and from 
there south along the Ural range. In western Siberia it extends as far 
as the line through Tagil, Irbit, Tyumen, along the Ishim below the 
town of Ishim, somewhat above Tara, Kolyvan, and from there south 
of Tomsk; that is, in the west as far as lat. 58 N, in the east as far as 
lat 56 N, coinciding with the northern boundary of chernozem. In east- 
ern Siberia this region extends as far south as the mountain ranges. 

General Characteristics 

The forest zone of the temperate latitudes in Europe and Asia is dis- 
tinguished by the following characteristics: It is covered with forests, 
both coniferous and deciduous. There are many sphagnum bogs. Sphag- 
num mosses and cranberry are very characteristic ( although these plants 
extend to the south and to the north beyond the limits of the forest zone ) , 
While the winter is severe, the summer is warm, the mean temperature 
of the warmest month being over 10 C, As a rule, the mean annual 
precipitation is about 500 mm. The soils are podzolic, and the subsoils 
leached. The ground water is not alkaline. 

1 For details see L. S. Berg, Ffalko-geograficheskie (fandshaftnie) zony (Physical- 
Geographical [Landscape] Zones), I, 1936, pp. 95-289, 




The temperate forest zone may be divided into two subzones: (1) taiga 
and (2) mixed forests. The zone of mixed forests of the Far East will be 
discussed in the next chapter. 

The taiga is characterized by the predominance of coniferous forests 
of spruce, larch, fir, and Siberian stone pine (Pinus sibirica [P. cembra 
sibirica]}', the common pine also occurs (Fig. 8). Deciduous species- 
birch, aspen, alder are of secondary importance. There are many sphag- 
num bogs in the taiga. There is no oak ( except in the river valleys near the 
southern border in Europe). 

In the mixed forests, the so-called "broad-leaved" species, of which the 
oak may serve as an example, appear together with the conifers. The 
number of sphagnum bogs here is much smaller, and they almost disap- 
pear in the south. 

In eastern Europe the boundary between taiga and mixed forests is 
as follows: the southern boundary of Finland, the Karelian Isthmus 
(Toksovo), Novgorod, the Tikhvin Canal, Bezhetsk, Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, 
Gorky. This boundary corresponds to the northern boundary of the dis- 
tribution of oak in the interflnves. In the valleys along the river courses, 
however, oak extends somewhat farther north. 

In the Volga region, at the meridian of Kozinodemyausk (approxi- 
mately in lat, 57 N), tho fir-spruce-oak belt begins. (Here fir-spruce 
forests occur with an admixture of oak. ) The northern edge of this belt 
runs through Sanchnrsk, passes south of Yaransk, south of Urzhum, passes 
near Sarapul, and from there proceeds to the Kungur island of forest 
steppe (as far as the Ircua River). 



The climate of the taiga, throughout its vast extent, is extremely varied, 
but is characterized in general by a relatively warm and rather humid 
summer, and a cool or cold winter. The mean July temperature is no- 
where less than 10 C, nor greater than 19 to 20 C. Precipitation is 
moderate, the mean annual figure being 300 to 600 mm. (but in some 
places even less than 300 mm,; this will be discussed below). The maxi- 
mum precipitation everywhere occurs in the latter half of the summer, 
in July and August. The minimum precipitation in continental regions 


generally occurs in winter, when the prevailing atmospheric conditions 
are anticyclonic, with descending air currents which do not favor the 
condensation of water vapors. In the forest zone, the minimum precipi- 
tation comes in February and March, and, in some places, in the sub- 
zone of mixed forests, also in January. As one moves eastward away from 
the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the climate of the forest zone be- 
comes more and more continental: the summer becomes warmer, the 
winter more severe, and thus the annual range, that is, the difference 
between the mean temperatures of the warmest and coldest months, 

So far as the climate is concerned, the taiga may be divided into two 
parts: (1) the western, eastward to the Yenisey, and (2) the East Sibe- 
rian, from the Yenisey to the watershed of the Pacific Ocean. 

The western part is distinguished by cloudy winters, with relatively 
abundant precipitation. South of lakes Onega and Ladoga, the amount 
of precipitation reaches 600 mm. per year; in other places it is less. 
Westward from the Ural Mountains, in the taiga, the 18 C. July isotherm 
moves to the north, reaching farthest north (to lat. 57 N) in the basins 
of the Vyatka and the Kama. 

The eastern part is distinguished by clear winters with little snowfall. 
The basic factor which determines the climate of eastern Siberia is tho 
presence of a strong winter anticyclone, which exists here from October 
to March. During this time, there is a low-pressure area in the northern 
part of the Pacific Ocean, in the neighborhood of the Aleutian Islands. 
There is also an area of relatively low pressure over the Arctic Ocean. 
In summer, on the other hand, the pressure is low in eastern Siberia, 
while over the northern part of the Pacific and over the Arctic it is rela- 
tively high. Due to these conditions, the East Siberian type of climate 
is distinguished by severe but dry winters, with little snowfall, little 
cloudiness, and a great many hours of insolation. When the Siberian 
anticyclone, with its descending air currents, prevails here, the winter 
winds are very gentle, and the weather is sunny and calm, although very 
frosty. Such weather is associated with winters in anticyclonic regions in 
general. In summer, on (he contrary, it is relatively hot here, and so dry 
that in some places near Olekminsk it is necessary to Irrigate tine fields. 
The following table on page 25 gives an idea of the annual temperature 
pattern in eastern Siberia. 

In Yakutsk, in winter, frosts of - 50 C. are not unusual. They occur 
as low as 60 C. and even lower. In January the thermometer never 
goes above - 9 C. The lowest temperatures found anywhere in the 



Table 1 















Yakutsk * 
yansk t 














* Lat. C2 01' N, absolute elevation 108 m., observations for 71 years (during 1829-1923). 
t Lat. 07 33' N, absolute elevation 100 ru., observations for 38 years (18G9, 1884-1920). 

world, almost 70 C., are recorded in Verkhoyansk. In summer, on the 
other hand, in both Yakutsk and Verkhoyansk temperatures of over 30 C. 
occur. (In Yakutsk almost 38 C. has been recorded.) The absolute range 
in both places exceeds 100 C., greater than anywhere else in the world. 

Along the middle course of the Lena summers are generally hot, rela- 
tively unclouded, and dry, with long hours of daylight. This combina- 
tion of factors results in an altogether peculiar condition: The mean 
July temperature in Yakutsk is 19 C.; nowhere else in the world is there 
found such a high temperature in July in lat. 62 N. Here, and even a 
degree farther north along the Lena, spring wheat, spring rye, barley, 
oats, watermelon, and melon flourish. Barley and wheat ripen in Yakutsk 
about the middle of July. But we must keep in mind that the daily range 
of temperature here in summer is very great; sometimes the daytime 
temperature reaches 35 C., while after sunset the thermometer drops 
to 5 C. 

Precipitation in eastern Siberia is generally sparse, from 350 to 150 mm. 
In the basin of the middle course of the Lena, it is 250 to 150 mm., of 
which only about 100 mm. comes in summer. Such quantities of annual 
precipitation as in Yakutsk (187 mm.) and Verkhoyansk (128 mm.) may 
be found also in the deserts of the Turanian Lowland, but the distribu- 
tion of the precipitation is entirely different The maximum precipita- 
tion in Yakutiya comes in the latter half of the summer, in July and 
August. In winter (November to April) there is very little precipitation, 
3 to 10 mm. per month; the deep freezing of the subsoils is associated 
with this fact. 

One of the characteristic features of the climate of eastern Siberia as 
compared with the country west of the Yenisey is the relatively small 
amount of cloudiness in winter less than in summer. The explanation is 
found in the descending air currents associated with the winter anticy- 
clone, which bring clear weather with them. 

In Yakutsk the maximum cloudiness occurs in October (73 per cent), 


the minimum in March (37 per cent). The climate of Yakutiya is dis- 
tinguished by gentle winds, particularly in winter, when the mean wind 
velocity does not exceed 1 in. per second, and calm predominates. This 
calm, however, exists only in the lowermost layers of air. 

Permanent ground frost is widespread in eastern Siberia. Its southern 
boundary is a line drawn from a point somewhat north of the town of 
Mezen to Berezov on the Ob, from here to the mouth of the Lower 
Tunguska, then south and southeast, to Trans-Baikal and the boundaries 
of Mongolia; from about the region of Blagoveshchensk, the boundary ex- 
tends to northern Kamchatka (Map 2). 2 In summer the frozen layer 
thaws to a depth of 0.5 to 2 m., depending on the subsoil. The frozen 
layer melts most readily in the porous sandy subsoils, least readily in the 
peat bogs, for peat is a very poor conductor of heat and is somewhat 
impermeable to water. As we move from south to north, we find perma- 
nent ground frost appearing first in the peat bogs. Where the forests 
have been felled, the frost extends deeper. 

The presence of ice not far from the surface of the earth cools the soil 
considerably. On the other hand, in droughty places the thawing of the 
frozen layer in summer provides humidity for the plant roots and per- 
mits crop growing in Central Yakutiya. The trees of eastern Siberia are 
very well adapted to existence over a permanently frozen layer: the Dahu- 
rian larch, for example, which is the predominant species in Yakutiya, has 
a superficial root system and grows readily on soils which thaw to a 
depth of only 50 to 100 cm. (See above, p. 7.) 

The frozen layer in Yakutiya is very deep. In Yakutsk, as far back as 
the first half of the last century, Middenclorff made observations of the 
temperature in a well dug to a depth of 116 m. The bottom of this well 
did not reach beyond permanent ground frost, and the mean annual 
temperature at 116 m. proved to be 3.0 C. To date the question has 
not been settled whether this was the temperature of the frozen layer 
in its natural state or whether a low temperature resulted from the 
penetration to this depth of cold air from the surface of the earth in 


Almost the entire forest zone of eastern Europe, as well as the north- 
ern part of the West Siberian plain and some parts of eastern Siberia, 
were covered during the glacial period by an ice sheet which left marked 

2 M. Sumgin, Veclmaya merzlota pochvy v predelakh S.S.S.R, (Permanent Ground 
Frost in the U.S.S.R.), izd. 2-e (2nd cd.), Moscow, 1937, 




traces in the relief. To date there is no agreement as to the extent of 
glaciation which the Russian plain underwent during the Quaternary 
period. It is generally accepted that there were three such glaciations, 
and that the most severe one, which extended farthest south, was the 
second (the so-called Riss glaciation). This glaciation formed two lobes, 
extending far to the south along the Dnieper and Don valleys, as is 
clearly apparent from every map showing the distribution of glacial 

The Kola Peninsula and Karelia are composed fundamentally of 
strongly dislocated pre-Cambrian crystalline rocks, which either outcrop 
on the earth's surface or lie not far below the surface. This structure 
contrasts with the country situated to the east and south, where the bed- 
rock consists of horizontal sedimentary deposits of more recent date. The 
boundary between these two regions is a line from the mouth of the 
Onega River to the middle of the eastern shore of Lake Onega, and 
extending south along the Svir River. 

On the Kola Peninsula, eastward from Lake Imandra (which has a 
depth of 67 m. 3 ), lie the plateaulike Khibin massifs and the Lovozcrsk 
tundras. These massifs, with elevations reaching 1300 m., are composed 
chiefly of basic rocks of intrusive origin (nephelite syenite, much of which 
is now being exploited). The massifs, which are laccoliths, stand out 
sharply against the surrounding swampy plain country, which is cov- 
ered with numerous lakes (the level of Lake Imandra has an absolute 
elevation of 128 m.), peat bogs, and in some places, low wooded hills 
composed usually of bouldery material. Traces of Quaternary glacia- 
tion have been found on the Khibin massifs; on many of the plateaus 
there are boulders of granite and other rocks which are foreign to the 
nephelite-syenite massif. 

The mineral resources of the Kola Peninsula, in addition to apatite 
and nephelite, also include iron and diatomites; the Khibin apatite reserves 
are the greatest in the world. 

In northern Karelia, at Lake Pyavo, the elevations reach over 500 in. 
West of Lake Segozero, also, the elevations are considerable. In some 
places the watershed between the White Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia 
reaches elevations of 255 m,; here a nonexistent chain of mountains was 
represented formerly. Evidences of the work of the ice sheet appear in 
Karelia with unusual clarity. Eskers and druinlins, roches moutonn6es 9 

3 G. D. Richter, Fiziko-geografichcsky ocJierk ozera Imandra (Physical-Gcognxph- 
ical Sketch of Lalce Imandra), Leningrad, 1934, izd. Geogr.-ckonom. instituta 
(publication of the Geographical Economics Institute). 


dome-shaped hills, and numerous lakes bear witness to the former gla- 

Because of the peculiarities of the relief, Karelia, and also the Kola 
Peninsula, are distinguished by an abundance of lakes. For the same rea- 
son, the rivers are full of rapids. There are many waterfalls; of these, 
die Kivach waterfall on the Suna River (which empties into Lake Onega), 
is well known, although it is not the highest on this river. The consider- 
able gradient of the rivers of Karelia and the Kola Peninsula creates con- 
ditions favorable for the development of hydroelectric power. In Karelia 
there are a great many lakes, around four thousand of them. Many of 
them, as also the bays of the northern part of Lake Onega, extend from 
NW to SE, along the prevailing direction of the tectonic lines of Karelia. 

At the end of the glacial epoch, during the Yoldian period, the White 
Sea was connected with Lake Onega, and the Gulf of Finland with Lake 
Ladoga. It is not yet entirely clear whether at this time Lake Onega (the 
surface elevation of which is about 34 m. above sea level) was connected 
with Lake Ladoga (elevation 5 m.) K. Markov 5 argues against the pos- 
sibility of a connection between the White Sea and the Baltic during 
the Yoldian period. Whether or not he is right, both lakes contain animal 
forms which are native to both the White and the Baltic seas (of fish, 
for example, the four-horned sculpin, Myoxocephalus quadricornis) . 
Possibly a strait existed between the Baltic and the White seas during 
the interglacial period. 

The most valuable mineral resources of Karelia are pegmatite, iron 
ores, and various structural stones (marble, the famous red sandstones, 
diabases, and others). 

The relief of the Karelian Isthmus (the area between the Gulf of Fin- 
land and Lake Ladoga and bounded on the south by the Neva) is highly 
dissected. Here are found hills which rise 200 m. above the level of the 
Gulf of Finland; they are of the kame type. According to Markov's expla- 
nation, these kames were formed within an englacial lake, which existed 
in a thawed patch inside the glacier. The lake was filled with material 
brought in by subglacial streams. Within the lake individual smaller 
blocks of ice were preserved, and as the spaces between these blocks 
were filled with alluvium, kames were formed. 

4 B. F. Zemlyakov, Chetvertichnaya geologitja Karelii (The Quaternary Geology of 
Karelia), Petrozavodsk, 1936, izd. Karel. nauchn.-issled. in-ta. (publication of the 
Karelian Scientific-Research Institute). 

r 'K. K. Markov, "Yoldiyevoye more i problema baltiisko-belornorskovo pozdnele- 
dnikovovo proliva" (The Yoldian Sea and the Problem of the Baltic-White Sea 
Late-Glacial Strait), lat?. Geogr. oUtah, (Report of the Geographical Society), LXV, 


Lake Ilmen is a shallow basin, almost completely filled with deposits 
from the rivers which empty into it the Lovat, Msta, Shelon, and others. 
As a result, the area and depth of the lake vary extremely, depending upon 
the amount of water carried by the rivers* In 1922, when the level of the 
lake was high (23 m. above the Baltic Sea), its area was three and one- 
half times, and its depth (10 m.) was four times as great as in 1882, 
when the level was low (16 m. above sea level). 

We have spoken already of the Timan ridge. It rises in elevation 
toward the south, reaching, at the source of the Vychegda, an elevation 
of 325 m. The watershed between the left-bank tributaries of the Volga 
on the one hand, and the Sukhona, the Yug, the Vychegda, and the 
Pechora on the other, is designated on maps as the Severnie Uvaly 
(Northern hills), 250 m. in elevation. There appear to be no hills hero 
at all, but only a watershed area, in many places level and composed of 
moraine deposits. 

There are rich beds of potassium salts in the Permian deposits in the 
region of Solikamsk, near the western slope of the Urals. 

We turn now to a description of the relief of the forest zone of Siberia. 
Between the Ural range to the west and the Yenisey to the east lies the 
West Siberian Lowland, a portion of the earth's crust which has under- 
gone subsidence. This subsidence must have taken place during pre- 
Jurassic times, judging by the discovery on the Ob (along the Bolshoy 
Yugan River) of Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits (Edelstein, 1932). 
There is reason to believe (Meister, 1909; Kassin, 1931) that along its 
southern boundary the lowland rests against a fault line which runs in 
a northwest direction and marks the northern boundary of the Kazakh 
Folded Country (Razakhskaya skladchataya straw). To the north, merg- 
ing into the tundra, the lowland reaches as far as the Arctic Ocean. To 
the south, merging into the forest steppe, the steppe, and the scmidesert, 
it extends as far as the line through Kustanay, Semipalatinsk, Yeniseisk, 
and Achinsk. Considering its vast extent, the lowland has a very small 
gradient The low-water mark of the Ob River 3000 km. from its mouth 
is only 91 m. above sea level. 

In the watershed areas of Narym bray the prevailing elevations are 
from 100 to 140 m. The extreme northern part of the West Siberian plain, 
as Ya, S. Edelstein (1936) points out, is somewhat elevated with re- 

6 Ya, S. Edelstein, "Geomorfologichesky ocherk Zapadno-Sibirskoy nizmennosti" 
(Geomorphological Sketch of die West Siberian Lowland), Trudy Irwfc jfe. geogr. 
Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Institute of Physical Geography of the Academy of 
Sciences), No. 20, 1936, p. 19. 7 


spect to the central parts. Elevations of 150 to 175 m. have been discov- 
ered recently between the gulfs of the Ob and the Yenisey. 

During the first half of the Tertiary period a sea covered the West 
Siberian Lowland and was connected with the Aral Sea by a strait in 
the vicinity of the present headwaters of the ToboL From that time on, 
western Siberia was no longer submerged, with the exception of the 
extreme north, where deposits of a Quaternary marine transgression have 
been found. The lowland is composed fundamentally of horizontal Ter- 
tiary and Quaternary deposits. Boring in the Kuhmdinsk steppe has 
shown that Oligocene marine deposits occur here to a depth of more 
than 300 m. Glacial deposits extend approximately as far south as the 
latitude at which the Irtysh empties into the Ob. An ice sheet moved 
down from the northern part of the Ural Mountains and another glacier 
moved down from the northeast, from the Taimyr region. 

According to Ya. S. Edelstein, the Ob River found its channel to the 
north somewhere between the two ice sheets. On the West Siberian 
plain there is certain evidence of only one glaciation. Interglacial depos- 
its have not been discovered anywhere. 

On the watershed between the Ob and the Irtysh lies the enormous 
Vasyugansk swamp, the highest parts of which reach an absolute eleva- 
tion of 125 m. Tin's swamp resulted not from the growing-over of lakes, 
but from the waterlogging of dry land by sphagnum mosses. 

On the right bank of the Yenisey below Krasnoyarsk lies the Yenisey 
mountain ridge, extending north from the mouth of the Kan River and 
composed of gneisses, granites, crystalline schists, limestones, dolomites, 
conglomerates, and other rocks. The folds of the Yenisey ridge extend 
from NW to SE. During the Middle Cambrian and Lower Silurian pe- 
riods the ridge was submerged by the sea. Somewhat above the point 
where the Podkamemiaya (Middle) Tuuguska empties into the Yenisey, 
the rocks of which the ridge is composed are found on the left bank of 
the Yenisey. Here the Yenisey breaks through the ridge and becomes 
wider; at this point lie the Osinovsky rapids. The elevation of the Yenisey 
ridge to the south of the Angara River is 300 to 450 m, above sea level, and 
the elevation above the Yenisey is 75 to 100 m. To the north of the An- 
gara River, approximately in lat. 60 N, the ridge reaches an elevation of 
1132 in. (Yenashiminsky Polkan). The Yenisey ridge contains gold. 

To the east of the Yenisey ridge lies the vast Central Siberian Plateau, 
It extends beyond the Lena into the basins of the Aldan and the Maya. 
On the north it is bordered by the North Siberian Lowland; that is, 


approximately by a line connecting the point where the Pyasina River 
intersects the parallel of 70 N (in Norilsk raion) 7 and the lower reaches 
of the Olenek. This boundary runs along a fault line, which in sonic 
places takes the form of a cliff and is accompanied by extrusions of trap. 
In Norilsk raion the plateau rises to an elevation of 500 to 600 m. above 
the valley floor. To the east the escarpment declines in elevation, and 
between the Anabar and the Olenek its elevation is 200 to 300 m. To 
the south the plateau extends as far as the heights on the southern bor- 
der of Siberia. To the east it reaches as far as the foot of the Verkhoyansk 
range, while its southeastern boundary crosses the Olekma in lat. 59 N, 
and from here continues along the latitudinal course of the Aldan and 
proceeds toward the left tributaries of the Maya River. The plateau is 
drained by the rivers Angara, Podkaminenaya and Lower Tunguska, 
Khatanga, Anabar, Olenek, Vilyuy, Lena, and Aldan. The elevation of 
the watershed between the Lena and the Vilyuy is approximately 500 m., 
but the plateau decreases in elevation in the direction of the Lena. To 
the east, between the Lena and the Aldan, the elevation of the plateau 
is generally 200 to 400 m., while near the source of the Lena, the abso- 
lute elevation of the plateau is 600 to 700 m., with valleys cutting 150 to 
300 m, into the plateau (Fig, 7). The absolute elevation of Irkutsk is 

The Lena is a very large river, 4150 km. long. Its tributaries, the Aldan 
and the Vilyuy, are each more than 2000 km. long. The Lena carries an 
average of about 15,000 cubic m. of w^ter per second into the Arctic 
Ocean. 8 Flowing as it does from south to north, this river carries with it 
a great deal of warmth. The mean temperature of the water near the 
delta of the Lena for the months of June to September is 10 C., while 
the temperature of the air here is 1.5 C. lower. 

The Central Siberian Plateau is composed fundamentally of horizon- 
tal or very slightly dislocated marine deposits of Cambrian and Silurian 
age. In many places above the Paleozoic marine deposits there occur 
layers which contain the fossils of Upper Carboniferous or Permian vege- 
tation (the so-called Angara series). Coal of Permian age is found along 

T S, P. Suslov, "K geomorfologii raiona Norilddlch ozer (oz. Lama)" (Concerning 
the Geomoroholocy of the Norilsk Lake Region [Lake Lama)), Tnidt, 1n$t. fiZ 
geogr. Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Institute of Physical Geography of the 
Academy of Sciences), No. 14, J9fl5, p. 120. * 

8 B. D. Zailcov, "Rechnoy stok v more Laptevikh i Vostoclino-Sibirskoye i koli- 
chestvo perenosfcnovo yim v eti morya tepla" (The River Drainage of the Laptev and 
East Siberian Seas and the Amount of Warmth Carried by the Rivers into These Seas) 
Trudy Arfcc. inst. (Proceedings of the Arctic Institute), XXXV, 1936, p. 78, 

Fig. 1. The arctic tundra in summer* Note absence of shrubs and abundance of 
flowers. (Vegetationsbilder. Vol. 5; part 5; plate 33) 

Fig. 2. Bog vegetation. Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) and cotton sedge (Erie- 
phorum scheuchzeri) in the tundra on Kolguyev Island. (VegefafJonsbi/cfer. Vol. 5; 
part 5; plate 31) 

Fig. 3. The typical, or shrub tundra. View in the Bolshezemelskaya tundra near 
the upper Usa. Note the cover of dwarf arctic birch, Befu/a nona, the complete ab- 
sence of trees, and the level topography. (Vegefafionsbilder. Vol. 5; part 4; plate 

Fig. 4. Stunted spruce at the northern limit of tree vegetation on Kanin Peninsula. 
(Vegefaf/onsfai/der. Vol. 5; part 4; plate 24) 

Fig. 5. Wooded tundra along the southern border of the Bolshezemelskaya tundra. 
(Vegefaf/o/wb//der, Vol. 5; part 4; plate 22} 

Fig. 6. Peat mound in the Bolshezemelska/a tundra. (Vegefafionsb/'/der. Vol. 5; 
part 4; plate 25) 

Fig. 7. The Irkut River deeply incised in the Central Siberian Plateau. Pine taiga. 

Fig. 8. The taiga in winter. Transition from 
fir to pine near the Angara River. (Sibir- 
skaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopedia. Vol. 3: 81) 

Fig. 9. Pine taiga in the basin of the Oka 
River, a left tributary of the Angara. (Aziat- 
skaya Rossiya. Vol. 2: 128) 

Fig. 10. Yeddo spruce (P/ceo jezoensk; taiga in Amur oblaif. (Aaafefcaya Rossiya 
Vol. 2: 129) 

Fig. 11. Forest steppe in Voronezh ob/osf. Feather-grass steppe with islands of 
deciduous forest. (Vegefafionsb/'/o'er, Vol. 17; part 2; plate 8) 

Fig. 12. The Baraba steppe in the forest-steppe belt of Western Siberia. (Axial- 
skaya Ross?ya. Vol. 2: 32} 

; 5*5#W-4K' 

iir ' r ' 'AL 

Fig. 13. Pine groves in the forest steppe in the Trans-Baikal region. (Aziafs/caya 
Rossfya. Vol. 2: 129) 

Fig. 14. Meadow steppe in the forest-steppe zone, Voronezh oblatf. Fescue growing 
on thick chernozem. (Vegefaf/onsbi/der. Vol. 17; part 2; plate 7) 


the right bank tributaries of the Yenisey, in the so-called Tunguska basin. 
In some places there are Jurassic terrestrial deposits. The Jurassic trans- 
gression extended far up along the Lena valley, all the way to the Vilyuy 
basin. Lava fields (trap) are widespread here, and consist chiefly of 
diabases. There is also trap in the western part of the plateau, chiefly 
in the Yenisey and Khatanga basins. The outpouring of lavas, which took 
place mainly from fissures, began during the Carboniferous period and 
ended during the pre-Jurassic. 

Under the influence of trap extrusions, the coal in some places was 
transformed into graphite. (One of the thickest graphite beds is found on 
the Kureika River, a tributary of the Yenisey.) The trap itself is the 
source of a series of ore beds. Among these are the Norilsk copper- 
nickel bed (75 km. east of the town of Dudinka on the Yenisey). It seems 
probable that the Cambrian strata of the Central Siberian Plateau are 
underlain throughout by crystalline schists, which have been found so 
far only in the basins of the Anabar 10 and the Aldan. The greater part 
of the Central Siberian Plateau was not covered by an ice sheet, but 
there were glaciers on the bordering heights; for example, on the Ver- 
khoyansk range. 

On the maps there are mountain ranges indicated within the plateau, 
but these ranges are nothing but table mountains, which owe their origin 
to the uneven erosion of the plateau. While these mountains were formed 
by erosion, it is possible that the considerable elevation which they at- 
tain is a result of epeirogenic uplift. Such are the Tunguska Mountains 
( 1050 m. ) on the watershed between the Lower Tunguska and the Vilyuy 
and a part of Hie Lena. On the Norilsk plateau, near the source of the 
Pyasina, there are unusually clear traces of Quaternary glaciation. In the 
upper reaches of the Pyasina, Lake Lama, about 90 km. long and 12 km. 
wide, has a depth of more than 200 m. Here the glacier did not extend 
over the surface of the plateau, but was confined to the depressions in the 
relief. Lake Lama lies in a valley, which was deepened by the glacier. 
Elevations rise 800 to 1000 m. above the level of the lake. In the upper 
reaches of the Kureika there are elevations as high as 1500 m. The Vilyuy 
table mountains (1040 m.) lie on the watershed between the basins of 
the Vilyuy and the Olenek. 

10 Of the most recent literature, see B. N. RozUcov, G. G. Moor, B. V. Tkachenko, 
"K geologii Anabarskovo dokembriya i okrozhayushchevo yevo nizhnevo paleozoya" 
(Concerning the Geology of the Anabar Pre-Cambrian and the Lower Paleozoic 
Which Surrounds It), Byutt. Mosk obshch. i$p. piir. (Bulletin of the Moscow Society 
for Natural Research), otd, geol. (Geological Section), XII, No. 4, 1934. 



In the forest zone of the temperate latitudes, the podzol type of soil 
formation takes place under the forests. With sufficient moisture and a 
relatively warm summer, which as a rule characterize the climate of the 
taiga, the upper horizons of the soil become leached. Aluminum and iron 
oxides and bases are carried by soil waters from the upper (elnvial) to 
the deeper-lying horizons, where they are precipitated, enriching the 
lower horizons with alumina, iron oxide, and so forth, as well as with silt 
particles. On the other hand, in the upper, eluvial horizon, silica remains, 
and is accumulated, and this horizon becomes sandy. In cross-section, 
the striking feature of the podzol soils is their three-colored profile: the 
top layer is grayish, colored by the humus; the middle layer is white, 
eluvial, sandy, and devoid of color; while the bottom layer is a yellow- 
brown color, illuvial, clayey and enriched by sesquioxides, and to some 
extent also by bases and humus. It is from the presence of the middle, 
white layer that these soils have been given the popular name of podzols 
("the color of ash").* 

Clay loams are richer in salts and less permeable than sandy soils. As 
a result, clay loams are podzolized with greater difficulty than the sandy 
soils, out of which the salts are washed very easily. Moving northward 
through the taiga, we find that the podzol-forming process gradually de- 
creases. The temperatures become lower, and waterlogging begins to 
appear, which hinders podzolization. To the south, on the other hand, 
podzolization is hindered by insufficient moisture. Thus, this process is 
most intensive in the central part of the podzol zone. In the north, bog 
prevails; in the center, there are coniferous forests; in the south, tliere 
are mixed and deciduous forests. Finally, the degree of podzolization 
depends upon the relief: on elevated portions of the relief, where the 
water runs off quickly, slightly podzolized soils are developed; in places 
with lower elevation, where the water has a longer time to act, there 
is moderate podzolization, which becomes strong in the most depressed 

In the south of the Siberian taiga, degraded soils (gray forest clay 
loams), which are characteristic for the forest steppe, are widespread. 
These soils will be discussed in detail under the description of the forest- 
steppe zone. However, we will say here that these soils are formed as 
a result of the encroachment by the forest upon the steppe, bearing wit- 
ness to the change from steppe to forest climate. The degraded soils of 

* The Russian word for "ash" is zola. Tn. 


western Siberia extend almost as far north as lat. 60 N, much farther 
north than in Europe. They extend still farther north in Yakutiya. 

The soils in the valley of the middle Lena are unusual. While soils 
of the podzol or bog types generally prevail in Yakutiya, in the valley 
of the middle Lena in the region of Yakutsk, on the terrace above the 
flood plainthere are found solonized and salinized cheraozemlike soils.* 
These soils, developed on carbonated loesslike clay loam, in outward ap- 
pearance resemble poor chernozem, and are covered with grassy mixed- 
herbaceous meadows. At a depth of 1 to 1.5 m, below the surface of these 
chernozemlike soils, there is permanent ground frost. Among the meadow- 
steppe plants, fescue (Festuca lenensis), koeleria (Koeleria gracilis), 
feathergrass (Stipa capillata) , and mother-of -thyme (Thymus serpyllum) 
predominate. The resemblance to the steppe is apparent not only in the 
vegetation, but also in the presence of the Yakutsk suslik (Citellus evers- 
manni jacutensis). The reasons for the appearance of steppe soils so far 
north (in lat. 62 N) are, on the one hand, a dry climate with little pre- 
cipitation and with a hot summer, and, on the other hand, the character 
of the bedrock, rich in carbonates and to some extent in other salts as 
well. The presence of permanent ground frost, which impedes washing 
of the soil and the removal of salts from it, is also a factor. 

In addition to podzolic soils, on the watersheds of Yakutiya there are 
also found soils which resemble gray forest clay loams, as well as sol- 
onized chernozemlike soils, solonetz soils, solods, and solonchaks. 


Within the forest zone there are three types of natural vegetation, 
forests, bogs, and meadows. 

Forests. Of the conifers, the European taiga contains spruce, Scotch 
pine (Pinus sylvestris), and, in the northeast, Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) 
and Siberian larch (Larix sibirica); there is also some Siberian stone pine 
(Pinus sibirica [P. cembra sibirica]) (Maps 3, 4, 5). In the Siberian 
taiga there are spruce, pine, Siberian and Dahurian larch, fir, and Sibe- 
rian stone pine. In the Siberian and in the northern part of the European 
taiga there is also Siberian spruce (Picea excelsa obovata [P. obovata]), 
while in the remaining forest zone there is Norway spruce (Picea excelsa 
[P. abies] ). Siberian larch grows as far west as the line from the south- 
ern end of Onega Bay on the White Sea to Lake Beloye, and from there 
to the upper course of the Kerzhents and the middle course of the 

* That is, soils witih spots of black and white alkali.-Ea (The Ed. notes in this 
text are those of the Editor of the American Edition. ) 










Vetluga. Siberian fir extends almost as far west as does larch. Siberian 
stone pine, however, has a limited distribution in Europe, extending not 
much farther west than the Ural range. Along with the conifers there are 
also birch, aspen, and alder. Of the broad-leaved species, linden is the 
most numerous in the southern part of the region, and appears also in 
some places in western Siberia. Linden is found as far east as Krasnoy- 
arsk. 11 Birch ( and sometimes pine ) occurs in the form of continuous stands 
farthest north on the Kola Peninsula. On the Kanin Peninsula and in the 
Timan tundra spruce occurs farthest north in some parts, birch in others. 
In the Bolshezemelskaya tundra, spruce occurs farthest north; in Sibe- 
ria (as also in North America), larch. Thus, the outposts farthest north 
are occupied by trees which shed their leaves or needles in winter. 

The forests along the northern border of the taiga zone are character- 
ized by stunted growth and sparse stands. On their northern boundaries 
the forests usually extend into the tundra along the river valleys. 

It must be noted that deciduous forests (birch groves and aspen 
groves) in the taiga zone are second growth for the most part. They 
replace coniferous stands after felling or fires. Birch groves in the ex- 
treme north of the taiga zone (on the Kola Peninsula, in northern Karelia, 
and in other places), occur independently of human activity. 

Spruce is a species which can endure shade, but which is exacting as 
to moisture and as to soil. It requires humid soils, relatively rich in nutri- 
ent substances. Because the root system of the spruce is superficial, it can 
develop over permanently frozen subsoil (for example, in the northern 
part of western Siberia). Where ground water does not remain too long, 
spruce grows well. For this reason, in the north there are fine spruce 
groves close to the river valleys where the relief is more or less dissected 
and the drainage is satisfactory, while farther from the rivers, in the 
interfluve areas, are inferior, waterlogged stands of spruce, or only peat 
bogs. The spruce stands of the taiga may be divided into the following 
principal types (Sukachev): 

(1) The green-moss and spruce complex develops on well drained 
soils, in places with more or less dissected relief. The soils under this type 
of spruce stand are fertile and after the forest cover has been removed, 
are readily tilled. The moss cover of the green-moss and spruce complex 
is generally continuous, and consists of the so-called "shiny* mosses, 
Hylocomium, Hypnum, and others. The herbaceous cover is scant. Wood 
sorrel oxalis (Oxalis acetosella), ferns, club mosses, and orchids are char- 

11 M. M. Hin, Botan. zliwn. S.S.S.R. (Botanical Journal of the U.S.S.R.), XIX, 
1934, pp. 885-501. 


acteristic. There is little or no undergrowth. Sometimes there is a small 
admixture of aspen and birch, and, in the northeast, fir. Three types of 
green-moss and spruce complex are distinguished: oxalis, bilberry, and 
cowberry subcomplexes. The last-named develop on the drier, sometimes 
even sandy soils. 

(2) The haircap-moss (Polytrichum) and spruce complex develops on 
strongly podzolic soils, less well drained than those on which the green- 
moss and spruce complex is found, with less dissected relief, and with 
a tendency toward waterlogging. A continuous carpet of common hair- 
cap moss (Polytrichum commune) is very characteristic. Sometimes the 
moss reaches a thickness of 80 cm. There is some birch, growing in ad- 
mixture with the spruce. Where there is a herbaceous cover, sylvan 
horsetail (Equisetum silvaticum) is characteristic. 

(3) The sphagnum and spruce complex is found in the flat, water- 
logged areas. Sphagnum predominates in the moss cover. The spruce is 
dwarfed in size, and sometimes grows with a considerable admixture 
of birch, pine, or European alder. In the herbaceous cover there are 
many bog forms: ledum, bog bilberry, and cloudberry. Sometimes sedges 
predominate. Hie sedge, sphagnum, and spruce complex in the north 
is called sogra. 

(4) The herbaceous and spruce complex occurs in the valley bottoms 
of small rivers. The moss cover is poorly developed, but the herbage 
grows thick and tall. Wherever sphagnum does not grow extensively, 
spruce grows well, for there is running ground water. The undergrowth 
is rich, consisting of black and red currants, bird cherry, juniper, sweet- 
brier rose, willow, honeysuckle, European alder, occasionally linden, and 

Pine, as distinguished from spruce, is a light-loving species, and is not 
exacting as to soil or moisture requirements. As a result, it can grow on 
sands, in sphagnum bogs, or on granite ledges. Because of its light-loving 
property, the pine often appears, together with birch and aspen, on sites 
where spruce forests have been felled or burned down. With the passage 
of time there appear under the canopy of pine, shade-enduring species- 
spruce, fir, and others, which gradually replace the pine. Pine complexes 
are associated predominantly with sandy soils (they are then called bors) 
and with bogs. They are divided into types which are analogous in gen- 
eral to the types of spruce stands; 

(1) The green-moss, or berry and pine complex is found on dune sands. 
There is a continuous moss cover of Hypnum, Hylocomium, and other 
forms. The herbaceous cover is thin. Cowberry and pine, oxalis and pine, 


and bilberry and pine subcomplexes may be distinguished. The last- 
named marks the first stage of waterlogging. 

(2) The haircap-moss (Polytrichum) and pine complex occurs on soils 
which are becoming waterlogged. There is a continuous moss cover of 
common haircap moss. 

(3) The sphagnum and pine complex develops on sphagnum bogs. The 
thicker the sphagnum cover, the scrubbier the pine. 

(4) In the herbaceous and pine complex the herbage is thick, the 
moss cover scant, and the pine reaches a fair size. 

(5) The shrub and pine complex is found on rich, dry soils. The under- 
growth is excellent. This type is more characteristic of the subzone of 
mixed forests. 

(6) The lichen and pine, or white-moss and pine complex usually de- 
velops on the summits of sand hills, A very characteristic ground cover 
consists of a more or less continuous carpet of reindeer moss (Cladonia) 
and Iceland moss (Cetraria). The herbaceous cover is sparse and short. 

In a pine complex with a spruce layer, the spruce may appear to be 
taking the place of the pine. Birch groves, as a rule, occur as temporary 

In western Siberia the taiga begins approximately in latitude 65 N 
and extends as far south as a line somewhat north of Irbit, through 
Tyumen and Tara, to the region between Tomsk and Kolyvan. Begin- 
ning at the north, it is divided into three subregions: 

(1) The narrow spruce and larch subregion lies immediately south of 
the wooded tundra. Along the Ob this subregion extends as far south as 
Berezov; along the Yenisey, it embraces Turukhansk. Here spruce and 
larch forests predominate, with an admixture of Siberian stone pine and 
birch. The northern boundary of this subregion coincides with the north- 
ern boundary of Siberian stone pine. 

(2) The Siberian-stone-pine and bog subregion occupies a much 
larger area. Within the boundaries of this subregion lie Berezov and 
Surgut. Its northern boundary coincides with the northern boundary of 
pine. In the well drained areas, spruce and Siberian-stone-pine forests 
predominate. Where these are burned over, birch and aspen groves ap- 
pear in their place, while on the sandy soils pine reappears. 

(3) The urrnan and bog subregion is somewhat smaller in area than 
the Siberian-stone-pine and bog subregion. Within the boundaries of this 
subregion lie Tobolsk and Naryrn, Interstream sphagnum bogs occupy 
extensive areas, particularly in the eastern part. The basic type of forest 
in the drier areas is the urman (in some parts it is called chern), a dense 


coniferous forest with fir predominating. Of the other conifers in this 
subregion, there are large numbers of spruce and Siberian stone pine, 
but larches are few. The ground cover consists of green mosses with ox- 
alis, bilberry, cowberry, and other herbage; and the undergrowth, of 
elder, mountain ash, and linden. On the sands are found ordinary pine 
groves. On the cut-over areas and deserted plowlands there are coarse- 
herbaceous meadows and thin deciduous forests with meadow flora, so- 
called yelans. 

Beyond the Yenisey the floral composition changes. The Siberian larch 
is replaced by the Dahurian larch, which predominates here and is a 
very characteristic feature of the landscape; in Yakutiya the predominant 
type of forest is the taiga of Dahurian larch. This tree,, which has a super- 
ficial root system and which forms accessory roots easily, is associated 
especially with areas where there is permanent ground frost. The Dahu- 
rian larch, like the pine, is not exacting as to soil and moisture require- 
ments. In eastern Siberia there is no taiga of the West Siberian urman 

In Yakutiya larch taiga occupies extensive areas, growing on poorly 
drained podzolic sandy loams and clay loams. Here the frozen layer 
thaws in summer to a depth of 80 to 120 cm.; under a thick moss cover, 
to .a depth of only 25 to 50 cm. Besides Dahurian larch, there is some 
pine and pubescent birch. The herbaceous cover contains ledum. The 
moss cover is continuous, but usually does not consist of sphagnum, 
which is not favored by the dry climate of this region. On the drier and 
more fertile soils, which resemble the gray forest clay loams, cowberry- 
larch taiga is developed; the subsoil here is a loesslike carbonated clay 
loam; the larches grow quite tall. After burning or felling, in place of 
the cowberry taiga there appears European white birch, coppices of 
which serve to indicate soils suitable for agriculture. There arc three 
types of coniferous stands: (1) pure pine (Fig. 9), (2) pine with larch, 
and (3) pure larch. In the sands under the pine groves the frost thaws 
toward the end of the summer to a depth of 2 to 2.5 m. 

Bogs. By bogs are meant areas in which the soils receive excessive 
moisture during the greater part of the year, areas which in the low- 
lying portions are covered sometimes by shallow water, and on which 
grows the peculiar hydrophytic type of bog vegetation. The excess 
of moisture and the associated inadequate aeration of the soil bring with 
them incomplete decomposition of organic remains and their accumula- 
tion within the poorly drained soil and on its surface. The result is peat 
The overabundance of moisture in the soil may originate from various 


causes: from an excess of atmospheric, surface, or ground water; from 
impermeability of the subsoil to water; from the settlement of hydro- 
phytic mosses. 

Bog constitutes a very prominent element in the landscape of the forest 
zone. Bogs are particularly numerous in the taiga of northern Europe 
and in western Siberia. Beyond the Yenisey, however, there are very few 
sphagnum bogs. The explanation lies in the scant precipitation, dry air, 
hot summers, and better drainage of eastern Siberia. 

In the bogs the roots of the hydrophytic plants may extend down to 
the mineral subsoil and obtain nourishment from it. The soils developed 
on such bogs bear the name "silty-bog" soils. But if masses of dying 
vegetation, or peat, accumulate in the bog, the bog vegetation may 
lose its connection with the mineral subsoil. When this happens, nour- 
ishment must come from precipitation or from the flow of surface water. 
In this way a peat bog or torfyanik is formed. The soil of such a peat 
bog bears the name "peat-bog" soil. 

The excessive moisture in the upper horizons of bog soils impedes the 
penetration of oxygen to the lower horizons. As a result, processes of 
deoxidization of iron begin in the lower horizons, and ferrous oxides are 
formed; they color the deoxidized (gley) horizon bluish, gray, or black. 

Between the poorly drained and the podzolic soils there is a whole 
series of gradations. Forest often overgrows the bog, and still more 
often it is the other way around the forest becomes waterlogged. Then 
one process of soil formation is superimposed upon another. Half-bog 
soils, or bog-podzolic soils result. 

According to the manner of origin, two types of bog are distinguished, 
those which are formed by the growing over of basins (lakes and rivers), 
and those which are formed by the waterlogging of dry land. 

When lakes become overgrown, there takes place a gradual filling-in 
of the basin with peat, and the transformation of the lakes into sedge 
or herbaceous bog, and, with the passage of time, into sphagnum bog. 

The waterlogging of dry areas is a very common process in the north 
of the U.S.S.R. and in Scandinavia. Forests are particularly subject to 
this process. In the spruce forests, and sometimes also in the green-moss 
and pine complexes, waterlogging is initiated by the appearance of the 
moss PotyMchum commune (common haircap moss) or of sphagnum 
mosses. Sphagnum is characterized by its capacity to absorb large quan- 
tities of moisture. Sphagnum peat is highly impermeable to water, so 
that thick layers of peat constitute water-resistant strata. Both of these 
properties of sphagnum mosses promote waterlogging. Soon after sphag- 


num waterlogging begins, spruce disappears, and the forest changes 
into pure pine. Then the pine itself begins to grow poorly. Ultimately 
the pine or spruce forest changes into a sphagnum bog with Scotch pine. 
Often the waterlogging of an area begins after forest fires or felling in 
sections which were formerly dry. Forests, which evaporate an enormous 
quantity of moisture, lower the level of ground water in flat areas, and 
help keep them drained. With the disappearance of the forest, ground 
water appears on the surface. 

In the first stage of their development, bogs are usually herbaceous 
(sedge) or mossy (hypnum). As the remains of dead vegetation accu- 
mulate, the surface of the bog rises to such an extent that there is no 
longer access to ground water, and the bog passes from the stage of sub- 
soil nourishment to that of atmospheric nourishment. In this way, condi- 
tions are created which favor the settlement of sphagnum mosses. The 
large sedge (Carex filiformis), characteristic for sedge bogs, disappears. 

On sphagnum peat bogs, in the first stage of their development, 
scheuchzeria (Scheuchzeria palustris) predominates. This is the scheuch- 
zeria peat bog, the wettest of all sphagnum peat bogs. It is almost impos- 
sible to walk across it, as there is standing water under the loose moss 
cover. With the passage of time, the peat mass gradually fills the watery 
horizon, and the bog becomes somewhat drier and passes on to the next 
stage, that of the sheathed-cotton-sedge peat bog. In addition to the sod 
of the sheathed cotton sedge (Eriophorum vaginatum), there are many 
evergreen undershrubs. These plants are mycotrophic; that is, adapted, 
so far as root nourishment is concerned, to live symbiotically with fungi. 
Such plants include the small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos), crystal 
tea ledum (Ledum palustre), andromeda (Andromeda polifolia), and 
leather leaf (Cassandra or Lyonia calyculata [Chamaedaphne calycu- 
lata]). The last forms entire thickets. In this stage the sphagnum (pre- 
dominantly the red Sphagnum medium) forms a compact mossy carpet, 
overlying the compressed peat If the red sphagnum develops vigorously, 
it forms such a dense carpet that only dwarf Scotch pine (Pinus sylves- 
tris f. litwinowi), which rises above the surface of the moss carpet only 
0.5 to 1 m., is able to survive on it. 

Three types of bog are distinguished: (1) lowland, or hypnum and 
herbaceous bogs; among these there are sedge, reed, bulrush, reed-grass, 
and horsetail bogs; (2) transitional, or forest bogs, with sphagnum as 
well as hypnum mosses; among these there are shrub, alder complex, 
birch complex, birch and spruce, and birch-aspen-coniferous bogs; and 
(3) sphagnum bogs. 


Of the sphagnum bogs the most characteristic for the forest zone are 
the red-moss bogs. On these the sphagnum mosses form a thick carpet 
of red or brown color (Sphagnum fuscum, S. medium, S. acutifolium, and 
others). Neither flood water nor ground water reaches this bog, which is 
nourished exclusively by atmospheric moisture: by rain, dew, and snow. 
Since the outskirts of the red-moss bog receive nourishment from ground 
water, which is harmful to the sphagnum mosses of which this type of 
bog is composed, the periphery of the red-moss bog develops slowly. 
The middle, however, which is watered exclusively by atmospheric 
moisture, grows quickly, and the bog takes on a protuberant appearance, 
the shape of an overturned plate. In addition to the unexacting sphag- 
num mosses, the vegetation of these bogs includes ledum, bog bilberry, 
andromeda, leather leaf, Scotch heather (Calluna vulgaris), cloudberry 
(Rubus chamaemorus) , black crowberry, cowberry, bilberry, cranberry, 
sheathed cotton sedge (Eriophorum vaginatum), dwarf birch, pine, and 
others. Shrubby red-moss bogs, overgrown with dwarf pine, 1 to 1.5 m. 
in height, are very widespread. 

Flood-plain meadows. Meadows, as distinguished from bogs and steppe, 
arc herbaceous expanses which receive a moderate amount of moisture. 
The roots of meadow herbaceous plants, twining about each other, form 
a continuous, compact sod cover within the soil. Two types of meadow 
are distinguished: (1) flood-plain, or wet meadows, flooded annually, 
or once in several years, by high water in spring; these meadows lie in 
river valleys, but may be found also on the peripheries of shallow lakes 
subject to fluctuations of level (such, for example, is the flood plain of 
Lake Ilmen); (2) upland, or dry-valley meadows, found in interstreain 

It must be kept in mind that aside from the flood plains there is no 
independent type of meadow vegetation in the lowlands (that is, outside 
the mountains) of the forest zone in the U.S.S.R. The upland or dry- 
valley meadows in the forest zone develop on the sites of cut-over or 
burned forests. The economic significance in the forest zone of dry- 
valley meadows, which serve for haymaking and pasture, is very great. 

On the flood-plain meadows of the forest zone, vegetation of the 
meadow, bog, and forest type is developed. Correspondingly, there are 
also soils of the alluvial-meadow, bog, half-bog (meadow), and podzolic 

The soils and vegetation of the flood plains are characterized by cer- 
tain peculiar properties which are associated with the fact that the flood 
plain, in its entirety or in greater part, is covered for some time every 


year by water, which, when it recedes, leaves on the flood plain a layer 
of new sediment. Even at low water (when the high water has receded), 
the level of ground water remains high in the flood plain. The unsorted 
sediments of mixed sand and clay which are carried by the river at high 
water, are sorted on the flood plain, and are deposited according to the 
size of the particles: the large and heavy sandy particles close to the 
channel and on elevations in the flood plain; the sandy-loam and clay- 
loam sediments farther away; and the clay deposits still farther. In this 
way, the flood plain is marked off into three strips, according to soil and 
vegetation: (1) the sandy, riverain strip (along the channel), (2) the 
clay-loam middle strip, and (3) the silt-clay, poorly drained strip on the 
edge of the flood plain (along the terrace). Let us examine these 

(1) In the portion immediately adjoining the stream itself, there is an 
annual deposit of so much sand, which is subject to shifting and redeposi- 
tion, that there is no vegetation here at all. On the sands at some distance 
from the channel, there are continuous pure thickets of butterbur (f * eta- 
sites tomentosus). This plant has a long and rapidly-growing rhizome, 
capable of breaking through the deposits of sand. Besides the butterbur, 
among the plants which hold the alluvial sands are the field horsetail 
(Equisetum arvense) and willow stands, which can obtain nourishment 
through the medium of fungi (mycotrophically ). The willows found hero 
most often are the basket willow (Salix vimindis or S, gmelini) and the 
almond-leaf willow (S. triandra [S. amygdalind]). Besides the willows, 
at some distance from the river there are bird cherry, buckthorn, Siberian 
dogwood (Cornus sibirica [C. alba sibirica]), sweetbrier rose, black and 
red currants, blackberry, and others. Beyond the willow stands lie the 
flood-plain meadows (priruslovie luga). The friable sandy substratum is 
clearly laminated; from 0.5 to 2 to 3 cm. of sediment is deposited hero 
annually, The soil has a thin cover of vegetation, in which there are 
many weeds whose seeds are brought by the high water. Here on the 
sandy soil spread readily grasses of the rhizomic type, which are capable 
of growing in the friable alluvial soils with the aid of their long under- 
ground stems. To this category belong smooth brome, wheat grass, and 
reed grass. Of these the most typical is brome, which sometimes forms 
thickets almost as tall as a man. Of the other grasses there are usually 
redtop, canary grass, blue grass, meadow foxtail, fescue, red fescue, tim- 
othy, and others. In addition to grasses, there are many legumes (red 
clover, meadow pea vine, and others), and also other dicotyledons 
("mixed herbage"): yarrow, meadow geranium, sorrel, yellow bed- 


straw, pomegranate, Siberian aconite, and others. The meadows of the 
riverain section do not occupy a large portion of the flood plain. 

(2) The meadows of the middle part of the flood plain, however, 
sometimes extend for several kilometers across the valley. The herba- 
ceous stand here is thick and tall. Sometimes in the associations of canary 
grass, growths as tall as a man are found. The predominance of certain 
grasses, legumes, and other plants makes these meadows very important 
agriculturally. The herbage is highly varied: in some parts there is a 
monotonous shroud of grasses in pure stands, in others there is a diversity 
of herbaceous plants, in still others, a variegated carpet of both. That 
strip of the middle section of the flood plain which borders upon the part 
next the terrace is characterized (on the Mologa River) by extensive 
forests of alder (speckled alder, Alnus incana), aspen, and oak. 

(3) The meadows of the terrace section, bordering upon the terrace 
which lies above the flood plain, are characterized by the presence of 
sedge bogs, which are often hillocky. Sedge bogs usually develop on the 
sites of cut-over groves of European alder (Alnus glutinosa), which often 
grow in the strip next the terrace. In some places large areas are occu- 
pied by tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa), a thick grass which 
sometimes grows as high as a man's waist. Sedge and tufted hair grass 
yield a "sour" hay of small value. 


During the historical period the taiga has been inhabited by many 
large animals: elk, reindeer, roebuck, bear, and lynx, at present either 
driven back into more remote parts, or altogether exterminated. There 
used to be squirrels, martens, and beavers throughout the taiga, and 
sable in the northeastern part of the European Soviet Union and in Sibe- 
ria. At present, among the principal animals of economic importance in 
the taiga are the squirrel, varying hare, fox, and ermine, and, of second- 
ary importance, elk, marten, bear, and others. 

The other mammals of the taiga include the flying squirrel (Pteromys 
volans or Sciuropterus russicus), which is found from the shores of the 
Gulf of Finland and the forests of White Russia, Moscow oblast, and 
Vladimir and Ryazan raions, to the Trans-Baikal region, the Kolyma, and 
Sakhalin. The chipmunk (Eutamias asiaticus [E. riZrfrfcu?]), a rodent 
which is very characteristic for the taiga, is found in the northeastern 
part of the European taiga and in Siberia. The common hare (Lepus 
europaeus), unlike the varying hare (L, timidus or L. variabilis), occurs 
in Europe, where it is found from lat, 62 N to the steppes and the Cauca- 


sus. The common hare is absent in Siberia. This species avoids continuous 
forests. In winter it does not turn completely white (in the Crimea and 
the Caucasus it does not turn white at all). 

Among the birds which are typical inhabitants of the taiga are: l2 the 
capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), which is found as far east as the Lena; 
another species, Tetrao parvirostris,* peculiar to the taiga of eastern Si- 
beria; the hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia), which is found as far as 
northeastern Siberia; the willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), which, 
although common in the tundra, also inhabits all parts of the taiga, living 
predominantly in mossy bogs; the three-toed woodpecker (Picoides 
tridactylus),* native predominantly to the spruce forests; the bram- 
bling (Fringilla montifringilla) *; the chestnut bunting (Emberiza ru- 
tila) *; the waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) *; several thrushes; the white- 
winged crossbill (Loxia leucoptera bifasciata) ,* which is very charac- 
teristic for the larch forests; the pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) ; 
the bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula); the nutcracker (Nucifraga caryoca- 
tactes), which disperses the seeds of the Siberian stone pine; the Sibe- 
rian jay (Perisoreus infaustus) *; and others. All the birds which have 
been enumerated nest in the taiga and are permanent residents. Some 
of these birds may be found also in the subzone of mixed forests. East- 
ern Siberia is very rich in taiga birds; it contains forty-two species. To 
the west, however, their number decreases, but even in the Pyrenees 
there are eight species of birds peculiar to the taiga alone. Stegman sug- 
gests that eastern Siberia was one of the centers for the distribution of 
taiga birds; from here they spread into eastern Europe during the post- 
glacial period. 

Passerines predominate among the birds of the taiga. Of the birds of 
economic importance, the most significant are the hazel grouse, caper- 
caillie, willow ptarmigan, and black grouse. 

Of the reptiles, the common viper (Vipera berus) is found in all parts 
of the forest zone. It exists as far north as the forests of the Kola Pen- 
insula, and as far east as Yakutiya and the Primorye. The common lizard 
(Lacerta vivipara) has almost the same distribution in this region, It is 
common as far as Sakhalin. Of the toads in the Siberian as well as the 
European taiga, there is found only the common gray toad (Bufo bnfo). 
The grass frog (Rana temporaria) is widespread in Europe. In Siberia 
it is replaced by the Amur frog (Rana amurensis). This is a land frog 

12 V. Stegman, "Die Herkunft der paltektischen Taigavogei" (The Origin of the 
Palearctic Taiga Birds), Arch. f. Naturgesch. (Archives for Natural History), I, 1932, 
* The asterisk denotes species which do not cross the boundary of the taiga. 



which descends into the water only to spawn. The edible frog (Raw 
esculenta) is virtually unknown in the taiga. It may be found only in the 
west, along the southern outskirts. This frog is not found in Siberia. 

Among the insects of the taiga we will enumerate some of the Lepidop- 
tera. Of all the Lepidoptera, the nun moth (Porthetria monacha) is con- 
sidered the most dangerous enemy to the forest; its caterpillar crops the 
needles. The pine dendrolimus (Dendrolimus pint) is another very dan- 
gerous enemy to the conifers, while the cutworm moth (Feltia segetum, 
whose caterpillar is called the "winter worm") damages the winter grain. 

In Lake Ladoga there is ringed seal (Phoca hispida ladogensis). 
Closely related forms are found in all the arctic seas, as well as in the 
Baltic and Caspian seas and in Lake Baikal. A singular characteristic 
of all these seals is that they whelp, as a rule, on the ice. 


The boundaries of this subzone have been indicated above, cm. page 23- 
The subzone of mixed forests is absent in Siberia, where the taiga passes 
directly into the forest steppe. 


The climate of this subzone is rather uniform. As an example, we will 
take the climate of Moscow (or, more exactly, Petrovsko-Razumovsk, 
near Moscow, lat 5550' N, absolute elevation 167 m.) The table below 
presents the most important climatological data. 

Table 2 






























Number of 

dnys of 















(por cent) 















(per cent) 














Number of 

clear days 





























Number of 

days with 
















In comparison with western Europe, Moscow oblast belongs to the 
category of regions which have a continental climate. The annual range 
in temperature here is considerable (almost 30 C.). However, the mean 
spring temperature in Moscow is the same as the fall temperature, or even 
a little lower. The melting of the snow cover in spring absorbs much 
heat and lowers the April temperature. As a result, the spring and fall 
temperature distribution is the reverse of that usually found in a conti- 
nental climate, where the spring is warm and the fall is cold. In a marine 
climate it is the other way around. 

The snow cover in the vicinity of Moscow usually disappears by 
April 19. About the same time the mass blooming of aspen, alder, wil- 
low, and black poplar begins. On hot summer days the temperature in 
the shade is 20 to 25 C., but occasionally the temperature may rise to 
almost as high as 38 C. The nights are rather cool; in July, the thermom- 
eter occasionally has dropped at night to 1 C. Winter in Moscow oblast 
is of long duration; there is snow on the ground for 140 days. The first 
snow falls in the middle of October, and by the latter half of November 
the snow cover is established. The winter is cloudy, with frequent snow- 

The climate of Leningrad, which lies on the border between taiga and 
mixed forests, is more temperate than the climate of Moscow, because 
of the moderating influence of the Gulf of Finland. Although Lenin- 
grad lies 4 farther north than Moscow, winter in the lower course of 
the Neva is almost 2 C. warmer. The Moskva River freezes on Novem- 
ber 8, eighteen days earlier than the lower course of the Neva. 

In this subzone the maximum precipitation occurs in White Russia, 
in the basins of the Pripyat and the Berezina. Here the precipitation 
totals 680 to 695 mm. annually. 


The so-called Silurian plateau borders on the southern shore of the 
Gulf of Finland. Its northern edge, composed of horizontal Silurian and 
Cambrian deposits, is called the glint The glint, which faces the sea, 
begins at Baltiisky Port in Estonia, where it has an elevation of 25 m. 
Near the Narova (Narva) River, the glint recedes from the seashore 
and stretches to the east, at a distance of 12 to 20 kilometers from the 
sea, to a point beyond the Syas River (which empties into Lake Ladoga) . 
The absolute elevation of the plateau reaches 150 m. (for example, in 
the vicinity of Kopora station), and isolated points rise even higher; 


thus, the Duderhof Plateau, the highest part of the Neva region, reaches an 
elevation of 175 m. In the vicinity of the Duderhof Plateau and near Push- 
kino, the Cambrian and Silurian strata are dislocated, apparently as a 
result of mechanical glacial action. 

The name "Neva depression" is given to the declivity which is bor- 
dered on the north by the hills of the Karelian Isthmus (200 m.) and on 
the south by the escarpment of the Silurian plateau. In the lower course 
of the Neva the bed of Quaternary deposits is 11 to 68 m. thick. In Len- 
ingrad itself, two moraines may be distinguished, while in the region 
between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga some students identify 
three moraines, others two. 

In the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland and in the region of the 
Neva delta, traces of Quaternary basins, in the form of terraces, coastal 
banks, and ledges, are well marked. But as yet there is no unanimity of 
opinion among the investigators concerning the particular late glacial 
and postglacial seas with which these traces may be associated. One of 
the well marked terraces is that which was formed by the last of the 
transgressions of the Baltic Sea, the Littorina transgression. The width 
of this terrace, along the southern shore of the bay, east of Kopora Gulf, 
is usually 0.5 to 1 km., in some places less, in others as much as 2 km. Its 
elevation differs at different points, as a result of the unequal uplift of 
the earth's crust in these parts during post-Littorina times. At Peterhof its 
elevation is close to 7 m. above the present level of the Gulf of Fin- 
land. To the west the terrace rises in elevation, while to the east it 
declines (at Ligovo it is 3,4 m.). According to Markov, the borders of 
Lake Ancylus * and the Yoldian Sea within the region under considera- 
tion lie below the level of the Littorina Sea. Above the Littorina terrace, 
in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, there is a series of terraces, 
which Markov considers to be traces of postglacial lakes which existed 
prior to the Yoldian period. 

In the upper course of the Volga, west of Lake Seliger, lies the south- 
ern part of the Valday heights (elevation at Kamennik 322 m.). From 
here the heights extend to the north as far as Tikhvin, and to the south- 
west to a point north of Vitebsk. To the west, the Valday heights de- 
cline toward the Lake Ilmen Lowland in the form of a rather steep 
slope, with a drop of 50 to 100 m. On the east the heights have no dis- 
tinct boundary. The Valday ridge is underlain by projections of Lower 
Carboniferous strata over which the glacier deposited terminal moraines 
and other detritus. Thus, at Valday, bedrock lies 200 m. higher than in 

* Postglacial,-E0. 


the central parts of the neighboring Ilmen-Volkhovsk Lowland. To the 
south, the bedrock rises even higher. The Valday heights region is bor- 
dered on the east by a multitude of lakes, which give the district a very 
picturesque character. Some of the lakes are veiy deep; Lake Valday 
has a depth of 80 m. 

The basins of the Volga, Western Dvina, Dnieper, and Ilmen in effect 
are interconnected. The Western Dvina has its source in a vast bog, in 
the middle of which, at an elevation of 221 to 223 m., there lie two 
lakes. One of them feeds the Western Dvina, while the other belongs 
to the basin of Lake Pyono, through which the Volga flows. In spring 
one may see part of the bog waters drain into the basin of the Western 
Dvina, while part of them drain into the basin of the Volga. The 
Dnieper has its source in a mossy bog, overgrown with forest, which 
lies in Smolensk oblast, at an elevation of 253 m. Part of the waters of this 
bog drain into the system of the Obsha River, which belongs to the 
basin of the Western Dvina. The Obsha itself has its source in a small 
bog which is also the source of one of the tributaries of the Dnieper. The 
existence of the connections between these basins inevitably affects the 
distribution of fresh-water fauna and flora. 

The Smolensk-Moscow ridge is described by Nikitin (1896) as a ter- 
minal moraine ridge extending from Borisov (White Russia) through the 
central part of Moscow oblast to Gryazovets (Vologda oblast). A part 
of this ridge, which lies within Klin and Dmitrov raions of Moscow oblast, 
is called the Klin-Dmitrov ridge; in Dmitrov raion it reaches an absolute 
elevation of 316 m. It must be mentioned, however, that the Klin-Dmitrov 
ridge does not have the characteristics of a terminal moraine formation. 
In the northern part of Moscow oblast it constitutes a plateau, which 
drops in a steep shelf to the flat, forested, and poorly drained northern 
lowland, which extends to the north beyond the Volga. The mean eleva- 
tion of this shelf is 50 to 60 m. If one travels along the railroad from the 
north to Moscow, this shelf is hidden by forests, but it can easily be told 
from the elevations of the stations. Thus, the station of Zavidovo, which 
lies in the lowland to the north of Klin, has an elevation of 142 m., 
while Pokrovka, which lies on the ridge to the south of Klin, has an eleva- 
tion of 208 m. a difference of 66 m. 

The name Polesye is given to the poorly drained, forested lowland 
area which lies, roughly speaking, in the basin of the Pripyat River, 
This vast lowland, with differences in elevation between its center and 
edges of 55 to 80 m,, extends to the south as far as the Volyno-Podolsk 


Polesye has many sandy areas, which are attributed to fluvioglacial 
origin. Among these sands there are often dunes, which are parabolic 
in shape. Their crests invariably face west, evidence that they were 
formed by westerly winds. The sands are usually covered with pine 
groves, which give Polesye a northern appearance. In general, however, 
Polesye is a poorly drained country. The bogs belong to the lowland 
or flood-plain type. The entire vast area of Polesye, says Tanfilyev, * e is 
one continuous flood plain, with a few, predominantly sandy, dry valleys." 
Polesye constitutes an area in which sandy fluvioglacial and lacustrine 
sediments were deposited in front of the glacier. Similar sandy areas in 
the subzone of mixed forests are found also on the left bank of the Dnieper 
opposite Polesye, of the Oka (Meshchorsk Lowland), and of the middle 

Some parts of Polesye contain "islands" which are foreign to it. Such, 
for example, is the Ovruch ridge, in the vicinity of Ovruch, which rises 
60 m. above the surrounding lowland. (Its absolute elevation reaches 
320 m.) 


The fundamental type of soil under the forests in the subzone of mixed 
forests, as in the taiga, is the podzolic type. But there are also variations 
which approach the chernozem type. 

In the preceding, drier ("xerothermic") epoch, a large part of the sub- 
zone of mixed forests belonged to the forest-steppe landscape, where soils 
of the chernozem type must have been formed. Subsequently these steppe 
soils were degraded (podzolized) by the encroaching forest. As traces 
of this epoch, in many places we find podzolic soils with more or less 
clear remains of the steppe type of soil formation. Such soils are found 
particularly often on strata rich in carbonates; for example, on loesslike 
clay loams and loesses. Similar soils, which are called dark degraded, 
chernozemlike, dark-gray degraded, and light-gray degraded, are found 
in the north of Chernigov oblast, south of Kaluga, in Western oblast, and 
in several other places. 

In the Trans-Volga, in the extreme south of the subzone, there are 
gray forest clay loams (degraded clay loams) and in some places even 
medium chernozems. 


The simultaneous presence of oak and spruce is characteristic of the 
vegetation of the subzone of mixed forests. To the north, in the taiga, 


the oak disappears, wlrile to the south, in the forest steppe, there is no 
spruce (Maps 6, 7, 8). 

The subzone of mixed forests may be divided into two belts: (1) spruce- 
oak, without hornbeam; east of the Vetluga it is an oak-fir-spruce com- 
plex; and (2) hornbeam, or, more exactly, hornbeam-spruce-oak, in the 
southwest part of the subzone. The northern and eastern boundaries 
of hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) are as follows: from a point on the 
Baltic south of Libau (Latvia), the northernmost point to which horn- 
beam extends, to Vilna (Poland), Minsk, Bykhov on the Dnieper (below 
Mogilev), Starodub raion, west of Konotop, and then in the direction 
of Poltava, where the boundary turns towards Central Bessarabia. (Horn- 
beam is found also in the Donets ridge, in the Crimea, and in the 
Caucasus. ) 

The characteristic tree of the subzone of mixed forests (and also of 
the European forest steppe) is oak (Quercus pedunculata [Q. robur]) 
a species which is exacting in its soil and light requirements. Oak 
thrives best on clay loams. It will not grow on strongly podzolic soils, 
on which spruce grows readily. On the northern boundary of its range, 
the oak prefers the flood plains of rivers, where there are unpodzolized, 
alluvial soils. Oak, as a rule, grows in mixed stands along with pine, 
spruce, fir, aspen, linden, hornbeam, and others. The European filbert 
(Corylus aveEana) is found everywhere in association with oak. Some- 
times the filbert forms a continuous undergrowth under the canopy of the 
light-loving species, oak and pine. 

Besides oak, there are found in the subzone of mixed forests the same 
deciduous species which grow in the taiga, and, in addition, there are 
elms (Russian elm and Scotch elm), Norway maple (Acer platanoides) , 
ash, and, in the west, hornbeam. Linden has a wide distribution. 

Spruce-oak belt (without hornbeam): Individual oak trees and small 
thickets extend as far north as the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland, 
while small oak woods appear first on the Valday heights and in the 
region between Lake Ilmen and Lake Pskov. In Central White Russia 
there are extensive spruce-oak forests; here they prefer loesslike clay 
loams. In Moscow oblast oak and linden forests are found only in spots 
in the southern part, adjacent to the Oka, where the subzone of mixed 
forests grades into the forest steppe. 

Hornbeam-spruce-oak belt: South of a line through Minsk, Bykhov, 
and Starodub, grow mixed broad-leaved forests with hornbeam and 
spruce. The farther south, the less spruce there is, and in the forests 
of the former Mozyr okrug spruce is found only in the form of isolated 





Siberian stone pine (Pmus 

\ * ^ {' .'::: \ . v ^-v 

fe\ *'^x''''wfig 

MAP <5. Limits of Siberian stone pine, alder, and beech in the European 
part of the U.S.S.R. 



MAP 7. Limits of maple, ash, and hornbeam (except in the Caucasus and 




MAP 8. Limits of oak and linden in the European part of the U.S.S.R. 


island patches. The region of continuous spruce distribution does not 
extend as far as the Pripyat (except west of Pinsk, within the boundaries 
of Poland, where spruce forests extend beyond the Pripyat). South of 
this river, however, and up to the southern border of mixed forests, 
spruce is found in isolated islands, on the outskirts of bogs, or on valley 
slopes. Farther west, outside the limits of the U.S.S.R., the boundary 
of spruce extends to the mouths of the Vistula. 

It is noteworthy that in southern Polesye pontic azalea ( Azalea pontica, 
or Rhododendron flavum [R. luteum]), an ericaceous shrub, is found. 
The azalea grows 1.5 m. tall here, and blooms in large, orange, heavily 
scented flowers. This plant is found principally in the Caucasus, chiefly 
in the western Transcaucasus, where it grows from sea level to eleva- 
tions of 2100 m., forming the undergrowth in the beech and oak forests. 
It is found also in Asia Minor. In Polesye the azalea grows on the out- 
skirts of pine and spruce-deciduous forests, predominantly on peaty soil, 
and has a continuous distribution between Ovruch and Sarny (Poland). 

An oak-fir-spruce belt is developed in the Volga region east of the 
Vetluga. Here we see a peculiar landscape, to some extent resembling 
that which lies to the west, in Poland, where fir (European), spruce, 
and oak are found growing together. This same combination of trees, 
although represented by different species, is found also in the Far East, 
in the Ussuri basin. In the Volga region, the Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) 
as a forest-forming species, reaches far to the south, growing in forests 
opposite Cheboksary, where it extends almost to the left meadow bank 
of the Volga. Twenty-five km. northwest of Kazan there are vast fir- 
spruce forests, with a ground cover predominantly of sphagnum mosses. 

In the spruce forests of the Vetluga region (where there is an admix- 
ture of fir), the herbaceous cover contains a large proportion of southern 
species which are characteristic for leafy groves. Such are the European 
wild ginger (Asarum europaewn), common lungwort (Pulmonaria 
officinalis), sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata), and others. The exist- 
ence here of these relicts is explained by the encroachment of taiga 
vegetation upon the territory of deciduous forests. 


Of the large mammals in the subzone of mixed forests there are found 
the elk and the roebuck. Along the northern border, during the nine- 
teenth century, there were still reindeer, while some parts of White Russia 
are inhabited by beaver (Castor fiber) to this day. In the forests there 
are bear, fox, lynx, wolf, badger, ermine, and squirrel. Among the birds 


in the broad-leaved forests there are many characteristic forms, common 
to the same type of forest in the forest steppe: the roller, green wood- 
pecker and wryneck, goldfinch, azure tit, pied flycatcher, icterine warbler, 
blackcap, blackbird, and others. Somewhat farther west, within the 
taiga, there are found steppe birds: the hoopoe, roller, and red-footed 
falcon (P. Serebrovsky). 

in Broad-Leaved Forests of the Far East 

General Characteristics and Boundaries 

THE subzone of mixed forests, as we have seen, does 
not extend east of the Ural Mountains. But after a 
great interval, broad-leaved forests reappear in the Far East, in the Amur 
basin. Here we find oak again a different species, it is true, not Euro- 
pean, but Manchurian (the Mongolian oak, Quercus mongolica), rather 
closely related to the durmast oak (Q. sessiliftora [Q. petraea]), which 
is found in the Caucasus, in the Crimea, and in southwestern Europe. 
The oak is accompanied again by a series of broad-leaved species maple, 
ash, linden, Scotch elm, hornbeam, represented in part by species differ- 
ent from those which appear in Europe, in part by very closely related 

This zone begins on the Amur between Albazin and Blagoveshchensk, 
and extends along the Amur almost as far as lat. 50 N. The Ussuri 
valley is also part of this zone. The zone is characterized by forests of 
broad-leaved species, hot summers, severe winters, and a monsoon cli- 
mate. Here, as distinguished from the subtropical landscapes of the 
western Transcaucasus with its mild winters, we do not find admixtures 
of evergreen deciduous shrubs and trees. 


The climate along the middle Amur and in Ussuri kray is manifestly 
of the monsoon type. In summer, when a high pressure area lies over 
the Pacific Ocean, moist and relatively cool SE winds blow in the Far 
East But in winter, cold and dry NW and N winds prevail; they blow 
from the land mass, from the region of the Siberian barometric maxi- 
mum. Because of these conditions, precipitation occurs during the warm 
period of the year. Some 85 to 95 per cent or more of the total annual 
precipitation falls during the months from April to November, The winter, 




however, is dry; only 5 to 15 per cent of the precipitation comes during 
the months from December to March. In spite of the southern position, 
the winters here are bitterly cold, much colder, for example, than on the 
shores of the Gulf of Finland. The southern part of Ussuri kray lies 
farther south than Yalta, and yet the mean temperature for January 
here is 25 C. lower than in Yalta. Because there is little snowfall in 
winter, the cultivation of winter grains is not possible except in the 
extreme south. In Blagoveshchensk, for example, toward the end of the 
winter the mean depth of the snow cover is only 5 cm. The snow cover 
generally disappears by March 24, when the young plants are not yet 
safe from frost. The annual distribution of precipitation in Blagovesh- 
chensk (lat. 50Ji N, 134 m. absolute elevation) is as follows: 

Table 3 



























As we can see, during the cold part of the year, from November to 
March, there is practically no precipitation. The spring is rather late, 
cold, and dry. The summer, however, is hot (the mean temperature of 
the warmest month is 20 C. or higher) and humid, with a great deal 
of precipitation, which often falls in the form of heavy showers. In the 
moist and warm atmosphere, vegetation grows very rapidly. 

Because of the distribution of air pressure and winds, cloudiness is 
greatest in summer, least in winter and fall. 

The climate of Vladivostok is described as follows: The greater pro- 
portion of precipitation falls in spring and summer, while the autumn is 
the finest period of the year. In summer, although it gets very hot, 
thunderstorms are very rare. The heat in Vladivostok is oppressive and 
humid; perspiration does not evaporate. Everything which is exposed to 
die action of the moisture becomes covered with rust or mold, as in the 
tropics or in Japan during the period of monsoon rains (nyubay). In 
summer, rain drizzles down sometimes for a week or two at a time, just 
as in any part of the European forest zone in autumn. Fog obscures all 
vision, while the sun remains hidden from sight for weeks on end. Often 
on a clear warm day in Vladivostok, a cold penetrating fog suddenly 
blows up from the sea, and a fine rain begins to fall. In autumn in Vladi- 
vostok people often wear white until the middle of October, but fre- 
quently it is necessary to light furnaces even in June, while in museums 


and libraries it is recommended that heating be continued throughout 
the summer. In August the rainy season ends, and clearer summer 
weather sets in. But in place of the rains there come typhoons hurri- 
canes which carry with them destruction to crops, stock, and so forth, 
by floods. September and October are the finest months of the year, 
with azure skies, transparently clear and relatively dry atmosphere, often 
with complete calm. 1 

The peculiar features of the monsoon climate of Vladivostok (lat. 
4307' N, absolute elevation 128 m.) are expressed in figures as follows: 2 
Of the total annual precipitation of 570 mm., about 65 per cent falls 
during the period from June to September. There are only 28 mm. of 
precipitation in winter; that is, about 5 per cent. In winter, cold N, NW, 
and NE winds prevail; in summer, moist SE and S winds. Relative 
humidity is greatest in summer (with a maximum in June: 88 per cent), 
least in winter (68 per cent) contrary to the conditions usually found 
in nonmonsoon regions. Cloudiness correspondingly is greatest in sum- 
mer, least in winter. The number of hours of insolation is at a minimum 
in July (34 per cent of the number possible), at a maximum in December 
(75 per cent). 


The relief of this region is rather highly dissected, although in places 
there are extensive level areas. Throughout its length, the region is tra- 
versed by the mighty river Amur. In the section below the mouth of the 
Btireya, where the Amur breaks through the Little Khingan Mountains, 
it narrows in some places to half a kilometer, and here the current reaches 
the rate of 9 km, per hour. At Khabarovsk the river is covered with ice 
during five months of the year, from the end of November to the end of 
April. High water on the Amur occurs not in spring, as a result of the 
melting of the snows, as in the European U.S.S.R., but in summer, as a 
result of the rains. 

East of the lower course of the Zeya lies the Zeya-Bureya (or Middle 
Amur) Lowland, covered with luxurious herbaceous vegetation and fer- 
tile soils. From the eastern slopes of the Little Khingan Mountains 
(1400 m.), eastward approximately as far as the great Lake Bolen- 
Odzhal, on the left bank of the Amur, lies the vast, flat, and unforested 
Lower Amur Lowland, with an average absolute elevation of 50 m. This 

1 V. E. Gluzdovsky and A. N. Krishtofovich, in the publication, Ptimorye (The 
Maritime Region), Vladivostok, 1923, Pt. I, pp. $-4. 

2 M. Partansky, Klimat Vladivostok (The Climate of Vladivostok), Vladivostok, 


lowland consists of (1) a meadow terrace; that is, the flood-plain part 
of the Amur valley, from several kilometers to several tens of kilometers 
wide; and (2) a terrace lying above the flood plain, of the same width 
as the meadow terrace. The Lower Amur Lowland, drained by the rivers 
Bidzhan, Bira, and Tunguska (which empties into the Amur below 
Khabarovsk), is very flat. However, in some places it contains ranges 
800 m. high. Finally, there are the Ussuri valley and the Khanka Low- 
land, which adjoins the large but shallow Lake Khanka. The depth of 
Lake Khanka, which is 90 km. long, does not exceed 2 m. throughout 
its greater part. 


The subsoils in the Amur region are ancient, laminated, alluvial de- 
posits. Neither glacial deposits nor loess is found here. 

In the southwestern part of the Zeya-Bureya Lowland, overlying heavy 
clays, there are found soils of deep black color, lying in plowlands and 
meadows, and which have the appearance of true chernozems. But these 
are not chernozems. They have neither the characteristic granular struc- 
ture of true chernozems in their upper horizons, nor the accumulation 
of carbonates in their lower ones. In summer the humus horizons are 
oversaturated with water. These are meadow, half-bog, podzolic soils, 
which, nevertheless, are no less fertile than the true chernozems. In addi- 
tion there are some soils of a clearly podzolic type, overgrown with 
Asiatic white birch, Dahurian birch, and Mongolian oak (Quercus mon- 
golica). Investigators of the Zeya-Bureya Lowland believe that at one 
time this space was covered almost entirely with forest, and was subse- 
quently cleared and put under the plow. 

In the Khanka region silty-bog soils are widespread. 


The fundamental type of vegetation in the lowlands of the Amur region 
is die broad-leaved forest 

On the Amur between Albazin and Blagoveshchensk, the Trans-Baikal 
coniferous forests of Dahurian larch and pine are replaced by deciduous 
forests of Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica). There are many coppices 
of Dahurian larch (Lam ddhurica [L. grneKra]), Asiatic white birch, 
Dahurian birch (Betula davuricd), Scotch elm, and bird cherry, with an 
undergrowth of the characteristic Far Eastern shrub lespedeza (Les- 
pedeza blcolor). This leguminous shrub forms continuous thickets after 
felling and burning of the trees. Since it is as nourishing as alfalfa, it 


serves as an excellent fodder for livestock. There is some ash, linden, 
Amur maple (Acer ginnala), euonymus, and Siberian filbert (Corylus 
heterophylla). Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) grows in forests along the 
upper Amur as far as the mouth of the Zeya, but is seldom found along 
the lower Amur. Often in the second layer society of the pine forests, 
small oak trees are found. Siberian spruce (Picea excelsa obovata [P. obo- 
vata] ) occurs along the Amur as far as the mouth of the Garin, nowhere 
growing in large stands. 

Below Blagoveshchensk, along the Amur as far as the Ussuri, both 
on the left and on the right banks, lies a vast lowland area, which Max- 
imov called the Manchurian "steppe." This lowland, the Zeya-Bureya 
Lowland, has been mentioned before. Where it has not been plowed, it 
bears a sumptuous herbaceous vegetation growing as tall as a man. In 
the meadows the most common and the predominant species is the reed 
grass (Calamagrostis langsdorffii [C. canadcnsis scabra]), a grass which 
provides rather good fodder. It is very interesting that in the meadows 
of the central Amur region there are found several steppe plants and 
animals. These include the capillary feather grass (Stipa capillata) , the 
suslik (Citellus eversmanni jacutensis), and the Siberian bustard (Otis 
tarda dybowskii). The penetration of these steppe elements must be 
attributed to the xerothermic period. However, the spread of the suslik 
has been promoted by human activity in the form of plowing. At present 
the suslik has spread as far east as the Bureya, and has even crossed to 
its left bank. The suslik makes its home in the oak, lespedeza, and filbert 

The forest vegetation of the Zeya-Bureya Lowland consists of the fol- 
lowing species: Mongolian oak, Dahurian birch, Asiatic white birch 
(Betula platyphyUa), and aspen. At the extreme north there appear 
herbaceous pine groves. 

Along the shores and on the islands of the large rivers, particularly on 
the Bureya, there are flood-plain forests which bear a rich and varied vege- 
tation of Mongolian poplar (Populus suaveolens), Amur linden (Tilia 
cordata amurensis [T. amurensis]), very closely related to the common 
European linden, elms, Manchurian ash, Manchurian walnut (Juglans 
mandshurica), and Amur cork tree (Phettodendron amurense). In these 
flood-plain forests there is a profuse and unique undergrowth, twined by 
the large vines of Amur grape ( Vitis amurenste). This Manchurian plant, 
the stems of which reach a diameter of 15 cm,, grows along the Amur 
north of lat 51 N. It is found almost as far west as the mouth of the Zeya 
River. The Amur grape occurs also on southern Sakhalin* It bears black 


fruit, which ripens in the latter half of September. In Ussuri kray the wild 
grape is gathered by the local population; it is used for wine, preserves, 
and the like. 

Along the Ussuri the vegetation takes on a completely Manchurian 
appearance. There are great numbers of tree and shrub species, among 
which many are characteristic southern forms. There are also some vines. 
In the Ussuri valley grow tall forests of Japanese elm [Ulmus japonicaP], 
Amur cork tree, Manchurian walnut (Juglans mandshurica) , white Amur 
lilac (Syringa amurensis), bird cherry, Manchurian crabapple [Malus 
baccata mandshuricaP], Ussurian pear [Pyrus ussuriensisP], and haw- 
thorn. There are no conifers here. On the rolling watersheds there is oak 
with a slight admixture of Asiatic white birch, Dahurian birch, and aspen, 
while higher up there are coniferous forests of Japanese stone pine, 
spruce, fir, linden, maple, oak, birch, ash, Scotch elm, and others, with 
a luxurious undergrowth and vines. 

In the southern part of Ussuri kray (south of the line from Iman to 
the Tetyukhe River) the diversity of trees, shrubs, and vines becomes 
much greater. A total of 150 species of trees and shrubs have been 
enumerated here. Mixed coniferous-deciduous forests, which have re- 
mained intact chiefly on elevated portions, are characteristic. Oak pre- 
dominates, with an undergrowth of filbert. There are also Korean pine 
(Pinus koraiensis), Manchurian fir (Abies holophylla), Yeddo spruce 
(Picea jezoensis, or P. ajancnsis) (Fig. 10), Manchurian walnut, birch 
(Bctula costata), Amur linden, Manchurian maple, and others, as well 
as many shrubs and vines. The epiphytic fern, Polypodium lineare, grows 
on the bark of many of the trees. 

The aquatic vegetation of South Ussuri kray is very rich and unique. 
Here are found the Hindu lotus (Nelumbo spcciosa [Nelumbium 
nelumbo]); watershield (Brasenia purpurea), a genus which, during 
the Quaternary period, appeared also in Europe; trapa (Trapa incisa); 
and in some places the gigantic Gordon euryale (Euryale ferox), the 
leaves of which reach a diameter of 130 cm. 


The fauna, like the flora, represents a mixture of northern and southern 
forms. Side by side with sable, squirrel, and lemming, there are the 
Manchurian tiger, which lives where there are wild boar; deer; roebuck; 
leopard; Amur wildcat; raccoon dog; and Japanese deer (Cervus nippon 
[Sika nippon]), found in South Ussuri kray. (This same deer is native 
also to Japan.) Among the birds there are many Manchurian forms; 


for example, the Ussuri crane (Grus japonensis), Japanese ibis (Nip- 
ponia nippon), mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) , which is the most 
variegated of all ducks; and others. Many of the Manchnrian birds nest 
far up the Amur; for example, the ringnecked pheasant (Phasianus tor- 
quatus alpherakii) and the South Chinese cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus) 
at Kumara, and the azure- winged magpie (Cyanopica cyanus), Siberian 
golden oriole (Oriolus indicus), and others. Lake Khanka and the Ussuri 
are inhabited by the Chinese soft-shelled turtle (Amyda dnensis) . Among 
the amphibians are the Ussuri salamander (Onychodactylus fischeri), 
of a genus native to Japan, and the East Asiatic black-spotted frog ( Rana 
nigromaculata) , which takes the place of the European edible frog 
(JR. esculenta). The European tree frog (Hyla) and the toad (Bombina- 
tor) appear in closely related forms in the Far East. 

Among the fish, together with northern species, which include, for 
example, the lamprey, loach, grayling, and whitefish, there is found a 
whole range of Chinese cyprinids and silurids. The discovery in the 
Ussuri basin of the snakehead (OphiocepJialus) , a tropical fish, is worth 
noting. But, in addition, in the Amur there are found North Pacific 
("Okhotsk") forms, such as the Pacific chum and pink salmon (genus 
Oncorhynchus) , which go up the rivers in large numbers to spawn, as 
well as some endemic sturgeons the Amur sturgeon (Acipenser schren- 
cki) and the long-snouted sturgeon (Huso dauricus), which in the Amur 
takes the place of the beluga sturgeon (Acipenscr huso), a species absent 
in Siberia. A fresh-walcr pearl mussel (Margaritana dahurica) occurs in 
the Amur basin. This mussel is found nowhere else in Siberia except in 
Sakhalin and Kamchatka. In the Ussuri and Amur basins there is found 
another large fresh-water pearl mussel (Cristaria plicata) up to 32 cm. 
long; it is native to China and Japan. Its shell yields mother-of-pearl 
In the Amur basin, and particularly in Lake Khanka, there are shrimps 
(ten-legged crayfish of the Palaemonidae family). Of the beetles we 
must mention a large endemic longicorn beetle (Callipogon relictus) 
associated with the broad-leaved forests of South Ussuri kray. The other 
three species of this genus are found in tropical America. 

It is very curious to find on the Amur, and in the Far East in general, 
after a great interval, a series of plant and animal forms peculiar to the 
subzone of European mixed forests but absent in Siberia, where this 
subzone is not represented. The oak, so characteristic for the subzone 
of mixed forests, does not extend east beyond the Ural Mountains, and 
appears again only along the Amur, in the form of a different species, 
the Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica). The European oak is accom- 


panied everywhere by the filbert (Corylus avellana). The filbert, like the 
oak, is absent in Siberia, but reappears in the Amur basin, in the form 
of Corylus heterophylla, together with the Mongolian oak. The same 
interrupted distribution is characteristic for the azure-winged magpie, 
white stork, green or edible frog, catfish, beluga sturgeon, carp, bivalve 
mollusk, fresh-water pearl mussel [Margarilana dahurica], fresh-water 
crayfish, and others. 

The explanation lies in the fact that in Manchuria (as also in the 
Caucasus) we see the remains (relicts) of the fauna and flora of the 
Middle Tertiary, the preglacial, and, finally, the interglacial period. Dur- 
ing the preglacial period some species were distributed throughout the 
continent of Eurasia, from western Europe to the shores of the Pacific 
Ocean. The colder temperatures which followed during the glacial period 
resulted in the disappearance of these species everywhere except in 
localities favored by a milder climate. Southern Europe, the Caucasus, 
the Tian Shan, Manchuria, and Japan constituted such retreats. In Amur 
kray, in addition to Manchurian forms, some of the Okhotsk forms have 
been preserved. These organisms inhabited the temperate belt of east- 
em Asia during the Upper Tertiary period. To this category belong, for 
example, the Pacific salmonids of the genus Oncorhynctis, the fresh-water 
pearl mussel Unio, Yeddo spruce, and others. 

IV The Forest Steppe 1 

Definition and Boundaries 

THE forest steppe is a zone of transition between the 
forest on the north and the steppe on the south. In 
the typical forest-steppe landscape large masses of forest alternate with 
vast sections of steppe, or there are coppices scattered in patches over 
a background of steppe (Figs. 11, 12). 

The southern boundary of the forest steppe is as follows: from the 
northern edge of the Beletsk steppe in Bessarabia to Ananyev, the upper 
course of the Ingul, Kremenchug (on the Dnieper), Poltava, Valuiki, 
Borisoglebsk, from here to the Volga somewhat north of Saratov, up the 
Volga to the mouth of the Samara River; on the left bank of the Volga, 
the Samara River to the Buzuluk pine grove, with a portion jutting to 
the north beyond the Kinel River, and to the east as far as Sterlitamak. 
East of the Kama there are several islands of forest steppe within the 
subzone of mixed forests, extending in part (the Kungur "island") even 
into the subzone of the taiga. Similarly, to the south of the southern 
boundary of the forest steppe, within the steppes, there is a large island 
of forest steppe; this is the Donets ridge. There is a similar island in 
Central Bessarabia, These two southern islands owe their existence to 
the relief. 

Beyond the Urals the southern boundary of the forest steppe is as 
follows: Troitsk, somewhat south of Petropavlovsk, the Irtysh (approxi- 
mately in lat 54 N), south of Chanov, and from here southeast to 
Barnaul and the foothills of the Altay Mountains, between the Biya, the 
Ob, and the Salair ridge. From the Tom River eastward, the forest steppe 
in Siberia is found in patches: in the so-called Kuznetsk steppe, and in 
Minusinsk, Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Kansk, Tulun, Verkholensk, and Ir- 

1 For details and bibliography see L. S. Berg, Ffaiko-geograficheskiG (landslwftnie') 
zany ( Physical-Geographical [Landscape] zones), I, 1936, pp, 312-427, 



kutsk raions. Forest steppe appears again in the Trans-Baikal region, 
but that portion will be described below, in the chapter on the Trans- 


The forest steppe may be divided into two parts, the western and the 
eastern. In the western forest steppe, the principal deciduous species is 
oak. In the eastern, or Siberian forest steppe, where oak is absent, birch 
takes its place (Fig. 12). However, the islands of forest steppe which 
lie to the west of the Urals at Kungur and Krasnoufimsk 2 have a Si- 
berian character; they are forested with birch, and not with broad-leaved 
species. The forest steppe to the south of Belebey and in some other 
sections on the left bank of the Volga is also of the birch type. 

The forest steppe may be divided into subzones latitudinally as well. 
On the north lies the meadow-forest subzone, or northern forest steppe. 
In this subzone there are extensive oak forests in Europe, and birch 
forests in Siberia. Here the forest has occupied almost the entire territory 
of the steppe. To the south lies the subzone of the meadow steppe, or 
southern forest steppe, in which the forest has not yet emerged com- 
pletely victorious over the steppe. Here, more or less large sections of 
steppe are found together with forest masses or coppices. The steppes 
here are underlain by thick and somewhat leached chernozem; in Siberia, 
by medium (common) chernozem. 


The northern boundary of the forest steppe coincides approximately 
with the 20 C. July isotherm (corrected for sea level), while the south- 
ern boundary coincides with the axis of the area of barometric maximum 
for temperate latitudes, which extends approximately from northern 
Bessarabia through Kharkov and Uralsk, to Lake Baikal, This high- 
pressure area divides the forest and forest-steppe zones from the steppe 
zone. In summer, particularly in July, the high-pressure area is almost 
absent, while in winter it is very sharply in evidence. North of it there 
are frequent cyclones, which come from the Atlantic and generally move 
from west to east. North of the area, southwest and west winds prevail; 
south of it, in the steppes, north, northeast, and east winds. The south- 
west and west winds of the forest zone bring moisture. In contrast, the 

2 Concerning these, see L. I. Prasolov and A. A. Rode, *'O pochvaldi sredneuralskoy 
lesostepi" (Concerning the Soils of the Forest Steppe of the Central Urals), Trudy 
Pochven. fast. im. Dohtchayeva (Proceedings of the Dokuchayev Soils Institute), X, 
No. 7, 1934, p. 60, 


winds of the steppe blow from cold sections into warm, and because 
they gradually get warmer, their moisture is unable to condense; for this 
reason they bring dry air. Lying on the boundary between the forest and 
the steppe zones, the forest steppe is subject to the effects of both forest 
and steppe climates. 

The average July temperature in the forest steppe ranges from 20 C. 
in the north to 21 to 22 C. in the south. The January isotherms run 
from northwest to southeast. The January temperature decreases to the 
east, from 5 C. in the western Ukraine, to 16 C. in the West Urals 
Foreland. West of the Dnieper, along the southern border of the forest 
steppe, the annual precipitation is about 450 mm. Maximum precipita- 
tion comes in June (as in the steppes), except in the north of the western 
forest steppe, where it comes in July (as in the forest zone). Minimum 
precipitation comes in January and February (in some places in March). 
In the forest steppe of western Siberia the climate is even more con- 
tinental. In July the temperatures here are the same as in the European 
part of the zone, but in January they are lower, from 19 C. to 21 C. 
In the north, there are 450 to 400 mm. of annual precipitation; in the 
south, 300 mm. 

The Donets ridge, due to its elevation, stands out as a sort of island 
of higher precipitation 450 mm., while the surrounding steppe has only 
400 mm. annually. 

The distribution of forest and steppe sections in the forest steppe 
depends upon not climatic but historical causes. Given time, with the 
present climate, the forest, if left to itself, would occupy the remaining 
steppe sections within the forest steppe. 


The relief of the forest steppe differs in many respects from the relief 
of the forest zone. This is due to the fact that the greater part of the 
forest steppe is covered by loess, a material which is distinguished by 
a number of peculiar properties. It is an unlaminated, porous, calcareous 
material, with half or more of its entire mass consisting of particles 0.05 
to 0.01 mm. in diameter. Loess has the property of crumbling in vertical 
walls. Loessial landscapes are characterized by steep, bare bluffs of 
yellow loess, deep, branching gullies, and plateau-shaped interstream 
areas. All of these features are completely unlike the gently rolling relief 
which we see farther north in the region of moraine deposits, where a 
loess cover is absent. 

The origin of loess is explained in different ways. According to Richt- 


hofen (1877, 1886), loess is a deposit which originates from wind- 
transported dust; the wind carries fine products of weathering from the 
deserts and deposits them in the steppes, where the dust is held down by 
the herbaceous vegetation, and is transformed into a porous unlaminated 
stratum aeolian, or typical loess. However, many of the facts contradict 
such an explanation: Contrary to the foregoing hypothesis, in Central 
Asia, along the borders of the desert, no "aeolian" loess is being formed 
at the present time; the loesses here are usually overlain by sierozems 
a normal zonal soil. It is not clear why the wind must carry particles 
predominantly 0.01 to 0.05 mm. in diameter. The extensive distribution 
of laminated loesses remains unexplained, and the existence of such 
strata as the loesslike boulder clay loams, and so forth, is obscure. 

Concerning the Ukrainian loess, the hypothesis has been advanced 
that the dust of which it is supposed to be composed was brought by 
the wind from the deserts along the periphery of the glacial cover. But 
it is well known today that along the southern border of the glacier lay 
not desert but tundra and wooded tundra, while still farther south 
tree vegetation sprang up immediately in the wake of the receding 
glacier. In short, the moraine which was left by the glacier was covered 
immediately by vegetation, and there is no reason to believe that the 
surface of the moraine was subject to wind erosion, or that the land in 
front of the glacier (that is, to the south of it) ever constituted a desert. 
Another source which has been suggested for the dust is deposition by 
rivers which drained from under the ice sheet; that is, fluvioglacial de- 
position. However (Berg, 1926; S. Sobolev, 1937), if one were to believe 
that the loess dust came from the blowing asunder of sands, the area 
of sand would have had to be many times greater than the area of the 
Ukrainian and South Russian loess. 

In the loesslike clay loams on the shores of the Ob River (below the 
mouth of the Tom River), V. N. Sukachev 3 discovered the pollen of the 
water lily (Nymphaea, an aquatic plant), pollen which is not adapted 
to transportation by wind. This fact is evidence that the loesslike clay 
loams, or, more exactly, the material from which the clay loams were 
formed, was deposited by water, and not by wind. As for fauna, in the 
loesses there are found rather abundant remains of both aquatic and 
land animals. The latter are represented by both mollusks and mammals 
rodents, the mammoth, the horse, the bull, and others. However, it can 

3 V. N. Sukachev, "Ob iskopayemykh rastitelnykh ostatkakh v lyossovykh porodakh 
v svyazi s yikh proiskhozhdeniyem" (Concerning the Fossil Vegetation Remains in 
Loessial Strata and Their Origin), Doklady Akad. nauk. (Report of the Academy of 
Sciences), XV, 1937, No* 4, pp. 183-188. 


be shown that the remains of land fauna in the loess are of a secondary 
origin, while the original fauna consisted of aquatic forms. 

In accordance with the theory I developed in 1918; 1 loess and loesslike 
materials may be formed from the most varied silts, rich in carbonates, 
as a result of processes of weathering and soil formation under dry cli- 
matic conditions. The origin of the parent material must be distinguished 
from the origin of its loesslike appearance; the parent material may be 
of alluvial, diluvial, fluvioglacial, glacial, or other deposition, but it re- 
ceives its loesslike appearance, as we have indicated, as a result of 
processes of weathering and soil formation which take place in a dry 
climate. Some materials of a uniform mechanical composition give rise 
particularly readily to loesses and loesslike formations; for example, cer- 
tain alluvial and fluvioglacial deposits. This explains the frequent asso- 
ciation between glacial and loess regions. 

Some parts of the forest steppe are extensively gullied, with consider- 
able damage to agriculture; for example, along the right bank of the 
Desna in Chernigov oblast, or along the upper course of the Don. The 
ravines usually do not exceed several kilometers in length, occasionally 
reaching 10 km. Forests retard the formation of gullies. The presence of 
gullies in forested areas testifies to the predominance here in the past 
of steppes, upon which the forest encroached with the passage of time. 
The extensively developed ravines which are found often today are a 
result of the clearing of forests in the ravine basin, the plowing of slopes, 
and the grazing of stock along the slopes. Forestation of the ravines 
quickly halts their development. 

In the eastern part of the European forest-steppe zone it has been 
remarked that in the gullies which are disposed latitudinally, the steep 
slope, devoid of vegetation, faces south, while the gentle slope, covered 
with vegetation, faces north. The explanation lies in the fact that the 
slope which faces north, lying as it does in the shade, does not dry, 
crack, and crumble as quickly, and therefore gives the vegetation a chance 
to develop. Furthermore, the snow lies longer hero in spring and melts 
more slowly. All of these factors lead to a leveling of the slope which 
faces north, and to the accumulation of fine outwashed products. On the 
contrary, on the slope which faces south, the snow melts very quickly, 
and the thawed water brings about intensive erosion, forming steep 

*See L. S. Berg, "O proislchozhdenii lyossu" (Concerning the Origin of Loess), 
Jw. Geograf. obshch. (Report of the Geographical Society), 1916; Klimat i zhizn 
(Climate and Life), Moscow, 1922, pp. 69-110, and also the latest summary in my 
article: "Problema lyossa" (The Problem of Loess), Priroda (Nature), 1927, No. 6; 
1929, No. 4. 


slopes. This type of asymmetry is not confined to the slopes of the river 
valleys in the forest steppe (and the steppe), but appears in the inter- 
stream areas as well. 

A characteristic feature of the forest-steppe relief is the great number 
of hollows, or "saucers" shallow, round depressions of different size, 
sometimes occupied by small ponds, bogs, or temporary pools of water. 
They are found predominantly in flat interstream areas. In some parts 
of Poltava raion there are so many depressions that the distance between 
them is only 2 to 60 m. The depth of the depressions is usually from 
0.75 to 1.5 m., occasionally 2 m.; the diameter, 10 to 50 m. In the forest 
steppe between the Don and the Volga, the depressions overgrown with 
aspen and willow are known as "aspen bushes." In the forest steppe of 
western Siberia, the depressions overgrown with birch are known as 
kolki. As for the origin of these saucerlike depressions, they are due in 
part to the mechanical effect of water which at one time covered the 
present-day steppe, and in part to the sinking of the ground as a result 
of the leaching out of salts. 

The West Siberian forest steppe is characterized by gently undulating 
topography: long, gently sloping ridges, or grivy, alternate with hollows. 
In the Ishim and Baraba steppes they run chiefly from northeast to 
southwest and have a relative elevation of 1 to 4 rn., and occasionally 
6 to 10 m. They measure hundreds of meters in width and reach several 
kilometers in length. The hollows between the ridges often are basins 
for solonchaks, bogs, small lakes, and streams. The origin of these ridges 
has not been determined. 

We now pass on to a description of the major features of the relief. 
The Volyno-Podolsk Plateau extends from the lowland which adjoins the 
Carpathians (the sources of the Sana and the Dniester, in Poland) into 
the U.S.S.R. as far as the middle Dnieper on the east; on the north this 
plateau, composed of loess and dissected by ravines, is bordered by an 
escarpment beyond which lies the Polesye Lowland; on the south it 
reaches as far as a line connecting Balta and Zaporozhye, or to the Black 
Sea Lowland. At the source of the Southern Bug the plateau has an eleva- 
tion of 392 m.; at Kremcnts, in Poland, it reaches an elevation of 
407 m. Along the Zbruch, which empties into the Dniester on the Polish 
border, the elevations along the left bank also reach 385 to 390 m. 

The Volyno-Podolsk Plateau is composed of loess and horizontal Ter- 
tiary and Cretaceous rocks. Along the river valleys in some places there 
are outcrops of crystalline rocks (gneisses, granites, and others). They 
belong to the Volyno-Azov (or Ukrainian) crystalline massif, which ex- 


tends from southern Polesye to the Sea of Azov. This massif constitutes 
an island of ancient, pre-Cambrian mountains, which have been worn 
down to their foundations. In the western part of the Volyno-Podolsk 
Plateau there are peculiar elevations, usually ridge shaped, composed of 
limestones and called Toltry. These ridges extend from NNW to SSE for 
a distance of about 250 km. This Podolian Toltry belt is 3 to 4 km. wide; 
differences in elevation amount to 50 to 60 m. and the absolute eleva- 
tion reaches 360 to 380 m. The Toltry are developed most typically at 
Kamenets-Podolsk. They originally were the barrier reefs which were 
formed in the ancient Miocene sea. Bryozoa, mollusks, calcareous algae, 
and occasionally corals contributed to the formation of these reefs. Karst 
phenomena are developed in the limestones of which the Toltry are 

The valleys of the streams which drain from the Volyno-Podolsk Plateau 
into the Dniester are incised deeply into the plateau. They have the ap- 
pearance of canyons, 100 in. or more in depth. 

That part of the Ukrainian forest steppe which adjoins the left bank 
of the Dnieper constitutes a lowland (the Dnieper Lowland), which 
merges into the Central Russian heights on the east. The mean elevation 
of the lowland is 90 to 150 m. But elevations in the area between the 
sources of the Oka and the Don reach more than 300 m. The Dnieper 
lobe of the ice sheet extended over the Dnieper Lowland, but the south- 
ern part of the Central Russian heights is free of boulders. 

A large part of the area adjoining the left bank of the Dnieper is occu- 
pied by the Dnieper terraces, which at one time extended to the east as 
far as Priluki, Piryatin, Liven, and Khorol. Between Kiev and Priluki 
this zone reaches a width of 125 km. To the north it extends beyond 
Chernigov into the Forest zone; to the south it reaches as far as Dne- 
propetrovsk, which lies in the steppe zone. According to different authori- 
ties, there are anywhere from three to six terraces in this plain. Dmitriev, 
for example, describes six, beginning with the meadow terrace: B 

(1) The meadow, or flood-plain terrace, which reaches a width of 10 
to 12 km., is well defined along the middle Dnieper. At Kiev its absolute 
elevation is 94 to 95 m. and it rises 3 to 4 m. above the level of the river. 

(2) The second terrace (the first terrace above the flood plain), or 
the "pine-grove" terrace, at Kiev lies at an elevation of 103 to 119 m. 
It is covered with dunes up to 20 m. high which are overgrown with 

5 N. I. Dmitriov, **O kolichestve i vozraste terras srcdnevo Dnepra" (Concerning 
the Number and Age of the Terraces of the Middle Dnieper), Zcmlevcdcnie (Geog- 
raphy), [Vol. 39] No. 1, 1937. 


pine forest. It is best developed at Kiev, on the left bank, where it reaches 
a width of 12 km. This terrace is well represented also at Kremenchug. 
According to Dmitriev, it was formed during the Upper Wiirm glacia- 

(3) The third terrace, which belongs to the Lower Wiirm period, is 
poorly defined. 

(4) The fourth terrace rises 30 to 40 m. above the Dnieper (absolute 
elevation, 106 to 126 m. ) . It is believed to have been formed during the 
Riss period. 

(5) The fifth terrace occupies an enormous area, reaching as far as 
Khorol, Lubny, Piryatin, Priluki, and Borzna. In the latitude of Priluki 
it reaches a width of 75 km. This terrace rises 40 to 50 m. above the 
level of the Dnieper. In some places on the surface of the terrace there 
are great numbers of saucer-shaped depressions, formed by arms of the 
Dnieper which lay here at one time. In the region of Gradizhsk, Pivikha 
hill (absolute elevation, 169 m.; elevation above the Dnieper, 102 m.) 
rises above the fifth terrace. This hill, formerly attributed to tectonic 
origin, is actually a terminal moraine. The fifth terrace is believed to 
have been formed during the Mindelian period. 

(6) On the watershed between the Psyol and the Khorol, the abso- 
lute elevation of the sixth terrace usually does not reach 150 m., while 
the watershed plateau reaches 160 to 170 m. in elevation, and even 
higher at individual points. Dmitriev relates this terrace to the Giinz 

East of the Dnieper we find again a large "island" of massive crystal- 
line rock, most of which lies beneath the surface; it is a continuation 
of the Volyno-Azov massif. This "island" includes the region of the 
Kursk magnetic anomaly, which stretches from Fatezh through Shchigry 
and Novy Oskol as far as Pavlovsk. At Shchigry, pre-Cambrian fer- 
ruginous quartzites have been discovered at a depth of 162 m. 

In the vicinity of Lubny lies the famous Isachkovsky hill (absolute 
elevation, 147 m.), which rises very slightly above the level of the Sula 
River. The composition of this hill includes diabase, the eruption of 
which took place along a fissure, probably during the Lower Cretaceous 
period. During the glacial period, the hill was covered by the ice sheet, 
which left a moraine. The moraine is overlain by loesslike clay loams, 
and they, in turn, are overlain by loess, 6 

N. I. Dmitriev, "K morfogenezisu Isachkovskovo kholma" (The Morphogenesis 
of Isachkovsky Hill), Izv. Geogr. obshch. (Report of the Geographical Society), 1935, 

No. 1. 


The Donets ridge constitutes an island of forest steppe within the 
steppe. The presence of forests here in the past was due to the rather 
considerable elevation of the ridge; in Mechetnaya Mogiia (between 
Debaltsevo and Zverevo), the elevation reaches 369 m. In general the 
ridge has the characteristics of a gently rolling plateau, stretching from 
WNW to ESE for a distance of 370 km. and reaching 160 km. in width. 
Along the northern base of the ridge flows the Northern Donets; the 
river then turns sharply to the south and cuts across the ridge. The 
interstream areas of the ridge have a steppelike, gently rolling appear- 
ance and are completely under the plow. The ridge is very rich in min- 
eral resources: coal (both bituminous and anthracite), salt, and others. 
The upper section of the Carboniferous system is richest in coal, while 
the Permian deposits are very rich in salt. 

The Volga heights, which will be discussed in greater detail in the 
chapter on the steppes, are situated on the right bank of the Volga, 
and at the south extend into the steppe zone. Here we will consider 
only the highest part, the Zhigulevsk hills, which rise 371 m. above sea 
level and 354 m. above the level of the Volga at the mouth of the Samara 
River. The Zhigulevsk hills are the product of complex dislocations. Dur- 
ing the first half of the Mesozoic period, a domelike uplift occurred 
here. Then the northern part of the dome began to subside. This subsid- 
ence, which took place along the northern border of the Samara bend, 
continued into the Oligocene period and later (but no later than the 
Upper Pliocene). The extent of the displacement in some places reaches 
1200 m. 7 

In the relief of the southern part of the forest steppe, on the left bank 
of the Volga, the influence of the Ural uplift already begins to be evi- 
dent; the area rises in elevation and to the south of Bclebey lie the 
Belebey heights, which reach an altitude of 449 m. and serve as a water 
divide between the basins of the Kama and the Belaya. 

The Ufa Plateau, which lies partly in the subzone of mixed forests, is 
situated between the Ufa River and its tributary, the Ayem, This plateau, 
270 to 300 m. in elevation, is a gentle anticline of Upper Carboniferous 
limestones. Here, as in the region of Permian strata, karst phenomena 
are extensive. 

7 E. N. Permyakov, "K poznaniyu geologicheskoy istorii raiona Zhigulevskovo 
kupola" (Toward the Understanding of the Geological History of the Zhigulevsk 
Dome Region), Byull Mask, obslich. isp. prir. (Bulletin of the Moscow Society for 
Natural Research), otd. geol. (Geological Section), XIII (1935), No. 4, 1936, pp. 461, 
471. N. I Sokolov, "K voprosu o tektonike Samarskoy luki" (On the Question of 
the Tectonics of the Samara Bend), ti>id., XV, No. 3, 1937, pp. 275-292. A. N. Ma- 
zarovich, ibid., XIV, No. 6, 1936, pp. 535-536. 


The West Siberian forest steppe is characterized in general by flat 
relief. We have spoken already of the grivy (ridges) and depressions 
found here. As distinct from the European forest steppe, the Siberian 
forest steppe has many land-locked lakes, both salt and fresh water. Of 
these lakes mention may be made of the large, slightly saline Lake Chany 
in the Baraba steppe. The Kokchetav heights, composed of granite and 
reaching an elevation of 948 m., also may be noted here. There are sev- 
eral lakes at the foot of the highest part, at an elevation of 300 to 400 m. 


The soils of the forest steppe are unique. Some of the soils here were 
formed under the forest, while others originated under steppe vegetation. 

The forest steppe to the west of the Urals may be divided according to 
soil cover into a series of subzones, from north to south: (1) gray forest 
soils (degraded clay loams), (2) degraded chernozem, (3) leached cher- 
nozem and "northern" chernozem, and (4) thick and rich chernozem. 

The forest steppe of western Siberia, beginning at the north, may be 
divided into the following soil subzones: (1) northern, strongly leached 
chernozem; (2) solonchak (meadow-solonchak); (3) rich chernozem; 
between the Irtysh and the Ob rich chernozems are absent over a large 
area, and here solonchak soils lie adjacent to medium chernozems; and 
(4) medium (common) chernozem. 

In western Siberia the forest steppe extends as far south as the southern 
boundary of medium chernozem. Since the subzone of southern cher- 
nozem (which belongs to the steppe zone) is narrow here, the forest 
steppe extends almost as far south as the southern boundary of cher- 
nozem; the true steppes begin only a little north of the subzone of chest- 
nut soils. P. Krylov classifies as forest steppe the entire region of West 
Siberian chernozem. Thus, there is a great difference between the forest 
steppe in Siberia and the forest steppe which lies to the west of the 
Urals. In eastern Europe the southern, very broad part of the chernozem 
zone is occupied by steppe, while forest steppe is found only in the 
northern part. 

First a few words about chernozem, which is representative of the 
steppe type of soil formation. The profile of chernozem on virgin steppe 
is as follows: The surface of the soil is usually covered by a mat of vege- 
tation, 2 to 4 cm. thick. The soil itself consists of two horizons: one rich 
in organic materials, the other a horizon of carbonate accumulation. The 
humus horizon, which is generally 70 to 100 cm. thick, has a fine granular 
structure at the top. The humus usually comprises 6 to 10 per cent of 


the content of chernozems. Soils rich in humus are found overlying heavy 
clay-loam subsoils and limestones; chernozems which overlie sandy strata 
are poor in humus. An essential condition for the fonnation of chernozem 
is the presence of a considerable quantity of calcium carbonate in the 
parent material. Loess, unleached loesslike clay loams, boulder clay loams, 
marl, limestones, and chalk are particularly favorable to the develop- 
ment of chernozem. Without calcium, says Tanfilyev, there can be no 
chernozem. Both the mineral and the organic absorption complexes of 
chernozems are saturated with calcium and magnesium. As a result, 
chernozem easily resists the decomposing and dissolving action of soil 
solutions. And, in general, the washing and leaching of the soil in the 
forest steppe and the steppe cannot be very great, in view of the rela- 
tively small amount of precipitation and the considerable evaporation. 
Soil solutions in chernozem always contain calcium, which promotes the 
coagulation of the soil particles. For this reason chernozems have a firm 
granular structure, which favors aeration and permeability of the soil. 

The gray forest clay loams, which are found along the northern bound- 
ary of the forest steppe, according to Glinka, are secondary podzolic soils, 
as distinct from primary podzolic soils, since they formerly belonged to 
the chernozem (steppe) type of soil formation, but subsequently were 
degraded as a result of the leaching out of carbonates and other salts and 
oxides. The degradation of chernozems consists of the leaching out of 
carbonates and humus, the reduction in thickness of the humus hori- 
zons, the appearance of a podzolized horizon and a horizon in which 
sesquioxides accumulate,, and the disappearance of the typical granular 
structure which is peculiar to the chernozems. The gradual stages in the 
degradation of chernozems are as follows: leached chernozem, degraded 
chernozem, dark degraded clay loams, and gray degraded or forest clay 
loams. Degradation, which takes place under conditions of relatively 
abundant precipitation, consists of a gradual transition from the cher- 
nozem (steppe) type of soil formation to the podzolic (forest) type. 

The gray forest clay loams have a gray humus horizon, the lower por- 
tion of which has a characteristic nutlike structure with a distinct pod- 
zolic (siliceous) sprinkling on the "nut" particles; the carbonates are 
leached out to a considerable depth. In degraded chernozems gray-white 
shades appear in the lower portion of the humus horizon. 

Thick chernozems are typical chernozem soils. The humus horizon 
reaches a thickness of 80 to 100 cm. and more. In the Trans-Volga and in 
western Siberia, rich chernozems take the place of thick ones. The humus 


horizon is not as deep, only about 50 cm., but the humus content is 
greater, often as high as 15 per cent, and sometimes even higher. This 
is attributed to the large clay content of the subsoils. The rich ( or leached) 
chernozems of western Siberia are noticeably podzolized; in the humus 
horizon there is a distinct sprinkling of silica. 

Among the intrazonal soils, solods are very characteristic for the forest 
steppe in both Europe and Siberia, just as solonetz soils (Fig. 18) are 
characteristic for the steppe and the northern part of the semidesert, 
and solonchaks are characteristic for the semidesert and the desert. (How- 
ever, all three are found in both the forest steppe and the steppe.) Each 
of these types of soil, associated predominantly with depressions in the 
relief, is related genetically to the others. As Gedroits has shown, solon- 
chaks, under conditions of increasing moisture, pass over into solonetz 
soils, which, in turn, as the climate becomes still more moist, pass over 
into solods. The origin of these soils explains their zonal succession. The 
sequence, solonchak, solonetz, solod, is simply the succession of stages 
in the development of one and the same soil. The transformation of one 
soil into the other is related to the constantly increasing moisture of 
the climate. 

Solonchaks are soils which contain readily soluble salts (sodium or 
magnesium, or calcium, or mixtures of these salts). If we assume that 
solonchak soil (which contains sodium in its absorption complex) under- 
goes leaching as the climate changes in the direction of greater mois- 
ture, the soluble salts will be removed, while the sodium remains in the 
absorption complex. The new soil, which does not contain large quantities 
of soluble salts, but which does contain sodium in the absorption com- 
plex, is called solonetz. Solonetz soils are very unstable soils, easily de- 
graded. They are transformed readily into solods soils which are poor in 
humus and in which the mineral part of the absorption complex is more 
or less leached. 

Solonetz soils and solods are very common in the forest steppe of both 
eastern Europe and Siberia. There is reason to believe that the greater 
part of the chernozems of western Siberia at one time also passed through 
a stage of salinization, and that salinized soils generally had a wider dis- 
tribution here in the past than they do at present But even today solon- 
chaks occupy a large area in the West Siberian forest steppe; carbonated 
solonchaks are particularly numerous here. 

The soil cover of the forest steppe clearly testifies to a recent change 
in climate in the direction of greater moisture, as a result of which the 


forest began to encroach upon the steppe. At one time, during the warm 
and dry sub-boreal period, chernozems extended as far north as the 
northern boundaries of the forest steppe. Then, during the relatively cool 
and moist sub-Atlantic period, the climate became more humid, and for- 
est vegetation, which had moved into the steppe, partly from the north, 
partly from the west, began to change the chernozem into podzolic soils. 
The encroachment of the forest on the steppe is still in process at the 
present time. 8 


According to the predominant tree species, the European part of 
the forest steppe may be called the oak forest steppe, while the Siberian 
part may be called the birch forest steppe. However, the birch forest 
steppe begins, as we have said, west of the Urals. 

We shall describe first the forest landscapes of the forest steppe: broad- 
leaved forests, aspen bushes, birch forests, and pine groves. 

Oak groves are characteristic between the Dnieper and the Volga. In 
addition to the oak (Quercus pedunculata [Q. robur]), they include ash, 
linden, aspen, smoothleaf elm (Ulmus campestris [U. carpinifolia] ) , 9 
and maples (Norway maple Acer platanoides; hedge maple A. cam- 
pestre; and Tatarian maple A. tatariciim) . Tatarian maple and European 
filbert (Coryhis aoellana) often form the undergrowth; both are very 
common in the forest outskirts. 

The following herbaceous plants are characteristic for these oak for- 
ests: mercury (Mercurialis perennis), common blue squill (Scilla cernua 
[S. nonscripta]), common lungwort (Pnlmonaria officinalis), bishop's- 
goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), European wild ginger (Asarum 
europaeum), Archangel dead nettle (Galeobdolon luteum [Lamium ga- 
leobdolon]), giant fescue (Festuca gigantea), reed fescue (F. sylvatica), 
hairy sedge (Carex pilosa), and others. All of these herbaceous plants 
have wide blades. There are few mosses in the oak groves, or none at all. 

The oak, ash, Norway maple, linden, and hornbeam forests to the 
right of the Dnieper in the Ukraine are called hornbeam groves. These 
forests always have two layer societies: in the upper layer society there 
are oak and ash, in the lower layer society, hornbeam or hedge maple. 
In western Podolia (and in northern Bessarabia), in areas which have a 
mild and moist climate, there are beech forests. (In the beech forests on 
the Khotinsk heights in Bessarabia there is a great deal of English ivy 

8 For details, see L. S. Berg, Klimat i zhizn (Climate and Life), Moscow, 1922. 
Or, according to the present nomenclature, Ulmus foliacea. 


(Hedera helix), which spreads along the ground and climbs up the trunks 
of the beeches.) 

On the southern border of the forest steppe, in the right-bank part 
of the Ukraine (west of the Dnieper), lies the Cherny [Black] forest. 
The leading species in this forest, which is near Znamenka station, is 
oak, with hornbeam occupying second place, and hedge maple, third. 
It is interesting that this forest contains a sphagnum bog, on which grow 
pyrola and orchids; some birches (one of them, Betula vernicosa) 
have been found here also; thus it has a whole colony of northern ele- 

In the forests near Balta (Moldavia), in addition to the common (Eng- 
lish) oak, there is often found another, the durmast oak (Quercus sessili- 
flora [Q. petraea]), a western species. Northwest of Balta there is an- 
other western species, the silver linden (Tilia argentea [T. tomentosa]). 

In the Mius basin on the Donets ridge there is hornbeam. 

Aspen bushes, or, more correctly, aspen coppices, of which we have 
spoken already, are associated with the forest steppe east of the Don. 
They extend to the south as far as the border of the forest steppe, in 
some places penetrating into the northern outskirts of the steppe zone. 
Where aspen bushes are found, they coincide in their distribution with 
the areas covered by solonetz soils and solonchaks. From what we have 
said above about solods, this may be understood readily. In Voronezh 
oblast the first trees and shrubs to appear in the depressions are the gray 
willow (Salix cinerea) and its companion, the European dewberry (Ru- 
bu$ caesius). Next to appear is aspen, which crowds the willow out to 
the periphery. As time passes, elms ( Ulmus), European white birch, oak, 
Norway maple, and even linden settle in the aspen "bush." Thus, the 
aspen groves represent one of the stages in the transformation of the 
depressions into forest areas. 

In the Kungur forest steppe, birch coppices are found growing on 
slightly degraded chernozems rich in humus. This forest-steppe complex 
in some places is developing before our very eyes; on two- or three-year- 
old formations, young birches may be found growing already beside ten- 
to fifteen-year-old and older birch coppices. Individual specimens of 
spruce occur among the birch. Under natural conditions the Kungur for- 
est steppe apparently would turn quickly into a continuous massif of 
birch forest. 

In western Siberia, kolki are analogous to the aspen bushes. These 
are small woods of pubescent birch (Bettda pubescens), with an admix- 
ture of aspen and European white birch (B, vemicosa), and with an un- 


dergrowth of willows. These coppices, like the aspen bushes, are asso- 
ciated with depressions which contain salinized soils. To the north, the 
koJki merge gradually into larger forest massifs. 

Pine groves. The pine, growing chiefly on sands and sandy loams, is 
almost the only coniferous tree found in the forests of the forest steppe 
(Fig. 13). Occasionally pine may be found growing on exposures of 
chalk and on granite (for example, on the Kokchetav heights); in a 
few places it may be found growing on peat bogs. The southern bound- 
ary of the distribution of pine coincides approximately with the southern 
boundary of the forest steppe. Spruce and Siberian larch are found only 
rarely in the forest steppe. 

The scheme of distribution of vegetation in the forest steppe between 
the Dnieper and the Sura is approximately as follows: On the left bank, 
on the terrace above the meadow terrace, we usually find the sands occu- 
pied by pine. Sometimes within these pine stands there arc sphagnum 
bogs. Farther from the river, on the sandy loam, we find pine-oak 
stands. The soil under these stands is degraded chernozem sandy loam. 
In the first layer society here, the pine has an excellent development; in 
the second layer society there is oak, with an admixture of smoothlcaf 
elm, birch, and aspen, and with wartybark euonymus [Euonytnus ucr- 
rucosusP] predominating in the undergrowth. Oak is poorly developed on 
sandy-loam subsoils. Still farther from the river, on thick chernozem, is the 
steppe, in the midst of which here and there are scattered aspen "bushes." 
On the right bank, on gray forest soils near the river and on degraded 
chernozems farther away, there grow "upland" leafy groves oak woods 
with more or less admixture of ash. Still farther from the river there arc 
thick chernozems covered with steppe vegetation. 

In the pine groves in the north of Voronezh oblast, and east of the 
Voronezh River, many northern elements may be found. In addition to 
reindeer moss in the white-moss pine groves, cowberry, bilberry, and 
pyrola are found in profusion in the peat bogs; in some places there is 
cranberry, and heather is very common. However, side by side with 
forest forms there are also steppe forms, such as the common woodwaxen 
(Genista tinctoria), broom (Cytisus ruthcnicus) , and others. Like the 
flora, the fauna of the forest steppe also shows a mixture of forest and 
steppe forms. 

The Zhigulevsk hills are covered with broad-leaved and mixed forests. 
Mention may be made of the Buzuluk pine grove on the right side of the 
Samara River, in the Trans-Volga. It grows on slightly podzolized dune 
sands. These sands, which reach an absolute elevation of 200 m., are of 


ancient alluvial origin and are found in broad basinlike depressions in the 
relief. 10 

On the Kokchetav heights there are pine groves growing on granite 
rocks and on quartzites. In the wetter -places there is an admixture of 
birch (predominantly European white birch) with the pine. But it is 
interesting to note that in the peat bogs in the neighborhood of Lake 
Borovoy there is found pollen of alder, elm, oak, Siberian stone pine, 
larch, spruce, and fir (Zharkova, 1930). 

The pine groves in the Kulundinsk forest steppe, on the left bank of 
the Ob, are very curious. The sands which lie in the river valleys here 
are occupied by pine groves. The interstream areas are covered with 
medium chernozems, underlain by loesslike substrata. Birch kolki (with 
some aspen and willow) are associated with the depressions in the inter- 
stream areas. Since the pine groves lie in narrow strips from southwest to 
northeast along the rivers, they are called "ribbon" pine groves in the 
literature. These pine groves lie perceptibly lower than the interstream 
steppes, and for this reason the ground-water level here is very high. 
The sands form mounds which resemble dunes or ridges. In the depres- 
sions between the mounds in the north there are sphagnum bogs; in the 
south, solonchak meadows. 

Steppes. The steppe portions of the forest-steppe zone constitute the 
remains of what was once continuous steppe, disrupted by the forests 
which have encroached upon its territory. At present these sections, 
covered with fertile soil, are almost entirely under cultivation. Patches 
of virgin steppe have been preserved only in a very few places. 

In the north of the forest-steppe zone, herbaceous vegetation occupies 
the soils of the steppe expanses more or less uniformly, forming a con- 
tinuous cover. The herbaceous cover is tall. In the southern half of the 
forest steppe, the herbage appears at first glance also to be continuous, 
but if the blades are moved apart, it will be seen that the sod does 
not cover the soil continuously. The plants grow in separate tussocks, 
while between the individual plants or tussocks there are intervals of 
completely bare space, 2 to 10 cm. wide. To the south, in the steppe zone, 
these spaces grow increasingly larger, until in the semidesert they be- 
come striking. It should be added that in the steppes in the southern 

10 A. N. Mazarovich, "Geologicheskoye stroyenie Zavolzhya mezhdu g. Kuiby- 
shevym i Orenburgom" (The Geological Structure of the Trans-Volga Between 
Kuibyshev and Orenburg), Byull. Mosk. obshch. isp. prir. (Bulletin of the Moscow 
Society for Natural Research), otd. gcol. (Geological Section), XIV, 1936, pp. 521- 


subzone of the forest steppe, the herbage does not grow as tall as in the 
northern subzone. And in the steppe zone proper, the stand is still 

Because dicotyledons, with their striking bright colors, grow here in 
abundance, the steppes of the forest-steppe zone are called meadow or 
mixed-herbaceous steppes (Fig. 14). They are also called northern, as 
distinguished from southern (the steppes of the steppe zone proper, 
where grasses predominate). At the beginning of the summer, the 
meadow steppes are covered in large quantities by a very few species of 
grasses, which belong to the broad-leaved group adapted to the rela- 
tively moist climate of the northern steppes. These include hairy oat 
(Avena pubescens), meadow brome (Bromus erectus), and velvet bent 
grass (Agrostis canina). Feather grasses, which are so characteristic for 
the southern steppes, are also found in the forest steppe, but do not pre- 
dominate here. Two feather grasses of the pinnate group (Stipa pennata 
in the broad sense) are characteristic for the forest steppe of the Cen- 
tral Chernozem region (Kursk, Voronezh, Tambov). These are the broad- 
leaved feather grass (S. joannis), which is especially peculiar to the 
northern steppes, and the narrow-leaved feather grass (S. stenophylla) , 
which grows just as profusely in the southern steppes. Fescue (Festuca 
sulcata) and koeleria (Koeleria gracilis), which are characteristic for the 
southern steppes, also are common here, particularly the former, but they 
occupy a subordinate position. In early spring the soil is covered with 
a continuous carpet of moss (Thuidinm abietinum), which grows 2 crn. 
tall. This moss cover, which is very characteristic for the northern steppe, 
has a great significance: it protects the surface of the soil from erosion 
by the melt-water. 

As we have said, in the northern steppes (the steppes within the forest- 
steppe zone) dicotyledons, which smother the grasses with their luxu- 
rious height, predominate. But Alekhin points out that in the virgin 
steppes of the forest steppe (those which are not only unplowed, but 
even unmowed), grasses, and particularly feather grass (Stipa steno- 
phylla), must have had a much greater significance. Thus, the virgin 
northern steppes were feather-grass, mixed-herbaceous steppes. 

We will present, according to Alekhin's data, 11 a description of the sea- 
sonal changes in the vegetation on the mixed-herbaceous virgin Streletsk 
steppe near Kursk: After the snow has melted, the steppe is covered with 
a profusion of the large purple flowers of the spreading pasqueflower 

11 V. V. Alekliin, Tsentrdno-chernozemnie stepi (The Central Chernozem Steppes), 
Voronezh, 1934, izd-vo. "Kommuna" (published by "Communa"), 91 pp. 


(Pulsatilla patens [Anemone patens]). After several days there appear 
the brilliant golden flowers of the spring adonis (Adonis vernalis). Both 
these plants are very characteristic at the end of April or the beginning 
of May. They fade quickly, yielding to the bitter pea vine (Orobus 
albus),* the stool iris (Iris aphylla), the snowdrop anemone (Anemone 
sylvestris), and others. At the beginning of June the pale-blue woodland 
forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) begins to predominate; it is accom- 
panied by the steppe groundsel (Senecio campester), with its yellow 
flowers, and by others. At the same time some of the grasses begin to 
bloom, and the broad-leaved feather grass (Stipa joannis) throws off its 
plumose awns. Toward the middle of June the steppe becomes dark 
purple with the blossoms of the meadow sage (Salvia pratensis); at the 
same time, the tall grayish panicles of the meadow brome ( Bromus erec- 
tus) strike the eye. After several days the inflorescences of the velvet bent 
grass (Agrostis canind) unfold. At the end of June the mountain clover 
(Trifolium montanum), oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare [Crysan- 
themum leucanthemum]*) , and dropwort (Filipendula hexapetala) bloom 
in profusion. The plumose awns of the narrow-leaved feather grass (Stipa 
stenophylla] appear. In the middle of July the steppe assumes a dull- 
pink shade from the profusion of blooming Hungarian sainfoin ( Onobry- 
chis arenaria). During the latter half of the summer the steppe no longer 
has the appearance of a blooming carpet, but appears rather brown 
from the mass of withered plants. Although some new plants do blos- 
som, they appear only as individual specimens; such are the larkspur 
(Delphinium litwinowi) and the black false hellebore (Veratrum nig- 

Altogether, on the Streletsk steppe, in an area of about 1200 hectares, 
there have been enumerated 220 different plants, of which 180 belong 
to the category of herbaceous vegetation. Among the grasses the most 
significant are meadow brome (Bromus erectus) and velvet bent grass 
(Agrostis canina). In comparison with the southern or grassy steppes, 
the mixed-herbaceous steppes lead in number of grass species (about 
20), but trail in number of individuals. Of the sedges, we must mention 
the low sedge (Car ex humilis), a squat plant, which blooms at the same 
time as the adonis. It is considered one of the most important factors in 
the formation of chernozem. We must add that the surface of the soil 
here, in the spaces between plants, is covered completely by the green 
moss, Thuidium abietinum, of which we have spoken earlier. 

The abundance of species on the Streletsk steppe, as presented by 

* Probably a horticultural form of Lathijrus 


Alekhin, 12 is very interesting. On areas 1 m. square there have been enu- 
merated as many as 77 species, and on areas 100 m. square, as many as 120. 

In the steppe sections along the southern border of the forest steppe 
there are found thickets of xerophytic steppe shrubs ground cherry 
(Prunus fruticosa), sloe (P. spinosa), Russian almond (Amijgdalus nana) 9 
broom (Cytisus ruthenicus), spiraea (Spiraea crenifolia), and Russian pea 
shrub (Caragana fnitex). 

Vegetation of the chalky cliffs. We have mentioned already that in the 
relatively elevated, and consequently gullied, section of the central for- 
est steppe, as for example, the regions of Orel, Kursk, and Kharkov, there 
is an area in which glacial deposits are absent. In this area, and also 
along its eastern boundary, along the river banks, outcrops of chalk are 
often exposed. On these chalky cliffs there is found a peculiar "creta- 
ceous*' flora (Fig. 15), which has a distinctly relict appearance. It is 
regarded as a remnant of Upper Tertiary (Pliocene) vegetation, which, 
in areas which were never covered by the ice sheet, survived all the 
adversities of the glacial epoch. The outcrops in the basin of the upper 
Oskol, near the boundary between Kursk and Voronezh oblasts, is par- 
ticularly rich in relict forms. Among such relicts may be mentioned the 
small shrubs of Daphne cneorum Julia and D. altaica sophia; the yellow 
alpine skullcap (Scutelleria alpina var. lupulina), of the labiate family; 
a crucifer (Schivereckia podolica), closely related to the draba; the rock 
jasmine (Androsace vittosa), of the primrose family; and the umbellifcr 
Bupleurwn ranunculoides. According to Alekhin, the chalky hills at 
Barkalovka (Kursk oblast) in some places are covered continuously over 
areas as large as 30 hectares by the bushes of Daphne cneorum jnUa. In 
spring, when this plant blossoms, all the hills appear red, and the air is 
saturated with the odor of its flowers. This little shrub, 10 to 20 cm. high, 
grows best on virgin chernozem. In the southern Alps, Daphne cneorwn 
extends as far as the alpine zone. 

The vegetation of Galichya hill, on the right bank of the Don, near 
the crossing of the Don by the railway from Yelets to Gryazi, is very rich 
in relict forms. This hill is really a plateau, 235 m. in elevation, composed 
of Devonian limestones and covered with leached chernozems. In former 
times Galichya hill was covered entirely by an oak forest. On this low 
eminence, on an area of about 15 hectares, there grow some 500 species 
of plants, a remarkable abundance for our relatively scant flora. The 
vegetation of Galichya hill is, without doubt, a remnant of preglacial 

13 Ibid., p. 65. 


Recently many relict forms have been discovered on the Donets ridge 
and in adjoining areas. Among such species are the arum (Arum orien- 
tale), a Mediterranean plant, which is found from the Balkan Peninsula 
as far east as the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Turkmenia, and which was 
found recently in the region of the Azov heights as well; the speedwell 
(Veronica wnbrosa], native to the mountains of the Crimea and the 
Caucasus; and the West European horsetail (Equisetum majus). In 
some places on the Donets ridge there is hornbeam. All of these plants 
are remains of either Upper Tertiary or interglacial flora. 

Bogs. The forest-steppe zone as a whole does not present conditions 
favorable to the development of interstream bogs. Because of the hot 
summers, evaporation is great here. The subsoils are usually loesses or 
loesslike clay loams, materials which are not watertight. Finally, the 
geographic circumstances in general do not favor the development of 
sphagnum mosses. Nevertheless, individual patches of sphagnum bog 
are found as far as the southern boundary of the forest steppe, while along 
the northern boundary of the West Siberian forest steppe they are nu- 

On the sphagnum bogs in Kharkov, Zmiev, and Kupyansk raions, a 
whole series of northern forms penetrates far to the south. Such are 
the cranberry, sundew, cotton sedge, some orchids, and so forth. 

In the forest steppe the first noticeable, signs of salinization are found 
on the flood-plain meadows. Thus, on the meadows in southern Tambov 
raion may bo found such typical solonchak plants as the umbellifer silaus 
(Sikins bcsscri) and the grass Atropis distorts [PticcincUia distans]. The 
greater portion of the forest-steppe meadows was covered at one time 
with forest. Even today, along the Sura, some sections of the flood plain 
arc overgrown with oak, bird cherry, and Tatarian maple. 


The fauna of the forest steppe, like the flora, shows a mixture of for- 
est and steppe forms. There are no animals especially associated with the 
forest steppe. The species which inhabit the forest steppe are typical of 
either the forest or the steppe. 

In the forests of the forest steppe there was formerly an abundance of 
bear, elk, deer, and roebuck. In some parts there is still squirrel, marten, 
elk, and roebuck. In addition to these animals, suslik, jerboa, and bobac 
may be found in the steppe portions. Vladimir Monomakh says that he 
captured wild horses, or tarpans (Equus gmeftni), in the Chernigov re- 
gion and on the Ros River, a tributary of the Dnieper. In 1768 Gmelin 


visited the Voronezh region. According to him, about twenty years before 
his visit, the tarpan was common in the vicinity of Voronezh. At the 
time of Pallas (1769), saiga antelope inhabited the southern forest steppe 
on the left bank of the Volga in great numbers. The aurochs (Bos primi- 
genius], a wild ox which is now extinct, inhabited the steppe, forest 
steppe, and subzone of mixed forests only recently; about three hundred 
years ago it was still found in Poland. The aurochs played a part in the 
development of the present domestic ox, particularly the longhorn spe- 
cies. Marmots or bobac (Marmota bobak) have practically disappeared 
in the European forest steppe; they are still found along the southern 
boundary of this zone, between Bityug and Khoper, and in a few other 
places. Generally speaking, the Dnieper constitutes the western boundary 
for the distribution of this species; however, during historical times the 
bobac was found on the right bank of the Dnieper as well, in the region 
of the rapids. The beaver was widely distributed at one time in the forests 
of the forest steppe; 13 also the roebuck, which is found occasionally even 
today. At the time of Gmelin (1768), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) were 
common in the neighborhood of Voronezh; today they are rare. At the 
beginning of the twentieth century the Kokchetav heights were inhabited 
by red deer (Cervus elaphus canadensis sibiricus [C. claphus sibiricus]). 

Dormice, small rodents of the Muscardinidae family, are very charac- 
teristic for the broad-leaved forests. 

In the oak forests of the European forest steppe, and in the; birch 
forests of the West Siberian forest steppe, there nests a scries of birds 
which, according to Stegman (1936), must be of western European 
origin. These include the kite (Milvus milvus), stock dove (Columba 
oenas), wood pigeon (C. pdumbus), turtle dove (Streptopelia twrtur), 
green woodpecker (Picus viridis), golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), thrush 
nightingale (Luscinia luscinia), robin (Erithacus mbeoula), and others. 
The imperial eagle (Aqtiila hcliaca), although it is called the steppe 
eagle, is found in the forest steppe, and nests only in trees. All of the 
species which have been mentioned are typical for central, and to some 
extent for southern Europe, and decrease in number to the east and north. 
In short, the picture is the opposite of that for the distribution of taiga 
birds. In general the bird fauna of the deciduous forests of the forest 
steppe differs sharply from the bird fauna of the taiga (Stegman). But 
the fauna of the forest steppe has some features In common with the 
fauna of the Far East, which has been described earlier (pp. 65-67), 

13 Beavers are found even today in the forests of the Voronezh River basin, but 
they are raised commercially here. 


The steppe portions of the forest steppe are very poor in steppe fauna. 
The large jerboa (Allactaga jaculus [A. major]} and the spotted suslik 
(Citelhts suslicus guttatus] range almost as far north as the Oka. Thus, 
they are found somewhat south of Kashira, where, in patches amid the 
moderately podzolized soils there are developed dark-gray forest-steppe 
soils overlying loess. Here, among the oak and linden forests, there are 
areas of northern mixed-herbaceous steppe, with its characteristic vege- 
tation: feather grass (Stipa joannis), nepeta (Nepeta nuda), drop- 
wort (Filipendiila hexapetala), meadow sage (Salvia pratensis), and 
Italian aster (Aster amellus). These flora and fauna are remains of the 
xerothermic period, which have survived here under the favorable con- 
ditions afforded by chernozemlike soils; the latter, in turn, were pre- 
served due to the presence of limestones. 

V The Steppe 

Definition and Boundaries 

THE name "steppe" is given to an area which is more 
I or less level, unforested, not flooded by high water 
in spring, well drained, and covered throughout the entire vegetative 
season with a more or less dense herbaceous vegetation growing on 
chernozem soils. Outside the steppe zone, steppes are found also in the 
forest steppe and in the semidesert, and also in some places in the 

Within the steppe zone, in addition to steppes there are also other 
natural landscapes: flood-plain meadows, flood-plain forests, solonchaks, 
solonetz areas, and so forth, but the steppe predominates, and there are 
no trees except in the river valleys. In the steppes of the steppe zone, 
the predominating soils are medium and southern chernozems and dark- 
chestnut soils. 

To die north the steppes extend into the forest steppe (see Chapter 
IV). To the south, in the Black Sea region, they reach to, the sea. In the 
North Caucasus Foreland they reach as far as the lower course of the 
Kuban, and approximately to the line: Krasnodar, the mouth of the Laba, 1 
Labinskaya, Pyatigorsk, and Grozny. (Farther south in this region we 
have the forest steppe of the mountain zone.) To the southeast the 
steppes extend to the western boundaries of the light-chestnut soils: 
approximately to a line extending from Grozny through Nizhnechirskaya 
on the Don to the right bank of the Volga somewhat north of Dubovka. 
Beyond the Volga, the southern boundary is as follows: the line of the 
railroad between Saratov and Uralsk, thence a line passing through 
Temir, Turgay, to the northern shore of Lake Kurgaldzhin-Dengiz, 
thence south to Akmolinsk, to the Irtysh below Semipalatinsk. The Kulun- 
dinsk steppe belongs partly to the steppe zone. The higher elevations in 

1 On the old maps forests are indicated along the right bank of the Kuban from 
Krasnodar to the mouth of the Laba (Mishchouko, 1928). 



the Akmolinsk and Bayan-Aul and Kyzyl-Ray massif region, the Chingiz 
range, and the area to the east of this range as far as the Irtysh also 
belong to the steppes (the chestnut steppes). Then, after a big interval, 
we find chernozem and chestnut steppes again on the banks of the 
Yenisey in the Minusinsk region. 


The steppe zone has warm and relatively dry summers. The mean 
temperature for July does not fall below 20 C., nor does it rise above 
23K C. In June and July the relative humidity at 1:00 P.M. averages 35 
to 45 per cent. The annual precipitation is moderate, 450 to 300 mm. (in 
the south, in the region of the chestnut-soil steppes, it may be as low as 
200 mm.), with the maximum coming during the first half of the summer, 
in June. In some years there may be no precipitation at all for a month 
or more during the summer. There is little cloudiness in the steppes; it 
reaches a maximum in December, a minimum at the end of the summer. 
The .snow cover is not deep; in the north its maximum depth ranges 
from 20 cm. in the west, to 30 cm. in the east On the Black Sea coast 
and on almost the entire coast of the Sea of Azov the maximum depth of 
the snow cover is under 10 cm.; in Yevpatoriya and Ochakov it does not 
reach more than 3 cm. 

In the steppe zone (and to some extent in the forest steppe), a dry, 
usually hot, southeast or east wind or sukhovey is frequent; grain suffers 
severely because of these winds. The following table shows temperature 
and humidity during the period of a typical sukhovey in Voronezh dblast 
(village of Saguny): 

Table 4 

(Observations at 7 : 00 A.M., 1 : 00 P.M., and 9 : 00 P.M.) 





(per cent) 



(direction and velocity in 
m. per second) 













As we can see, the temperature rose during the day to 40 C.; the 
humidity fell below 15 per cent and did not rise above 50 per cent; and 
the southerly winds reached a considerable velocity 16 m. per second. 


There is little cloudiness during the sukhovcy. It is believed by some 
authorities that the sukhovey brings heat and dryness from the deserts 
and semideserts of Asia. But this is not the case. According to Kaminsky, 
the sukhovey usually sets in when the edge of an anticyclone passes over 
a given region; the sukhovey is associated with descending masses of air. 2 
In Voronezh oblast the sukhovey occurs most frequently in August, July, 
and May, and blows from SE, E, ESE, and S, but may blow also from 
other points of the compass. 


The Volyno-Azov crystalline massif, which extends from southern 
Polesye to the northern shores of the Sea of Azov, has been mentioned 
already above (pp, 73-74). In the steppe west of the Dnieper, this massif, 
covered with sedimentary material, is revealed in outcrops of crystalline 
rocks in the valleys of many of the rivers. Outcrops of granite-gneisses 
in die Dnieper channel give rise to the Dnieper rapids, ten in number, 
between Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye. At present the rapids are 
under water as a result of the construction of the dam at Kichkas village. 
Before the dam was built the Dnieper dropped 33 m. in a distance of 
66 km. At a distance of 3 to 5 km. from the right bank of the river, the 
steppe here has an elevation of 125 to 140 m.; at the same distance from 
the left bank, the elevation is 110 to 125 m. The Dnieper does not cut 
very deeply into the crystalline massif, seldom deeper than 40 m. 

In the Krivoy Rog region ( in the basin of the Ingulets a tributary of 
the Dnieper), there occurs a synclinal fold of Krivoy Rog metamorphic 
rocks in the granite-gneiss massif. This formation includes a bed, about 
50 m. thick, of so-called "ferruginous" qtiartzites> which contain enormous 
deposits of rich iron ores (hematite). 

Outcrops of granite are found also along the Don near Pavlovsk. In 
Boguchar on the Don, boring has disclosed granite at a depth of 81 m., 
while in Taganrog boreholes have reached crystalline rocks at 580 m. 

In the break between the Dnieper and the Azov crystalline massifs, 
the crystalline formation dips far below the surface to reappear near 
the Molochnaya River and extend to the east beyond Mariupol The 
Azov crystalline massif consists of gneisses, granites, and other rocks, in 
some places transected by veins of igneous (extrusive) rocks. There are 
also some laccoliths, which are apparent in the relief. One example is the 

2 A. A. Kaminsky, "Tipy zasukh i ravninnykh sukhoveyev S.S.S.R. (Types of 
Droughts and Dry Winds of the Plains in the U.S.S.R.), Tnidy Glav. geofizich. 
observ. (Proceedings of the Central Geophysical Observatory), 1, 1934. 


breadloaf-shaped laccolith composed of andesitic rock near the junction 
of the Volnovakha and the Kalmius rivers; it was formed by the lifting 
of Paleozoic rocks by lavas. 

The highest point of the Azov crystalline region is the granite dome- 
shaped height of Tokmak-mogila, 308 m. in elevation. This eminence lies 
on the watershed between the Dnieper and the Sea of Azov, northeast 
of the Verkhny Tokmak station (elevation 205 m.) on the railroad to 
Berdyansk. 3 

In all of the places which have been mentioned, we are dealing with 
outcrops of pre-Cambrian crystalline bedrock, which in some places are 
exposed at the surface, and in others are covered by the undisturbed 
sedimentary formations of the Russian lowland. 4 

The left bank of the Dnieper below Kakhovka, and the left bank of 
the Dnieper estuary lie in a region of sands, which were covered at one 
time by continuous forest 

The Kerch Peninsula 5 is divided by the bow-shaped longitudinal 
Parpachsk ridge into two sharply distinct parts, the northeastern and 
the southwestern. The northeastern part has a hilly relief, and at 20 km. 
west of Kerch reaches an elevation of 183 m. It is composed of Miocene 
and Pliocene deposits, in the form of numerous synclines and anticlines; 
these folds merge into corresponding folds on the Taman Peninsula. 
Mud volcanoes are associated with many of the folds. The southwestern 
part constitutes a plain, composed of Oligocene clays, which lie in folds 
oriented to the northeast. These formations are a continuation of the 
Oligocene deposits which are found on the northern slope of the moun- 
tains of the Crimea. In general, there seems to be a relation between the 
southwestern part of the Kerch Peninsula and the mountains of the 
Crimea; as for the northeastern part, it has no immediate relation to 

3 On the hypsometric map of the Ukraine (1:1,000,000, published in 1937 by the 
Gos. uchebno-pedagogicheskoy$ izdatelstvo Ukrainy [State Educational-Pedagogical 
Publishing House of the Ukraine], under the editorship of N. I. Dmitriev) east of 
Tokmak-mogila appears Belmakh-mogila, 327 m. in elevation. In M. J. Dmitriev's 
Relyef U.S.S.R. (Relief of the U.S.S.R.), Kharkov, 1936, p. 113, this same elevation 
is shown, and it is noted that on the 3-verst map this elevation is given incorrectly as 
250 m. The Sea of Azov may be seen from the summit of Belmakh-mogila on clear 

* However, among the crystalline rocks of the Volyno-Azov massif there are some 
more recent than pre-Cambrian. 

5 A. D. Arkhangelsky et al. "Kratky ocherk geolog. stroyeniya i neftyanykh mesto- 
rozhdeny Kerchenskovo p-va/" (Brief Sketch of the Geological Structure and Oil 
Beds of the Kerch Peninsula), Trudy Glav. geol-vazv. upr. (Proceedings of the Central 
Geological Survey Board), No. 13, 1930, containing a geological map. E. V. Wulff, 
"Kerchensky p-v. i yevo rastiteluost" (The Kerch Peninsula and Its Vegetation), 
Zap. Krym. obshch. yestestv. (Report of the Crimean Nature Society), XI, 1929. 


the folds of the Caucasus. On the Kerch Peninsula there are rich deposits 
of limonite, which are associated with the Upper Pliocene (Kimmeriisk 

The heights on the right bank of the Volga to the south of Saratov 
have the character of a plateau which narrows and decreases in elevation 
to the south. At Saratov it has an average absolute elevation of 250 m., 
while individual points reach 300 in. Farther south, in lat. 51 N, higher 
portions of the plateau, 300 to 327 m. in elevation, lie 30 to 50 km. from 
the banks of the Volga, on the watershed between the Ilovlya and the 
Medveditsa (left tributaries of the Don). At Kamyshin the watershed 
between the Volga and the Don lies only 110 to 120 m. above sea level. 
The more elevated points (300 to 327 m.) are associated with ridges 
of Lower Cretaceous sandstone which have emerged from under the beds 
of Upper Cretaceous and Paleocene strata as a result of tectonic processes. 

A characteristic feature of the middle and lower Volga regions is the 
difference in elevation between the right and the left banks. The Trans- 
Volga area is considered a region of subsidence. 

In the Trans-Volga the Obshchy Syrt heights are to be noted. In 
Novouzensk raion they reach an elevation of 100 to 190 m.; farther east 
they reach 280 m. The Obshchy Syrt is of tectonic origin. Its western 
part constitutes a system of dome-shaped eminences, or brachyanticlines, 
which extend crosswise (NW or WNW) of the watershed of the western 
Obshchy Syrt. To the east, the Obshchy Syrt reaches as far as the south- 
ern part of Sterlitamak raion. 

The Manych valley will be discussed below, in the chapter on the 

The Mugodzhar Mountains are the southern continuation of the Ural 
range (Fig. 16). They extend from north to south, the northern part 
lying within the region of chestnut soils, while the southern part extends 
into the region of light-chestnut soils of the semidesert. These mountains 
lie in two parallel ranges. The western, or main range, reaches an eleva- 
tion of 653 m, in Ver-Chogur peak (near the crossing of the range by 
the railroad). Some 15 to 20 kilometers to the east of the main range 
lies the other, lower range. The western slopes of the Mugodzhar Moun- 
tains are steep, the eastern slopes gentle. The lowland between the two 
ranges is composed of Paleozoic, sedimentary strata, chiefly Devonian* 

E ;> N. Ivanova and A. A. Rode, "Pochvy Mugodzharskikh gor i prilegayushchikh 
ravnin (The Soils of the Mugodzhar Mountains and the Adjoining Plains) Ttudv 
Pochven. inst. Akad* nauk (Proceedings of the Soils Institute of the Academy of 
Sciences), X, 1934, p, 82, bibliography, divided according to regions, 


The western range, however, is composed predominantly of diabases and 
diabase-porphyrites. In general, the Mugodzhar Mountains have a mo- 
notonous cover of steppe vegetation. Only in some places in the deep 
ravines are there found coppices of birch, aspen, willow, bird cherry, 
and the like. On the slopes and in the dry defiles, shrub steppes of pea 
shrub [Caragana sp.], spiraea, wild cherry, and Russian almond are 

In the steppes of the Ishim basin, and those farther east (and also 
farther south), the relief consists of melkosopochnik. This is the name 
given in western Siberia to gently sloping low hills, composed of granites, 
syenites, porphyries, diorites, and some sedimentary Paleozoic strata. 
The hills are usually low, from a few meters to several tens of meters 
high; only a few rise to 80 to 100 m. The higher points are usually com- 
posed of more resistant rocks quartzites. 

The melkosopochnik region is part of the Kazakh Folded Country, 
which extends to the south into the region of the semidesert. To the 
north, southward from the West Siberian Lowland, the melkosopochnik 
region extends somewhat north of Kokchetav; to the west, as far as the 
Ulu-Tau Mountains (elevation 1137 m.); to the south, as far as Lake Bal- 
khash. Amid the melkosopochnik there are scattered individual massifs, 
relatively high and composed of the same rocks as the melkosopochnik. 
These massifs include: the Bayan-Atil granite massif, 1000 in. in elevation; 
the heights at Karkaralinsk ( 1463 m. ) ; Kyzyl-Ray ( 1468 m. ) ; Chingiz-Tau 
(793 m.), and others. In vegetation these massifs all belong to the steppe 
region; on some of them there are pine forests, growing on degraded 

These massifs and low hills of the Kazakh Folded Country are of the 
same age as the Allay and the northern chains of the Tian Shan. As in 
these systems, the most intensive folding took place during the Lower 
Paleozoic (Caledonian) period. However, there was also considerable 
folding (in a northwest orientation) during the Upper Paleozoic (Varis- 
can) period. From the end of the Paleozoic to the beginning of the Ter- 
tiary this region was dry land. During the course of long periods under 
continental conditions, the mountain systems were worn down into the 
present massifs and hills. During the Lower Tertiary maritime trans- 
gression (which in the Lower Oligocene extended as far east as the 
Irtysh and as far south as the Chu River) marine deposits were laid down 
between the elevations and are everywhere disposed horizontally. Such 
dislocations as occurred during this period were of a thrust character 


and resulted in displacement of the strata composing the mounds in north- 
west and northeast directions. 7 

In the melkosopochnik region there are many enclosed depressions, 
often occupied by salt lakes. In the Carboniferous strata of Karaganda 
there are enormous reserves of coal. 

The Minusinsk basin will be discussed below, in the section on the 
Western Sayans (pp. 290-291). 

Just as in the forest steppe, there are many saucerlike depressions in 
the steppes. In the southern part of the Black Sea steppes, these are 
called pods. These hollows occasionally reach a diameter of several 
kilometers, and when the snows melt they sometimes turn into temporary 
lakes. The Agahnany pod, near the Askaniya-Nova (Chapli) preserve, 
is about 10 km. in diameter, and the area of its basin is greater than 
1700 sq. km. In some places, for example on the western shore of the 
Sivash, the pods at one time were subject to marine transgression (see 
below, p. 97). 

The Black Sea plain extends as far south as the northern shores of the 
Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and as far north as Kodry (Bessarabia), 
the Volyno-Podolsk Plateau, and the Azov crystalline massif, and coin- 
cides with the northern boundary of the Lower Pliocene Pontic Sea. The 
Dnieper valley cuts 40 to 125 m. into the Black Sea plain. The flood plain 
of the Dnieper is called plaven. 

A noteworthy feature of the Black Sea coast are the Hmans the long 
and narrow bays or estuaries into which the Dniester, Bug, Dnieper, and 
other rivers empty. These estuaries are the drowned valleys of the lower 
river courses. The period during which the invasion of the sea took place 
cannot be determined without a brief account of the Quaternary history 
of the Black Sea, as it has been ascertained on the basis of the most 
recent investigations. 8 

The depression now occupied by the Black Sea has been in existence, 
in one form or another, since the Upper Miocene period. At the end of 
the Tertiary and the beginning of the Quaternary periods it was occu- 

T N. G. Kaasiii, "Ocherk tektnnild Kazakhstana" (Sketch of the Tectonics of 
Kazakhstan), Problcmy sov. gwfr>g/i (Problems of Soviet Geology), II, No. ft, 1034, 
pp. 161-180. 

8 A, Arkhangelsk/ and N. Strakhov, "Geologicheskaya tetoriya Chernovo morya" 
(Geological History of the Black Sea), ByulL Mask, obshch. fap. prir. (Bulletin of 
the Moscow Society for Natural Research*), otd. geol. (Geological Section), 1932, 
A. D. Arkhangelsky and N. M, Strakhov, Geofagi-clieskoyc stray enie i i&oiiya razvltiya 
Chernovo morya (Geological Structure and History of the Development of the Black 
Sea), Moscow-Leningrad, 1938, Akad. nauk S.S.S.R, (Academy of Sciences of the 


pied by the Chaudinsk lake, a brackish body of water containing fauna 
of the Caspian type; it probably was connected by way of the Manych 
depression with the so-called Baku Lake, which then occupied the Cas- 
pian depression. During the subsequent Paleo-Euxine epoch, the Chau- 
dinsk lake expanded its area. The fauna continued to have a Caspian 
character. At the end of this epoch the Dardanelles strait was formed. 
Through this strait salt waters penetrated into the Black Sea depression, 
and with them also the fauna of the Mediterranean Sea. At this time the 
slightly saline Uzunlar body of water was formed, containing the Medi- 
terranean mollusks, Cardium edule, Syndesmia ovata, and Mytilaster. It 
was replaced by the more saline Karangatsk water body, containing a 
rich fauna of the Mediterranean type, richer than contemporary Black 
Sea fauna. About one-fourth of all the mollusks found in the Karangatsk 
waters no longer inhabit the Black Sea, while they continue to exist in 
the Mediterranean. It is interesting to note that the Karangatsk basin 
contained sea urchins (although very small ones), which are absent from 
the Black Sea today. During this period, or during the preceding Uzunlar 
period, Cardium edtile penetrated into the Caspian by way of the 
Manych strait. During the next stage, that of the semifresh Neo-Euxine 
"lake-sea/* the water area contracted; on the bottom of the northwest 
part of this sea there have been found terrestrial deposits at a depth of 
40 m. The fauna of this basin resembles the contemporary Caspian fauna. 
At the end of the Neo-Euxine epoch a subsidence of the coast took place; 
the lower reaches of the rivers were flooded and transformed into estu- 
aries; the ancient Black Sea basin was formed, with water less saline than 
at present, but with Mediterranean forms in evidence. As a result of 
the subsidence, the depth and the salt content were increased, and the 
basin became the contemporary Black Sea. 

As we have seen, the estuaries were formed at the end of the Neo- 
Enxine epoch. Since that time several of the estuaries have become 
completely separated from the sea by spits; as, for example, the estuary 
at Odessa, which is famous for its curative muds. 

The deep part of the Black Sea was formed by a series of subsidences, 
which, as Arkhangelsky points out, took place recently. Shells, sands, and 
gravel of the Karangatsk and the Neo-Euxine epochs, which could have 
been formed at a depth of not more than 30 m., have been discovered 
at depths up to 1500 and even 1800 m. 

Almost everywhere throughout the steppes the subsoil is loess, a for- 
mation which we have discussed already (p. 70 ff,). As a result of the 
subsidences which have just been mentioned, in the region of the lower 


Dnieper loess containing mole holes may be found below the level of 
the Black Sea. There are also mounds (kurgans) which apparently were 
piled up on dry land, but whose bases at present are flooded by the sea. 

Soils and Vegetation 

On the basis of its vegetation, the steppe zone may be called a zone 
of grassy steppes (Figs. 17, 18), The steppe areas in the forest steppe, 
because of the abundance of dicotyledons, are called meadow steppes 
(Fig. 14), while in the semidescrt, where polyn* [Artemisia spp.] and 
grasses predominate, there are polyn-grass and polyn steppes (Fig. 20), JO 

Among the grasses in the grassy steppes, the narrow-leaved varieties 
predominate, since these arc better adapted to the dry climate of the 
steppes. Thus, in the chernozem steppes we find the narrow-leaved 
feather grass (SKpa stcnophylJa) of the pinnate group, capillary feather 
grass or tyrsa (S. capilUita), fescue (Fcstnca sulcata), and kodcria 
(Koelcria gracilis). Fescue, unsuitcd for mowing, provides excellent 
green fodder for sheep and horses. At the end of the summer it pro- 
duces a second growth, which serves as fodder during the autumn ,'nd 
winter. The grassy steppes also contain a rather large number of 

Feather-grass steppes, with Lcssing's feather grass (S/i/xz Icttsingiana) 
predominating, accompanied by capillary fealhcr grass, are found occa- 
sionally on chernozems; for example, to the south of Bogucluir, on cher- 
nozems which arc intermediate between tlio common and the southern 
types (Fig. 19). But the feather-grass typo of steppe is particularly 
characteristic on chestnut soils, where, Lessing's feather grass and the 
feather grass S. Ursa, accompanied by capillary fealhcr grass, predomi- 
nate. These are the dry steppes. 

B. V. Pyaskovsky, "Geologiehcskoye stroyonio korennovo lo/Jia i sostuv allyu- 
vialnyfch ollozheny nisshuovo Dncpra" (Geological Structure of the Basic Channel 
and Composition of the Alluvial Deposits of the Lower Dnieper). Zcmlcvedcnie 
(Geography), Vol. 35, No. 2, 1933, p. 127. 

*In Standardized Plant Names (see Translator's Bibliography), species of 
Artemisia growing in the western United States are called "sagebrush," while those 
growing in the Old World are culled "wormwood." However, this usage is not ac- 
cepted by all authorities in this country. For this reason it was clocidi'd to retain 
the Russian word polyn throughout this' translation. TH, 

10 1 V. Novopokrovsky, Zonalnie tipy stcpcy YcvwpatskMj r/w/i S.S..S.JI. (Zonal 
Types of Steppe in the European Part of the U.S.S.R,), Zenilcvedenio (Geography), 
Vol. 39, No. 3, 1937, pp. 11)8, 201, does not give the name "grassy" or "fosene and 
feather-grass" steppes to all of the herbaceous vegetation of the Dieppe SEOHO, but only 
to that which is developed in the southern parts", on the southern chernozems, dark- 
chestnut soils, and the drier varieties of Azov and North Caucasus Foreland cher- 


On the basis of soils and vegetation, the steppe zone may be divided 
into two subzones: (1) the northern, where the soils are typical cher- 
nozems, and (2) the southern, or dry steppe, where the soils are dark 

(1) In the chernozem subzone the following types of chernozem are 
developed: common, or medium chernozem; southern, or poor cherno- 
zem; and, finally, Azov, or North Caucasus Foreland chernozem. In 
western Siberia the northern steppe subzone is an area of southern 
chernozems (since the area of typical, or medium chernozems there is 
occupied by forest steppe); this belt is very narrow. 

We have discussed chernozem already. As one moves to the south, 
the thickness of the horizons colored by organic matter and their humus 
content as a rule decrease. The northeast shore of the Sea of Azov and 
the steppes of the western North Caucasus Foreland have a special type 
of chernozem the so-called Azov type. Although it lies to the south of 
the belt of common chernozem, nevertheless in its great thickness (up 
to 140 to 150 cm. and more) this type seems to approach the thick 
chernozems of the forest steppe. The origin of these chernozems is prob- 
lematical. They may have been formed at the time when the Azov steppe 
lay at a higher elevation than it does today (Berg); we have spoken 
already of the recent subsidences along the northern shore of the Black 
Sea (p. 97). 

Tanfllyev (1898) 11 describes the vegetation of the virgin chernozem 
steppe in Starobelsk raion (to the north of Donets oblast) as follows: 
In spring as soon as the snow is gone (usually no later than the middle 
of April), the small bright-green moss Tortula ruralis appears, and beside 
it the filaments of the blue-green alga Nostoc commune. At the end of 
April the first spring flowers appear the common tulip (Tulipa schrerikii 
[T. gesneriana]) , very closely related to the garden tulip, the anemone 
(Pulsatilla nigricans [Anemone nigricans]), and the spreading pasque- 
flower (P. patens [A. patens]); tfrese are followed by the colewort 
(Crambe tatarica, a crucifer), dwarf iris (Iris pumila), adonis (Adonis 
vernalis and A. volgenste), and others. In the middle of May the slopes 
bloom with whole thickets of the magnificent dark-red fernleaf peony 
(Paeonia tenuifolia). In the middle of June the steppe wears a continu- 
ous blue carpet of blooming sage (Salvia nutans), and is covered with 
the silver plumose awns of the feather grasses. In addition to the feather 

11 More recent and more detailed data appear in E. Lavrenko and G. Dokhman, 
"Roslinnist Starobilskikh stepiv" (Vegetation of the Starobelsk Steppes), Zhurn. bio- 
botan. tsiklu Ukrain. Akad. nauk ( Journal of the Bio-Botanical Section of the Ukrain- 
ian Academy of Sciences), No. 5-6, 1933, pp. 2&-133. 


grasses the rest of the vegetation consists chiefly of grasses fescue and 
koeleria which grow in clusters, with intervals of black soil between 
them. There is no continuous, coherent sod here, as in the forest zone. 
Toward the end of the summer the capillary feather grass begins to pre- 
dominate. In autumn, after the rains, the first representatives of the 
spring flora reappearthe moss Tortula and the alga Nostoc. On the 
Starobelsk virgin steppe, in addition to the herbaceous plants, there are 
numerous dense thickets of shrubs, which reach a height of about 0.75 
to 1 m. and a diameter of several tens of meters. These thickets, which 
are called dcrcznyaks, or uisharniks, consist of the shrubs which were 
mentioned above (p. 86). 

In the southern steppes the vegetation naturally begins to develop 
earlier. Thus, in the vicinity of Odessa, the autumn crocus Colchicum 
montanum blooms in February, sometimes within the first ten days; the 
bulbous perennials the crocus (Crocus rcticulatus) , lion's-leaf (Leontice 
altaicd), starch grape hyacinth (Muscari racetnosum), and twinlcaf squill 
(Sdtta bifolia) also bloom in February in this region. 

For a picture of the southern chernozem steppe on southern cherno- 
zems, we may take Pachosky's description of the virgin steppe in the 
Askaniya-Nova preserve between the lower courses of the Dnieper and 
the Molochnaya rivers: 12 The annual precipitation here is less than 300 
mm.; the winters have little snowfall. In the middle of March life begins 
to awaken in the steppe. On sunny warm days the susliks (Citcllus 
pygmaeus) come out of their burrows. The sod of the steppe grasses 
(the most striking of which is the sod of the capillary feather grass, 
Stipa capillata) does not form a continuous cover; in the spaces between 
grass tussocks appear the first white flowers of the spring draba (Draba 
or Erophila verna); it grows particularly readily on places somewhat 
trampled by grazing stock, where it is not smothered by the tall steppe 
herbage. The gageas (Gagea pusilla and G. bulbifera) also bloom be- 
tween the sod tussocks, and almost at the same time as the draba; the 
gageas are small liliaceous plants with yellow flowers. Pachosky calls 
these ephemeral spring plants which grow in the spaces between the 
grass tussocks, ingredients. They finish blooming quickly, before the full 

12 1. K. Pachosky, "Opisanie rastitelnosti Khersonslcoy gubcmii" (A Description of 
the Vegetation of Kherson Guberniya), II, Stcpi (The Steppes), Kherson, 1917, 
pp. 6-19. More recent data appear in M, S. Shalyt, "Geo-botanichesky ocherk gos. 
stepnovo zapovednika Chapli (b. Askaniya-Nova)" ( Geobotanical Sketch of the 
State Steppe Preserve at Chapli [Formerly Askaniya-Nova]), ByulL Fitotekhn. stantsii 
stepn. inst. "Chapli" (Bulletin of the Phytotechnical Station of the "Chapli" Steppe 
Institute), 1, 1930, pp. 29-52. 

**Zhurn. Ru&sk. botan. obshch. (Journal of the Russian Botanical Society), X, 
1925, pp. 123, 124. 


development of the grass sod. Pachosky calls the grasses, compo- 
nents. 14 Toward the middle of April the viviparous bulbous blue grass 
(Poa bulbosa var. vivipara) begins to grow green; on its panicles, in 
place of flowers, there appear small bulblike buds, which are trampled 
into the ground by the stock and serve the plant in place of seeds. This 
blue grass is thick on heavily grazed virgin soils, and sometimes covers 
large areas continuously; but on virgin steppes which are not grazed 
very heavily blue grass does not attain predominance. By the middle of 
April the needleleaf sedge (Carex stenophylla) begins to bloom in the 
pasture steppe. The red tulip (Tulipa schrenkii [T. gesneriana]) , which 
is found also on the Starobelsk virgin steppe, blooms about the twentieth 
of April. Sometimes this species bears yellow flowers, occasionally pink 
or other colors. Another tulip (T. biebersteiniana) , with smaller yellow 
flowers, is found here also; in some places it grows in great profusion. 
In spring the dwarf iris ( Iris pumila) brightens the steppe with its varie- 
gated flowers. Some of the irises are violet blue, some are yellow. Among 
the other flowers which bloom in spring are the steppe valerian ( Valeri- 
ana tuber osa), Ornitliogalum tenuifolium (Liliaceae), two astragali, the 
buttercup (Ranunculus oxyspermus), a hyacinth which bears dull-purple 
flowers (Hijacintlms sar?naticu$) , and others. 

The basic steppe grasses (the components, according to Pachosky's 
terminology) which constitute the vegetative cover of the steppe, bloom 
later, in May. These are the steppe fescue (Festuca sulcata), and the 
pinnate feather grasses (Lessing's Stipa lessingiana, and others). We 
must mention also the koeleria (Koeleria gracilis) and crested wheat 
grass (Agropyron cristatum). 

If there has been enough moisture since spring, the steppe presents an un- 
usually beautiful appearance at the time of the mass flowering of the pinnate 
feather grasses. At this time the steppe is covered by a continuous silver-gray 
shroud. This peculiar shroud, composed of the innumerable "plumes" 1 of the 
feather grasses, is tossed by the wind just like the surface of an endless expanse 
of water. Like water-waves, the gray masses of feather grass rise and fall, cover- 
ing and hiding in their bosoms the remains of the plants which bloomed in 
early spring. Even those plants which bloom simultaneously with the feather 
grasses can be distinguished only as exceptions from the background of feather 
grass, and usually it is only at close hand that their presence may be noticed. 
The foremost among these taller and more noticeable plants is the steppe bristle 
thistle (Carduus uncinatus); its large red heads interrupt the monotony of the 
feather-grass mass. 

Many dicotyledons grow in the steppe at the same time as the feather 


Toward the middle of June the awns of the pinnate feather grasses 
begin to fall off. About this same time the steppe fescue matures. The 
steppe takes on a yellowish coloring. Dicotyledons become more notice- 
able, and a whole series of new dicotyledons begins to bloom. If there is 
much moisture in the soil toward the middle of the summer, the capillary 
feather grass blooms luxuriantly. Toward the end of July, the steppe 
under favorable conditions becomes covered with a continuous carpet 
of flowering capillary feather grass. This feather grass in its usual posi- 
tion (that is, with bent panicles) grows as high as an adult person's 
knees and higher (the entire bush, when straightened, is as tall as a man 
and may reach even 180 cm.). If there is not sufficient moisture during 
the summer, the capillary feather grass does not grow so exuberantly; 
the flowers do not emerge, but remain hidden within the vagina of the 
upper leaf (this, however, usually is not harmful to the development 
of the seeds). 

Toward autumn the stalks of the capillary feather grass turn yellow, 
while the awns with the caryopses in part fall off, and in part curl up 
spirally. By winter the surface of the steppe is studded with the stubble 
of the upright stalks of capillary feather grass. Between the stalks the 
snow is packed more or less evenly. "A great deal of moisture is con- 
densed on the stalks of the capillary feather grass from the fogs which 
are usual here in autumn, winter, and spring; the dew which is formed 
rolls down in the form of drops and contributes considerably to the accu- 
mulation of moisture in the soil." The grazing of sheep on the capillary 
feather-grass steppes at the time when the seeds and awns are easily 
detached can be very dangerous for the sheep; the caryopsis with the 
awn, when it gets caught in the wool of the sheep, is screwed into the 
skin because of the hygroscopic winding of the awn, and may penetrate 
into the interior of the body. 

The root system of the steppe grasses does not reach very deep. The 
deeper-lying horizons of soil moisture are utilized by the roots of dicoty- 
ledonous plants. When the grass cover is impoverished by grazing, 
the moisture has a chance to penetrate into the deeper layers, and thus 
on the cropped sections dicotyledons develop in large numbers; an ex- 
ample is the steppe euphorbia (Euphorbia gerardiana), which sometimes 
grows in almost continuous thickets over enormous areas (Pachosky, 

On the southern chernozems in western Siberia, in the region of the 
large Omsk lakes, capillary feather-grass steppes prevail The sod of the 
grasses covers less than half of the surface of the soil. In the spaces be- 


tween tussocks brown spots of soil are visible, in some places covered 
with dead herbage. 

(2) The subzone of southern, or dry steppes, lies on the chestnut soils. 
These soils extend in a narrow strip along the northern shore of the Black 
Sea, along the right bank of the lower Dnieper, in the northern Crimea, 
in the western part of the northern shore of the Sea of Azov, along the 
middle course of the Don and the Kuma, along the Volga somewhat below 
Kamyshin, in the Trans-Volga, and farther east in the steppes of Kazakh- 
stan. In western Siberia these soils extend approximately as far north as 
the parallel of the northern end of Lake Selety-Dengiz (lat. 53% N), 
that is, north of the parallels of Tambov and Orel. Beyond the Irtysh we 
find chestnut soils in the Kulundinsk steppe, and also on the left bank 
of the Yenisey in the Minusinsk region. Chestnut soils contain less humus 
than chernozems only 3 to 4.5 per cent of the soil mass; this reflects the 
smaller number of plants in the southern steppes; the color of the hori- 
zons in which organic matter accumulates is not black, but dark brown 
("chestnut"); the thickness of these horizons does not exceed 60 cm.; 
lamination is observed in the upper part of the humus horizon and com- 
paction in the lower. The above account refers only to the dark-chestnut 
soils, since the light-chestnut soils are peculiar to the semidesert zone. 

Forests. In the steppe zone forests are found only on the flood plains of 
rivers (the plavens of the lower Dniester and Dnieper), on the slopes of 
river valleys, or on the sandy terraces which lie above the flood plain. 

In low places in the flood plain of the Don there grow poplar, black 
poplar, willow, and alder; on higher places, forests of oak, aspen, Russian 
elm (Ulmus pedunculata [U. laevis]), smoothleaf elm (U. campestris or 
17. foliacea [U. carpintfolia]) , Tatarian maple (Acer tataricum), euony- 
mus, and buckthorn. The forests in the flood plain (pfaven) of the Dnies- 
ter are distinguished by the great variety of tree species. Thus, in the 
Kitskansk forest, opposite Tiraspol, there is Russian elm, smoothleaf elm, 
oak, ash, black poplar, silver poplar, willow, hedge maple, hawthorn, fil- 
bert, and others. The woodland European grape ( Vitis silvestris [V. vini- 
fera silvestris] ) is also present; its stems climb up to the tops of the oaks; 
at their base the grape stems are sometimes as thick as a person's hand. 
On the meadow terraces above the point where the Dniester River 
branches, there are coppices of European alder (Alnus glutinosa). 

On the slopes along the high right bank of the lower Dnieper, there 
may be found pear, hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), scrub smoothleaf 
elm, oak, apple, sloe (Primus spinosa), spiraea, woodland European 


grape, and so on. On the sandy terraces which lie above the flood plain 
in the steppe zone of the Dnieper and the Don, there are forests. The 
big pine grove on the Samara River (which empties into the Dnieper 
from the left at Dnepropetrovsk) is well known. It lies on the left bank 
of the stream, in Novomoskovsk raion. On the shore itself there is an 
alder grove (Alnus glutinosa), with a belt of oaks beyond, and finally, 
still higher, the pine grove. This pine grove contains cowberry; in the 
depressions there are small sphagnum bogs, so foreign to the steppe zone; 
the lichen Cladonia sylvatica grows in the open spaces. The oak forest 
contains large aspens, as well as smoothleaf elm and ash. 15 

A vast area of sands stretches along the left bank of the Dnieper from 
Kakhovka to the sea. In the depressions there are coppices of oak, birch, 
aspen, and pear. The birch belongs to the form Betula pubescens var. 
glabra, the same as that found on the sands along the lower Bug and 
along the Samara. In some places in the coppices there is lilac and drug 
Solomon's-seal (Polygonatwn officindle) under the oak. In the vicinity of 
the town of Aleshki there is European alder (Alnus glutinosa), from 
which this ancient town (properly called Oleshki) * received its name. 
In the flood plain (plaven) of the lower Dnieper there are no real for- 
ests, only groups of willow, black poplar, and European alder. 

Some of the sands in the Golubinsk forest on the Don (lat. 49 N) are 
in motion. They were covered at one time with fescue and feather-grass 
steppe, while in the depressions there were birch-aspen kolki. On the shift- 
ing sands along the Archeda River (a tributary of the Medveditsa) grows 
the creeping savin juniper (Jitnipents sabina var. radicans). (The name 
of the river is taken from the word for juniper, archa.) On the sandy 
terrace of the Archeda are found remains of pine, which is absent here 
at present. This region also contains small sphagnum bogs with their 
typical vegetation, foreign to the steppes roundleaf sundew (Drosera 
rotundifolia), club mosses (Lycopodium davatum and L. inundatwn), 
and others. 

Various hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origin of the 
sands along the middle Don. Some authorities (Sokolov, 1884) believe 
them to be river dunes, others (Dubyansky, 1911) believe them to be 
fluvioglacial deposits, while a third group regards them as terrace de- 
posits of the Don. The latter two views must be considered correct. 

15 M. I. Kotov, "Botaniko-geograficheslcy ocherk doliny nizovyev r. Samary" 
(Botanical-Geographical Sketch of the Valley of the Lower Samara River), Trudy 
Ikhtiol. opytn. $tan. (Proceedings of the Ichthyological Experiment Station), Kherson, 
VI, No. 1, 1930, pp. 57-99. 

* The Russian word for alder is olkJia. TR. 


The Don sands are ancient alluvial and alluvio-lacustrine terrace forma- 
tions, which have as their basis fluvioglacial deposits. 16 

Flood-plain meadows, with quack grass (Agropyron repens) predom- 
inating, are very typical for the steppes. This grass is of great agricul- 
tural importance. 


It is not true, as some reports would have it, that the virgin steppe at 
one time had a continuous uniform herbaceous cover tall enough to 
conceal a horse and rider. There have always been different types of 
steppe vegetation, depending upon the relief (Pachosky). In the virgin 
steppes there were great numbers of wild herbivores: wild horses (tar- 
pans), saiga antelope, deer, and roebuck; they roamed in herds, grazing 
and trampling large sections, fertilizing the soil, and breaking paths. 
In general, as Pachosky points out, the role of the large mammals in the 
steppes is very important. The animals trample the seeds of the steppe 
grasses into the soil, clear the spaces between the sod tussocks of super- 
fluous vegetation, crop the dry, dead stems, and so forth. In Odessa 
oblast, in one place there was preserved a portion of steppe on which in 
the course of fifteen years there was neither pasture of stock nor mow- 
ing. After this period of time a multitude of weeds and plants appeared 
which are not found usually in the typical virgin steppe. The plant 
which appeared in greatest numbers was the smooth brome (Bromus 
inermis), which, although it does grow on virgin steppe, does not pre- 
dominate there. Previously, when there had been grazing in this section, 
the steppe had been covered chiefly by fescue (Festuca sulcatd). 

The grazing of stock kills off the feather grasses first of all, and the 
order in which they disappear is as follows: Stipa stenophylla, S. dasy- 
phijlla, S. lessingiana, and S. capillata; next to disappear is koeleria. 
Trampling that is only moderate does not harm fescue; under heavy 
trampling, fescue is replaced by viviparous bulbous blue grass (Poa 
bitlbosa var. vivipara). This blue grass is remarkable for the fact that 
on its panicles, instead of flowers there appear bulblike buds which are 
trampled into the soil by the stock and which serve as seeds for the 
plant On heavily grazed virgin steppes, this blue grass sometimes forms 
a continuous cover over large areas (Pachosky). 

Small mammals rodents are also important in the natural economy 
of the steppe. They bring a tremendous quantity of earth to the surface. 

16 A. G. Gayel, "Peski verkhnevo Dona" (The Sands of the Upper Don), Izv. 
Gcogr. obslich. (Report of the Geographic Society), LXIV, 1932. 


It is estimated that in some places the suslik excavates about 20 cu. m. 
of earth per hectare. In some steppes there may be several hundred bur- 
rows of the spotted suslik per dessiatine,* sometimes more than a thou- 

In the virgin steppes along the left bank of the lower Dnieper, there 
are many bobac burrows; that is, low mounds at one time excavated by 
bobac, or marmots (Marmota bobak), which have disappeared here com- 
pletely at present. The width of a bobac burrow is about 2 m., the height 
& m.; sometimes there are as many as 200 to 250 such small burrows 
per hectare, "so that from a distance it looks as though the steppe were 
covered by small ricks of hay" (Brauner). The bobac burrows attract 
attention by virtue of the tall weeds which grow on them: sisymbrium 
(Sisymbrium pannonicum), common Russian thistle (Sahola kali), the 
grass Bromtts squarros-us, and others. There are no bobac left in the 
steppe zone of Europe today, but they are found in the steppes of west- 
ern Siberia. 

Of the large mammals, the saiga antelope (Saiga saiga [S. tatarica]) 
was found as far west as the lower course of the Dniester as late as the 
end of the eighteenth century; even in the latter half of the last century 
it was not rare in the Novouzensk steppes, and along the right side of 
the Volga it was found approximately as far as lat 49 N. The roebuck 
(Capreolus) is represented by two species in the Ukrainian steppe: the 
Siberian roebuck ( C. pygargus] , which only recently was found also south 
of Zaporozhye, inhabits the forests along the Samara River mentioned 
above (p. 104); the European roebuck (C. caprcolus] is peculiar to 
the remaining part of the Ukraine, 17 The rod deer (Cermts chiphus) 
also was widespread at one time in the steppes and forests of the 
Ukraine; Bronevsky, in his description of the Crimea, tells us that tho 
steppes around Ochakov and Perekop were inhabited by deer; today 
they have disappeared, however, remaining only in the mountains of 
the Crimea. The Transylvanian wild boar (Sus scrofa attlla) had disap- 
peared from the Dnieper by the middle of the last century. There is evi- 
dence that a hundred years ago the beaver was found on the shores of 
the Dnieper near Kherson. The wild horse or tarpan (Equm gmelini) 
at one time roamed the steppes in tremendous droves. In 1768 Gmelin 
saw a herd of six tarpan 50 km, south of Bobrov. Even in the first half 
of the last century the tarpan was rather numerous in the steppes along 

* 2.7 acres.-Eo. 

17 According to the studies of K. K. Flerov, the Siberian roebur *k is only a variety 
of the European species. 


the left bank of the lower Dnieper, and it is known from authoritative 
sources that the last remaining tarpan mare was killed in 1876 on the 
Agaimany pod, in the region of the present Askaniya-Nova, or Chapli 
preserve. This horse was not very tall; it was mouse-colored, with a dark 
stripe down its back, and had long and heavy hair, a short, almost erect 
mane, and a short tail. 

Brauner correctly points out that in the past, when the life of the 
steppe mammals was more mobile, they were able to take better advan- 
tage of the natural conditions. They moved out of the steppes into the 
forests, plavens, and sand dunes (kuchugury) in winter, and returned 
to the steppes in summer. This was the migratory cycle of the deer, 
roebuck, bison, aurochs, and tarpan. Hunting by man forced the deer 
and roebuck to seek shelter in the forests, and the saiga antelope in the 
semidesert and desert; the aurochs and tarpan became altogether extinct. 

In addition to those named above, the following animals are also 
characteristic of the steppe. The spotted suslik (Citellus suslicus [C. sus- 
liciis guttatus]) is very common, while the gray suslik (C. pygmaeus 
brauneri) is found only east of the lower Dnieper. The large jerboa 
(Allactaga jaculus [A. major]) lives in the steppe zone from the Dnieper 
eastward. (It is found also west of the river, but not far from it.) The 
three-toed sand jerboa (Scirtopoda telum) is peculiar to sandy areas from 
the left bank of the lower Dnieper eastward. There are also the common 
hamster (Cricetus cricetus}, gray hamster (Cricetulus migratorius), 
short-tailed steppe vole (Lagurus lagurus), social meadow mouse (Mi- 
crotus socialis), mole rats (Ellobius talpinus and Spalax microphthal- 
mtis), and the European polecat (Putorius eversmanni). 

Of the birds, the great bustard (Otis tarda), which prefers the feather- 
grass steppes, and the European partridge (Perdix perdix) are perma- 
nent residents in the steppes. Other birds which are characteristic of 
the steppes include the little bustard (Otis tetrax), which has almost dis- 
appeared in the Ukraine with the plowing of the steppes; the demoiselle 
crane (Grus virgo [Anthropoides wgo]); the steppe eagle (Aquila 
nipalensis orientalis) , which nests on the ground, and therefore, be- 
cause of the plowing of the steppes, has almost disappeared in the 
Ukraine; and the Calandra lark (Melanoconjpha calandra), which feeds 
readily on blue grass. The aquatic birds include the glossy ibis (Plegadte 
falcinelhis), spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), pelican, heron, sheld duck 
(Tadorna tadorna), ruddy sheldrake (Casarca ferruginea), and several 
shore birds: the black-winged stilt, avocet, and stone curlew. Several 
mountain birds, which are found also in the southern Urals, are native 


to the Mugodzhar Mountains. Such, for example, is the rock thrush 
(Monticola saxatilis}. 

Of the lizards, the steppe lizard (Eremias arguta] is found as far 
west as the Dobrudzha, 18 while the toadhead (Phnjnoceplialus caudivol- 
vulus) is found as far as the Don (in the sands of the Golubinsk forest); 
the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis exigua) is common everywhere; the com- 
mon lizard (L. uivipara) is not found in the steppes. The tortoise Testudo 
ibera is found as far west as Mariupol. Among the snakes are the steppe 
viper (Vipera renardi), the European whip snake (Coluber jugularis), 
and the four-striped snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata sauromates) . 

The insect pests include the migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) , 
which is hatched predominantly in the reed thickets in the lower reaches 
of the rivers (this locust at present has been decreased in number sig- 
nificantly in the steppe zone); the locust Calliptamus italicus and its 
companions the striped locust (Pachytylus nigrofasciatus) and the blue- 
winged locust (Oedipoda cocrulescens) ; and the caterpillar of the beet 
webworm (Loxostege sticticalis) . The solpugid Galeodes araneoides (an 
arachnid) is found as far west as the west bank of the Dnieper. 

The Absence of Forests in the Steppes 

Except in the river valleys, there are no forests in the steppes. There 
are various opinions regarding the explanation for this fact. 

From the time of Pallas (1787), the opinion was widespread that man 
was to blame for the absence of forests in the steppes. It was believed 
that at one time the steppes were covered with forests, which were de- 
stroyed by nomads. This view is mistaken. As we know, chernozems are 
formed not under forests, but under steppe vegetation. When a forest 
grows upon chernozem, the soil undergoes degradation, that is, podzoli- 
zation. As a result, we can always determine by examining the soil 
whether or not forest ever grew upon it. But perhaps soils degraded by 
forest may resume the characteristics of chernozem, if the forest is de- 
stroyed and replaced by steppe vegetation. This is possible, but only on 
strongly carbonated subsoils (for example, on marls and limestones), or 
in places where ground water rich in carbonates rises to the surface. As 
a rule, however, degraded soils cannot be restored to chernozem with- 
out the intervention of man. Thus, the hypothesis that the steppes were 
covered at one time by continuous forests may be dropped. 

Many authorities explain the absence of forests by the peculiarities of 

18 It is found as far north as Voronezh. 


the steppe climate, pointing out the insufficiency of precipitation, the 
length of the dry period (according to Behr), the dryness of the air in 
summer and the considerable evaporation (Kaminsky's view), and the 
low level of ground waters. Without a doubt the relation of steppe vege- 
tation to ground water has great bearing on the question, but it is not 
the decisive factor. Herbaceous vegetation, generally speaking, extracts 
moisture from the surface horizons, while a forest extracts moisture from 
the deeper layers. Accordingly, steppes are developed in places where 
ground water occurs far below the surface, and atmospheric moisture 
penetrates in insufficient quantity to the levels which would be reached 
by tree roots because of the small amount of precipitation, the nature 
of the seasonal distribution of precipitation, or, finally, because of the 
properties of the soil and subsoil. All of these facts are indisputable. 
However, in the forest zone there are found tree species with super- 
ficial root systems, species which, nevertheless, do not inhabit the steppes. 

It is our opinion that the steppe zone is a regional phenomenon which 
represents an intermediate phase between the forest and desert zones. 
As such, it is the result of the regional disposition of climatic factors. The 
entire combination of climatic features in the steppes is unfavorable to 
the development of forests. All the remaining natural factors the salin- 
ization of the soils and subsoils, their mechanical composition, and so 
forth are of secondary and subordinate importance. The fundamental 
reasons for the absence of forests in the steppes are: insufficient mois- 
ture in summer and dryness of the air with a resulting high rate of 
evaporation. This explanation may be confirmed by pointing out that 
in eastern Europe the soil and vegetation zones in the south extend, not 
from west to east, but from southwest to northeast, corresponding to 
the disposition of climatic factors. 

Other hypotheses which have been advanced to explain the absence 
of forests in the steppes are as follows: 

Tanfilyev (1894) held that the reason for the absence of forests in 
the steppes is the salinization of the subsoils, particularly the high con- 
tent of chlorides and sulphates. According to Tanfilyev's observations, 
soils under forest cover react to hydrochloric acid at a greater depth 
than do soils in the neighboring steppe; thus it is apparent that the forest 
soils are more leached. If the steppe subsoils were to be leached, says 
this scientist, the forests might extend as far as the shores of the Black 
Sea. The following must be said regarding this view. The content of 
chlorides and sulphates in the steppe subsoils is not so great as to impede 
the growth of forest upon them. With suitable artificial irrigation, broad- 


leaved species grow very well on steppe soils and subsoils. Furthermore, 
in the western Ukraine large forest massifs are found growing on con- 
siderably salinized subsoils. 

P. Kostychev (1890) and Sprygin (1922) call attention to the fact 
that steppe vegetation is found growing on soils of fine composition, for 
example, on loess, while forest grows on soils of coarser composition, 
for example, on sands. Thus, the right bank of the lower Dnieper, com- 
posed of loesses, has a chernozem topsoil and is covered with steppe 
vegetation, while the sandy left bank is covered with forest. But we know 
also that in the forest steppe extensive areas of loess are found at present 
covered with forests. 

Pachosky (1917) presents the hypothesis that the natural stages in 
the development of vegetation are desert, steppe, and forest, and that, 
passing from one stage to another, the vegetation affects and changes 
the climate accordingly. Thus, it is not the climate which is responsible 
for the changing types of vegetation, but the other way around the 
changes in the vegetation bring about changes in the climate. However, 
the history of the climates and vegetation of the Quaternary period, 
in so far as it has been revealed by geology and paleontology, does not 
confirm this hypothesis. Nor do contemporary climatic fluctuations bear 
any visible relation to changes in the vegetation coyer. 

VI The Zone of the Semidesert 

General Characteristics 

THE zone of the sernidesert, or desert steppes, consti- 
I tutes the transition from the steppes to the desert. 
While in the steppes the vegetation as a rule forms a continuous cover, 
in the semidesert bare earth is visible in the spaces between plants; but 
in contrast to the desert, the area under vegetation is greater than the 
area of bare spaces. The plant and soil cover is variegated. Feather- 
grass and polijn steppes predominate (Fig. 20). The soils are light chest- 
nut; both soils and subsoils are usually strongly salinized. There are many 
salt lakes, among them some containing salt deposits. There are also 
many solonchaks and solonetz areas; the latter, however, disappear to 
the south. The surface and ground waters are usually salinized. The 
climate is dry, with maximum precipitation in June and May. 

Boundaries and Subdivisions 

Lying to the south of the subzone of dry steppes (which are found 
on dark-chestnut soils), the semidesert occupies the lower Volga region 
and extends as far south as the lower course of the Sulak west of the 
Caspian; beyond the Ural River the southern border coincides approxi- 
mately with the escarpment of the Ust-Urt Plateau, and extends east- 
ward somewhat north of the Aral Sea (leaving the southern part of the 
Bolshie Barsuki, 1 the Kara Kum which adjoins the Aral Sea, and the Ter- 
tiary plateau in the desert zone), and slightly to the north of Lake 

Formerly I classified the northern belt of light-chestnut soils with the 
steppe zone, but at present, in accordance with the findings of Neustruyev 
(1928), 2 1 classify it with the semidesert. 

1 Approximately from the railroad station at Chelkar. 

2 S. S. Neustruyev, "K voprosu o geograficheskom rasprostranenii stepey i pustyn v 
pochvennom otnoshenii" (Concerning the Geographical Distribution of Soils in the 
Steppe and the Desert), Trudij Pochv. inst. Akaa. nauk (Proceedings of the Soils 
Institute of the Academy of Sciences), V, 1931. 





The climate of the semidesert is intermediate between the climates of 
the steppe and of the desert. There is less precipitation than in the 
steppes-250 to 160 mm. (Akhtuba, 247; Astrakhan, 171; Guryev, 161; 
Baskunchak, 241; Irgiz, 158; Turgay, 249). 

On the shores of the Caspian there is less precipitation than at some 
distance inland; this is generally characteristic for low-lying sea coasts. 
The maximum precipitation in the northern part of the semidesert comes 
in June, as in the steppes (there is a secondary maximum in autumn); 
in the south the maximum comes in May, as in the desert. Correspond- 
ingly, the minimum precipitation in the northern part, as in the steppes, 
comes at the end of the winter (February and March), while in the 
extreme south it comes in summer (July, for example, in Irgiz), as in 
the desert. The annual range of precipitation may be judged from data 
for the stations at Astrakhan, Emba, and Irgiz, as shown in the follow- 
ing table: 

Table 5 
















Emba railroad 
station f 
Irgiz { 






























* 1850-1915, lat. 46 2l' N, absolute elevation 13 m. 

1 190C-1915, absolute elevation 232 m. 

1 1875-1915, lat. 48 37' N, absolute elevation 112 m. 

The monthly totals of precipitation fluctuate sharply from year to year. 
Thus, in Astrakhan there is most precipitation in June, an average of 
20 mm., but there are years when there is no precipitation at all during 
the entire month. On the other hand there is one case on record when 
107 mm. of precipitation fell here in June more precipitation than in 
the forest zone. The snow cover is very slight: in February, when it 
reaches a maximum, it is only 10 cm. This permits stock to graze even 
during the winter. 

The summer is warmer than in the steppes. The mean July temperature 
is 24 to 26 C. The winter is severe. Where the winters are not moder- 
ated by the influence of the Caspian (for example, in Astrakhan), the 
mean January temperature is from 16 C. to 12 C., significantly 
lower than on the shores of the Gulf f of Finland. There are years when 


the mean January temperature is lower than 25 C., while on indi- 
vidual days the thermometer may drop to 40 C. In summer, on the 
other hand, the temperature may rise sometimes to 40 C. The winter 
cold is followed very quickly by hot weather, and there is almost no 


Partly within the steppe zone, partly within the semidesert, lie the 
valleys of the Manych rivers 3 or the Kuma-Manych depression, which 
during the Quaternary period was a strait connecting the Caspian with 
the Sea of Azov. The Western Manych belongs to the Black Sea basin, 
while the Eastern Manych flows in the direction of the Caspian. The 
Western Manych is a system of saline lakes and streams which drain 
into the Don near Manych stanitsa. Of the lakes which compose the 
Western Manych system, the largest is Bolshoy Liman or Gudilo, which 
reaches more than 100 km. in length during years when water is abun- 
dant (for example, 1932); its depth reaches 3 m.; its waters are brackish. 
On its shores are found deposits containing the mollusk Cardium edule, 
which penetrated into the Caspian from the Black Sea basin during one 
of the late epochs of the Quaternary period. East of Lake Gudilo lies 
the Eastern Manych system, which is fed by the Kalaus River. In some 
years this river drains part of its waters into the Western Manych system. 
The Eastern Manych depression is bordered on the north by the slopes 
of the Yergeni Plateau. The highest point of the watershed between the 
Western and the Eastern Manych lies at the mouth of the Kalaus River, 
at an elevation of 26 m. above the Black Sea. Bogachev discovered the 
shells of Cardium edule on the water divide itself. The Eastern Manych 
loses itself in the Gaiduk sands, which border on the Kurna River. At 
present the Manych Canal for navigation and irrigation is under con- 
struction. This canal, 620 km. long, will connect the Sea of Azov with 
the Caspian. 

At the point where the Volga turns sharply to the southeast, the Volga 
heights merge into the Yergeni Plateau; this falls away abruptly to the 
Caspian Lowland, which will be discussed below. The greater part of 

3 K. Lisitsyn, Geologicliesky putevoditel po r. Manychu ( Geological Guidebook for 
the Manych River); Putevoditel 2-y chetvertichnoy geol. confer. , 1932 (Guidebook 
of the 2nd Quaternary Geological Conference, 1932); "Problema Manychey" (Prob- 
lem of the Manych Rivers), Azovochernom. geol. trest (Azov-Black Sea Geological 
Trust), Trudy (Proceedings), No, 15, Rostov-on-Don, 1936. I. V. Novopokrovsky, 
Rastitelnost Sal-many chskovo vodorazdela (Vegetation of the Sal-Many ch Watershed), 
Moscow, 1931, izd. Inst. agropochvovedeniya (publication of the Soil Science In- 


the plateau is covered with light-chestnut soils containing numerous 
solonetz areas; dark-chestnut soils are developed in the west. The higher 
points are in the southeast and rise above 190 m. To the west, in the direc- 
tion of the Don valley, the plateau decreases in elevation. On the south the 
plateau borders on the Manych depression. The Yergeni Plateau is covered 
with a herbaceous vegetation of fescue and feather grasses. 

Between the Yergeni Plateau, the lower reaches of the Sulak, and the 
lower reaches of the Emba River lies the northern part of the Caspian 
Lowland. Under this heading we include the entire area which was 
submerged during the last major transgression of the Caspian Sea, the 
Khvalynsk transgression, which extended as far north as the line from 
the mouth of the Yeruslan River to Uralsk, and rising to an absolute 
elevation of approximately 50 m. This transgression, which it is believed 
took place during the epoch of the last, or Wurm glaciation, extended 
along the Volga valley far above the mouth of the Yeruslan; in the 
Samara bend its deposits are found up to an absolute elevation of 50 m. 4 
A large part of the lowland, which borders on the Caspian Sea, lies 
below sea level ( 26 m. ) . The steppe along the Volga reaches sea level 
between Yenotayevsk and Cherny Yar. The surfaces of the large salt- 
saturated lakes, Lake Baskunchak (18 m.) and Elton salt lake 
(17.5 m.), lie below sea level. The steppe which surrounds these 
lakes lies 10 to 15 meters above sea level. The Volga valley is bordered 
both on the right and on the left (Akhtuba) sides by rather steep banks, 
which rise some 20 meters above the river. Low-water marks which lie 
below sea level extend along the Volga valley as far as the village of 
Rovnoye, between Kamyshin and Saratov, while along the Ural they 
extend somewhat north of Kalmykov. It is interesting to note that ap- 
proximately 600 Ion. above the mouth, the bottom of the Volga is lower 
than the surface of the Caspian. The following are some of the recorded 
absolute elevations for the lower sections of the Volga: a little above 
Astrakhan, 58 m.; at Astrakhan, - 45 m.; somewhat below Astrakhan, 
53.3 m.; at Biryuchya spit, 26.7 m. These figures indicate that either 
the level of the Caspian Sea has risen recently, or else the land mass in 
the lower reaches of the Volga has undergone subsidence. On the north- 
era shores of the Caspian there are many traces of a relatively recent 
(geologically speaking) rise in the level of the sea. Evidence is found in 
the dissected shore line between the mouths of the Kuma and the 
Volga, the character of the isobaths at the mouths of the Volga, and 

4 E. Permyakov, Byull Mosk. obshch. isp. prir. (Bulletin of the Moscow Society 
for Natural Research), otd. geol. (Geological Section), XIII, 1935, No. 4, p. 467. 


also the discovery of terrestrial deposits on the sea bottom at the mouths 
of the Volga. 

As has been noted above, the entire Caspian Lowland was submerged 
at one time by the Caspian Sea, and salinized clays, numerous solonchaks, 
and extensive sandy areas were left on the surface of the lowland. The 
Caspian is a gigantic salt lake, the largest lake in the world (its area is 
422,100 sq. km.; including islands-424,300 sq. km.). 5 From north to south 
it stretches about as far as from Moscow to the southern shores of the 
Crimea. The northern part is shallow; in many places where the depth is 
2 m., the shore is invisible. The southern part, however, reaches a depth 
of 1014 m. Next to Lake Baikal, the Caspian is the deepest lake in the 
world. Its level is 26 m. lower than that of the Black Sea. As in the case 
of all lakes lacking outlets, the level is subject to considerable fluctua- 
tion, although not so great as is commonly supposed. During the entire 
historic period, the level has not risen more than about 5 m. above the 
1925 level, when the water was very low. Of this we may judge by the 
fact that undisturbed deposits containing the mollusk Cardium edule 
(which penetrated into the Caspian from the Black Sea during the pre- 
historic period) are found on the shores of the Caspian Sea nowhere 
higher than 5 m. above its present level. 

The mean annual evaporation from the surface of the Caspian is equiva- 
lent to a layer of water about 1 m. deep. This loss is compensated for by 
the influx of water from the rivers, of which the Volga contributes the most 
(about 61 cm. per year), and also by rainfall (about 20 cm.). 

We may judge of the ancient extent of the Caspian in the lower Volga 
region by the ancient Caspian deposits which are found there. These 
consist of two layers the lower, Khazarsk, and the upper, Khvalynsk, 
of which we have spoken already. 

The Lower Caspian, or Khazarsk transgression, which took place, it is 
believed, simultaneously with the Riss glaciation, was not very exten- 
sive. Along the Volga its deposits are not found beyond Kamenny Yar, 
or approximately to an elevation of m. 

The Khvalynsk deposits, or the deposits of the last Caspian trans- 
gression, extend much farther north, but even they do not reach as 
far as Saratov (see above, p. 114). It is interesting to note that the 

r> G. R. Bregman and A. I. Mikhalevsky, Vodnij balans Kaspiiskovo morya (The 
Water Balance of the Caspian Sea), BakuJ 1935, izd. Azerbaidzhan. fil. Akad. nauk 
(publication of the Azerbaidzhan Branch of the Academy of Sciences), p. 9. 

L. S. Berg, "Uroven Kaspiiskovo morya za istoricheskoye vremya" (The Level 
of the Caspian Sea During the Historic Period), Probkmy fiz. geografii (Problems 
in Physical Geography), I, 1934, pp. 11-64. 


Khvalynsk deposits extend in lobes along the stream valleys and even 
along the ravines which empty into the streams of the high west bank 
of the Volga. Thus, not only was the Volga in existence during the 
Khvalynsk period, but even the relief of this area was developed before 
the advance of the Khvalynsk Caspian transgression. 

The towns of Dubovka and Kamyshin are located on the terrace of 
the Volga valley which lies next to the flood plain and which here is 
covered by Khvalynsk deposits, while Saratov and Syzran, which are lo- 
cated on the same terrace but farther from the mouth of the Volga, lie 
beyond the limits of the Khvalynsk transgression. 

The accepted scheme of the history of the Caspian during the Quater- 
nary period is as follows (chiefly according to Mazarovich, 1928, 7 and 
Milanovsky, 1931): 

Table G 



Postglacial epoch 


GUnz 1 
Pliocene / 

Level dropped to 20 m. 

Khvalynsk transgression, Upper Caspian layer, elevation 50 m., 

connection with the Black Sea 

Atelsk layer, fresh-water deposits, loesslike clay loams 
Khazarsk transgression, Lower Caspian layer, elevation m. 
Astrakhan layer, estuary, bog, and river deposits 
Baku layer 
Gurovsk layer, fresh-water deposits 

Apsheron, Akchagyl 

It should be kept in mind that the parallel with alpine glaciations is 

In the Volga delta, so-called "Behr's mounds" are very characteristic. 
These ridges, which consist of more or less clayey sands, were described 
first by Behr in 1856. They are from 400 m. to 8 to 10 km. long (and even 
up to 20 km.), and about 200 m. wide. Above Astrakhan their height 
is usually not more than 6 m., while below Astrakhan they may be as high 
as 8 m. On the right bank of the Volga in the Astrakhan region the 
mounds lie ' approximately in an east-west orientation, while in other 
places they are oriented southwest or southeast. The mounds usually are 
the sites of settlements in the delta; the central part of. Astrakhan lies 

7 A. N. Mazarovich, "Opyt skhematicheskovo sopostavleniya neogenovykh i 
posletretichnykh otiozheny Povolzhya" (Experiment in the Schematic Comparison 
of Neogene and Post-Tertiaxy Deposits of the Volga Region), Izv. Akad. naw (Re- 
port of the Academy of Sciences), 1927, pp. 1090-1093. 


on one of them. To the north they are found as far as the Yenotayevsk 
district, to the west as far as the mouth of the Kuma, and to the east 
as far as the mouth of the Emba. The mounds overlie deposits of the 
Khvalynsk transgression; they are composed of diagonally laminated Cas- 
pian sands which contain contemporary Caspian shells (but no Cardium 
edule), and appear to have been the coastal banks of the receding 
Khvalynsk sea. 

The elongated depressions between the Behr's mounds in the region 
of the Volga delta are called ilmens. They are very numerous to the west 
and to some extent to the east of die Volga delta. Many of them are cut 
off from the sea by extensions of the delta. But within the delta the lakes 
( which are found usually in the deltas of big rivers) are also called ilmens. 
In one ilmen of the delta not far from the sea there is Hindu lotus 
(Nelumbo nucifera [Nelumbium nelumbo]); this is the only place in 
Europe where this plant is found. 

The Kuma River in dry years does not reach the Caspian, while the 
Emba flows to the sea only at high water. In summer the water in the 
Emba, as in all shallow rivers of the semidesert, is brackish. 

Large areas of the Caspian Lowland are covered with sands. 

Eastward of a line from Lake Elton to Lake Baskunchak lie the Ryn 
(or Naryn) sands. Here sand mounds and sandy steppe predominate. 
These sands are held fast by tree-shrub and herbaceous vegetation, but 
upon excessive grazing of stock and destruction of sand vegetation, they 
turn into shifting sands. 

East of the Volga delta there is a large area of shifting sands. There 
are sands also to the west, between the lower Volga and the Yergeni 
Plateau. In a natural state the sands are generally held fast; they are 
set in motion as a result of the unwise use to which they are put. 

On the shores of salt-saturated Elton, Baskunchak, and Inder lakes 
there are outcrops of Permian deposits, rich in gypsum and rock salt. 
It is the leaching of the rock salt which gives rise to the salt in the lakes. 

In the semidesert part of the Caspian Lowland there are several iso- 
lated hills. Among these is Bolshoye Bogdo hill, which may be seen from 
a great distance in the steppe, rising 171 m. above Lake Baskunchak 
and 125 to 130 m. above the surrounding steppe. It is composed of dis- 
located Triassic strata. The Inder hills beyond the Ural River rise 56 m. 
above Lake Inder, the absolute elevation of which is 24 m. 8 These 
hills are composed of Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Upper 

8 Z. V. Yatskevich, "Karst Inderskovo podnyatiya" (The Karst of the Inder Uplift), 
Izv. Geogr. obshch. (Report of the Geographical Society), Vol. 69, 1937, p. 940. 


Tertiary (Akchagyl and other) deposits, which are all dislocated. In the 
Inder region, in the layers containing gypsum, rich beds of boric salts 
have been discovered in recent years. 

In the region of the Inder hills, karst phenomena, in the form of sinks 
of different shapes and sizes, are developed extensively. These sinks are 
associated with leaching of the gypsum bed (Yatskevich). 

Another series of low eminences, no higher than 60 m. in relative ele- 
vation, is found between the Volga and the Ural. Beyond the Ural, on 
the watershed of the Saghyz River and the Emba, lie the Imankara 
(absolute elevation 225 m.) and the Koi-Kara (125 m.) hills. But in 
addition to these more prominent hills in the region between the lower 
Volga and the Emba (and also somewhat beyond the Emba), there are 
scattered a large number of low hills (as many as 400). All of these 
eminences, including the Inder hills, belong to the salt-dome type: 
These are local uplifts (brachy anticlines), brought about by the intru- 
sion of salts and gypsum from the lower strata into the more recent sur- 
face formations. 9 The rock salt and gypsum are of Lower Permian age. 
The thickness of the salt series in the domes is tremendous: a borehole 
sunk at Dossor (between the lower Ural and the Emba) passed through 
salt from 774 m. to 2804 m., and still had not reached the end of the salt- 
bearing series. The domes were formed in several stages by a series of 
tectonic movements. In Emba raion the first signs of domes are attrib- 
uted to the end of the Jurassic, but they acquired their present appear- 
ance only during the Upper Tertiary period, between the Sarmatian and 
the Akchagyl strata (Shumilin). The area of the Caspian salt domes 
merges on the north with the Obshchy Syrt (Bogdanov). In the conti- 
nental Jurassic deposits along the Emba there are rich beds of petro- 

Between the Caspian Lowland and the Mugodzhar Mountains lies the 
Emba Plateau, composed of horizontal Cretaceous and Tertiary deposits. 
In many respects it is analogous to the Turgay tableland, which lies on 
the other side of the Mugodzhars. Here, to the south of the Emba, there 
are many low table mountains separated from the plateau by erosion. 
But the Emba Plateau is distinguished from the Turgay country by the 
presence of salt domes. 

9 V. E. Ruzhentsev, "Osnovy tektoniki Uralo-Embenskovo raiona" (Tectonic 
Foundations of the Ural-Emba Region), Byull. Mosk. Obshch. isp. prir. (Bulletin of 
the Moscow Society for Natural Research), otd. geol. (Geological Section), VIII, 
1930; S. V. Shumilin, "O tektonike Embenskovo raiona" (Concerning the Tectonics 
of Emba Raion), ibid., XI, 1933; A. A. Bogdanov, "Solyanie kupola Nizhnevo 
Zavolzhya" (Salt Domes of the Lower Trans-Volga), ibid., XII, 1934. 


Only the southern part of the Mugodzhar Mountains lies in the semi- 
desert. To the south these mountains drop in the steep escarpments of 
the Dzhaman-Tau range, which is composed of igneous and metamorphic 
rocks, and merge into the plain with very little relief. 

To the east of the Mugodzhar system, between it and the Ulu-Tau 
Mountains (elevation 1120 m.) lies the Turgay tableland. On the north 
it passes into the West Siberian Lowland, on the south into the Turanian 
Lowland. The relief of the Turgay tableland is extraordinarily unique. 
Here we see isolated low plateaus and table mountains, with intermit- 
tent depressions. The table mountains were separated from the plateau 
proper by water and wind erosion. They often protrude amid wide sur- 
rounding lowlands in the form of "mountain islands," 100 to 200 m. in 
elevation. Absolute elevations here sometimes reach 300 m., but are gen- 
erally lower. The Aral Sea never extended into this area. The table 
mountains are composed of horizontal Tertiary deposits. 

The southern outskirts of the Kazakh Folded Country, which has been 
mentioned already (pp. 95-96), extend into the zone of the semidesert. 


Under the conditions which obtain in the dry climate of the semidesert 
(and desert), the soils are characterized by low humus content and a thin 
humus horizon ( characteristics which are associated with the sparse veg- 
etation), and by the lesser intensity of chemical processes in the soil, 
and, consequently, by lesser decomposition of the mineral mass. Soils 
which arc only slightly leached contain a large quantity of calcium and 
magnesium salts, and some sodium and potassium salts; water extracts 
from these soils have a slightly alkaline reaction. The horizon at which 
effervescence from hydrochloric acid occurs lies not far from the surface 
of the soil, sometimes even at the very surface. The horizon in which 
salts accumulate is also near the surface. 

In the semidesert, in proportion as water plays an increasingly smaller 
role in soil formation (as Neustruyev points out), the influence of the 
parent rock begins to predominate. Clayey soils are subject to greater 
salinization than sandy soils. Consequently the desert types of soil for- 
mation and vegetation are manifested more clearly on clayey substrata 
than on sands; the latter appear to carry us back into more northern 
zones. In the semidesert and desert "each parent rock has its own cor- 
responding boundary of soil landscapes, or regions. As a result the re- 
gional and subregional boundaries are very tortuous and irregular'' 
(Neustruyev). The character of the parent rock is responsible also for 


the unusual diversity of colors ("complexity") of the semidesert soil 
and vegetation cover, which is determined predominantly by that element 
which is found in least quantity in this case, water. The slightest in- 
crease or decrease in the supply of soil moisture, as a result of the relief 
and the composition of the parent rock, quickly results in a change in the 
soil and vegetation cover. 

In the semidesert under its normal moisture conditions, light-chestnut 
soils predominate. They contain carbonate salts at some depth, but not 
at the surface, as do the desert soils. Light-chestnut soils are solonized; 
that is, their absorption complex includes sodium. The humus horizon 
is only 30 to 40 cm. thick. The amount of humus is small, only 1 to 3 
per cent in the upper horizons, and the humus is distributed unevenly 
through the soil profile. Below the surface horizon, which is 10 to 15 cm. 
thick and has a laminated structure, there lies a compact, slightly sol- 
onized horizon which has a prismatic structure. Below this there is a dis- 
tinctly solonized and compact carbonate horizon. The lower portion of 
the soil profile contains soluble salts. As we have said, at a depth of 
about 0.5 m. these soils contain a large quantity of carbonates, while 
in the lower horizons, from a depth of about 1.8 m., there is usually 

At one time the semidesert soils were classified as brown earths, 
but at present the trend is to classify them with the light-chestnut 

The semidesert contains a great number of salt lakes, solonchaks, and 
solonetz areas (which originate, as we know, from solonchaks). Even 
the rivers often carry salt water. Thus, the water of the Saghyz River 
(between the Ural River and the Emba) is suitable for drinking during 
only one or two months of the year. The soils and subsoils are usually 
salinized. The salts are derived in part from salinized bedrock and sub- 
soils (for example, in the area of Permian salt-bearing rocks, or in that 
part of the Caspian Lowland where the Caspian deposits are saline). 
In part, however, the salts are derived from the chemical weathering of 
rocks which yield salinized soils. As a result of the dry climate, the salts 
are not removed completely from the soil by water, but accumulate to 
some extent in the soils and subsoils. The dry (xerothermic) epoch, which 
preceded the present period, particularly favored the accumulation of 

Solonchaks are formed where ground water, rising by means of capil- 
lary action, is able as it evaporates to precipitate salts on the surface of 
the soil. Solonetz soils, however, are found where ground water is 


unable to rise, and the process is reversed the salts are leached down- 
ward. As a result, these soils have a conspicuous structural, compact, 
brown, illuvial horizon 3 to 8 cm. thick, which breaks down into com- 
pact, usually columnar particles. This compact horizon ( B ) is almost im- 
permeable to water; as a result, water accumulates on the solonetz soils 
during the rainy part of the year. Extracts from the B horizon have a dis- 
tinctly alkaline reaction, showing the presence of sodium, or soda, which 
is injurious to most vegetation. We have discussed already the degrada- 
tion of solonetz soils (p. 79). 


The flora of the semidesert may be characterized briefly as polyn 
[Artemisia spp.] steppe (Fig. 20). In the north the vegetation is of the 
poZj/n-grassy type, that is, with grasses predominating. As we move south- 
ward, the proportion of grasses decreases and pohjns begin to predomi- 
nate. In the south of the semidesert, halophytes assume considerable 
importance. In the semidesert, as distinguished from the steppe zone, the 
herbaceous cover is very thin. The plants are rather widely dispersed, 
with small sod-forming species predominating (Fig. 21). The vegetation 
is stunted and therefore less susceptible to evaporation; however, the 
root systems are very well developed, and the available soil moisture 
may be utilized intensively. 

Of the polyns, the most important are the white and black polyn. The 
slightly salinized clay loams are covered with white polyn (ak-dzhusan) 
different forms of Artemisia maritima (A. incana, A. terrae-albae, and 
others) (Fig. 22). The clayey, more salinized soils are covered with 
black polyn (kara>-dzhu$an) different forms of Artemisia pauciflora. The 
black polyn straightens its leaves only after a rain, while in dry weather 
its black stems, which rise 5 to 10 cm. above the soil, appear to be com- 
pletely without leaves (Fig. 23). During the dry period this plant sheds 
its leaves altogether. Polyn blooms in autumn, when it rapidly develops 
rhachides 20 to 25 cm. high, which die with the onset of frost. Its roots 
extend from the surface to a depth of 1 m. or more. Black polyn contains 
large quantities of volatile oils; the odor of polyn is very characteristic 
for the semidesert zone. 

In addition to polyns, perennial sod-forming grasses of the same spe- 
cies as those found in the steppe zone, or species closely related to them, 
play a large role. Fescue (Festucu sulcata valesiaca) (Fig. 22) is par- 
ticularly abundant here, so much so that the term "fescue-po/t/n" would 
more exactly characterize the vegetation of the semidesert, Koeleria 


(Koeleria gracilis) and feather grasses predominantly of the capillary 
feather-grass group (Stipa capillata), but some of the pinnate group as 
well are also numerous. Another plant is the small undershrub, pros- 
trate summer cypress (Kochia prostrata, Chenopodiaceae). In some 
places saltbush (Atriplex caniim] takes the place of polyn (Fig. 21). 
This squat undershrub is very characteristic of the semidesert. 

Annuals ("ephemerals") are very prominent. They develop in spring, 
when there is relatively more precipitation, but fade quickly with the 
coming of hot weather. These include tulips (Tulipa biebersteiniana, 
T. schrenkii [T. gcsneriana]) , buttercups (Ranunculus polyrhizus), the 
rhubarb Rheum tataricum (tyuic-dzhaprak, or camel's grass; the camel 
is supposed to eat it readily), and others. In the semidesert around 
Astrakhan, the soil in the spaces between the shrubs of white polyn 
is covered with mosses so black that the ground appears charred. In the 
Trans-Ural region these mosses are sometimes replaced by lichens 
(chiefly Parmelia vagans). 

On the solonetz soils, in addition to black polyn, there grow biyurgun 
(Anabasis salsa) (Fig. 24), camphor fume (Camptwrosma monspeliaca) , 
saltbush, prostrate summer cypress, ebelek or sand ceratocarpus (Cerato* 
carpus arenarius), the umbellifer Ferula caspia, tulips, and Siberian sea 
lavender (Statice gmelini [Limoniitm gmclini}}. During the rainy season 
on the solonetz soils there appear colonies of the alga Nostoc commune; 
this alga sometimes grows in the form of black, hairlike threads, over 
30 cm. in length, pressed close to the ground. Lichens grow readily on 
solonetz soils. Some species of the lichen Aspicilia lie freely on the sur- 
face of the earth, sometimes in the form of compact lumps which at first 
glance do not look like plants. 

Various halophytes (among them sarsazan, Halocnemum strobilaceum) 
(Fig. 25), black polyn, shrubs of tamarisk, the shrub Nitraria schoberi, 
and the sea lavender Statice siifruticosa, grow on the solonchaks. 

There are extensive areas of sand in the Trans-Volga in the vicinity 
of Astrakhan. A large part of these sands is in motion at present; shifting 
began as a result of overgrazing by the herds of the nomads. The pioneer 
sand binder of the semidesert is the mammoth wild rye or kiyak (Elymus 
giganteus), incorrectly called the sand oat. This is a large plant, 1.5 m. 
tall (sometimes even taller), which is eaten readily by horses and cattle. 
Another grass found here is the Siberian wheat grass or yerkek (Agropy- 
ron sibiricum), which is an important fodder crop, particularly for 
horses. In the moist depressions in the sands there often grow willow 
or tal (Salix), Russian olive, and other shrubs. In the Ryn sands, in the 


depressions among the sand mounds where fresh ground water is very 
close, there grow white poplar, black poplar, aspen, rosemary creeping 
willow (Salix rosmarinifolia [S. repens rosmarinifolia]) , Russian olive 
(Elaeagnus airgustifolia) , and sweetbrier rose. Poplar grows even on 
the summits of the mounds, while the willow Salix caspica (naryn-tal) 
grows on both the slopes and summits. The stabilized sands are very 
important for cattle raising: they are a constant source of fodder; besides, 
an ice crust never forms on the sands (Dubyansky). The rubber-yielding 
CJwndrilla grows in the sands aJong the desert border. In the flood plain 
of the Volga there is oak (which extends as far south as the latitude of 
Lake Baskunchak), elm, and black poplar, which disappear in the region 
of Yenotayevsk. 


Among the fauna of the semidesert the suslik is very prominent: the 
sand, or yellow suslik (Citellus fulvus), which is found from the Volga 
eastward, and the small suslik (C. pygmaeus), which is native to the 
clayey steppe. There are also jerboas, gerbils which inhabit the sands 
(Meriones meridianus, M. tamaricinus, and the like), hamsters, and 
others. In the sands between the Volga and the Ural there are saiga 
antelope (1934); they are found also in the Trans-Ural region. The corsac 
fox (Vulpes corsak), which is found also in the desert, and to some 
extent in the steppes, occurs throughout the semidesert. Of the larks, 
the black lark and the small lark are common. The flood plains and 
deltas of the large rivers are havens for many birds. They are particu- 
larly abundant in the Volga delta, where the special Astrakhan preserve 
has been established. The most numerous and most characteristic bird 
of the Volga delta is the European cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), 
which nests in colonies in the willows (Salix alba) along the coast; it 
feeds almost exclusively on fish. The gray sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) 
is also very common. Of the geese, only the gray-lag goose (Anser anser) 
nests in the delta. The white egret (Egretta alba [Casmerodius albus]) 
and the little egret (E. garzetta), which were common at one time, are 
rare today, but both are common among the birds which nest in the 
preserve. The brilliantly colored Indian gallinule (Porphyrio polio- 
cephalus) of the Rallidae, and the pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) are 
found occasionally in the Volga delta. 

In the maritime strip of the delta the bearded tit (Panurus biarmicus) 
is common; it is found here all the year round. For some species the 
Volga serves as the western boundary; for example, the yellow suslik, 


the reddish suslik, and the Eversmann hamster. Other species, however, 
are not found east of the Volga; for example, the spotted suslik. 

The Caspian Sea is inhabited by a unique fauna, some of which are 
relicts from the period when the site of the Caspian was occupied by 
Upper Tertiary saline basins, while some migrated from the north during 
the Quaternary period by way of the rivers and lakes. 10 The latter include 
the Siberian whitefish (Stenodus leucichthys), which is closely related 
to the Siberian nelma [S. leucichthijs nelma]; a crustacean marine isopod 
(Chiridothea entomon caspia); several mysids (for example, Mysis 
caspia, very closely related to the arctic M. oculata); other crustaceans; 
and, possibly, the Caspian salmon. The origin of the Caspian seal (Phoca 
caspica) is obscure. 

10 L. S. Berg, "0 proiskhozhdenii severnykh elementov v faune Kaspiya" (Con- 
cerning the Origin of Northern Elements in the Fauna of the Caspian), DokL Akad. 
nauk (Report of the Academy of Sciences), 1928, pp. 107-112. 

VII The Desert Zone 

Boundaries and Definition 

THE desert zone lies to the south of the semidesert, 
I that is, approximately south of the line from the 
northern outskirts of the Ust-Urt Plateau to a point somewhat north 
of Lake Balkhash, and extending as far south as the base of the moun- 
tains which border the Turanian Lowland. With certain exceptions, the 
lower courses of the Kura and the Araks also may be included here. 

The deserts of the middle latitudes have the following characteristics: 
There is very little precipitation, usually less than 150 mm. per year 
(only in the vicinity of the mountains is there more), with the maxi- 
mum coming in the spring. The summers are hot and almost without 
rain. In winter there are frosts, although in the south they are usually 
not severe. The vegetative cover is scant and a larger proportion of the 
surface is bare than is covered with vegetation. Halophytes predominate 
in the latter. The soils are of the sierozem type and contain little humus. 
There are many solonchaks. 


The desert zone of the Turanian Lowland and its northern outskirts 
may be divided into the following three subzones, beginning at the north: 

(1) The northern Tertiary plateaus, covered with solonized gray-brown 
clay loams and including: the Ust-Urt, the plateaulike elevations in the 
parts of the Kara-Kum and Kyzyl-Kum which adjoin the Aral Sea, the 
southernmost oxitposts of the Turgay tableland, and the Bet-Pak-Dala, or 
Northern Golodnaya Steppe. This subzone constitutes the transition to the 

(2) The subzone of sandy deserts including the lowland which ad- 
joins the Caspian, the Trans-Caspian or Turkmenian Kara-Kum, the 
Amu-Darya delta, the Kyzyl-Kum, the Syr-Darya Lowland,, the Muyun- 




Kum, and the Semirechye sands. This subzone is traversed by large rivers. 

(3) The subzone of loessial piedmont plains from the Kopet-Dagh 
on the west to the Trans-Ili Ala-Tau on the east. 

The second and third subzones together constitute the Turanian Low- 


The climate of the desert zone is unique. Its characteristic feature is 
scant precipitation, distributed very unevenly among the seasons. The 
summer is almost or entirely without rain; it is cloudless and hot. The 
maximum precipitation comes in spring. 

The summer is hotter than in the tropics; the heat, together with the 
abundant insolation, is very favorable for the cultivation of cotton, 
grapes, and melons. The mean July temperature is 26 to 30 C., while 
in the tropics it is 24 to 28 C. But due to the diyness of the air, the 
heat in the desert may be endured much more easily than in the tropics. 
Turkmenistan, where the mean July temperatures reach 30 C., and in 
some places even higher, has the hottest summers. In the southern 
Turanian Lowland the temperature on some days in summer may reach 
50 C. in the shade; such temperatures have been recorded in Termez 
on the Amu-Darya. Observed mean temperatures at 1:00 P.M. are as 

Table 7 






Golodnaya Steppe 




From this table it is clear that the temperatures normally observed 
at 1:00 P.M. in the desert in July are such temperatures as have been 
reported in the forest zone only for exceptionally hot days. The soil 
becomes very hot in summer; in Tashkent soil temperatures as high as 
70 C. have been noted; while at Repetek in Turkmenistan on June 20, 
1915, a temperature of 79 C. was recorded on the surface of the sand. 
The diurnal range on the surface of the sand in Repetek reaches 60 C. 


The diurnal range in temperature is great. It reaches a maximum in 
August and September, when cloudiness is least, as a result of which 
the temperature rises sharply during the day and drops at night. In 
September the mean diurnal range at Tashkent is 16 C., while in the 
Golodnaya Steppe it is even greater 19 C. 

The autumn is very beautiful It is dry (particularly the first half), 
sunny, and warm. 

The first frosts come in October, in the north at the beginning of the 
month, in the south in the middle, and in Turkmenistan at the end. 
The winters in the north of the desert zone are severe. The northern 
part of the Aral Sea freezes every year for four or five months. Some- 
times even in the middle of May there are still ice floes. The mean 
January temperature on the lower Syr-Darya is 12 C, that is, lower 
than on the shores of the Gulf of Finland (lat. 60 N). In the southern 
desert the winters are much milder and shorter. In Tashkent the winter 
is wet, and the frosts do not last long; the mean January temperature is 
-1.3 C., but in 1900 it was - 8.3 C. (In Kazalinsk in that year the 
mean for January was 24.3 C.) At times the temperature in Tash- 
kent in winter has dropped to - 30 C., and in Kushka (lat 3517'N) 
even to 33 C, These low temperatures are due to cold waves from the 
north, the advance of which is favored by the relief the absence of 
mountains from the Arctic Ocean to Iran. In southern Turkmenistan it 
is normally very warm in winter. In Repetck there have been years when 
the mean January temperature was + 7 C. Every year in January there 
arc some days in Repetek when the thermometer rises to 20 C., and in 
general the mean diurnal maximum in January is about 11 C. 

The snow cover remains in Kazalinsk for an average of 70 days; in 
Tashkent, 37; in Khodzhent, 18. Spring, which comes in the south at the 
beginning of March or even at the end of February, is very short; hot 
weather follows quickly, in the middle of May or even sooner. April is 
considerably warmer than October, as is generally the case in a con- 
tinental climate. 

- As we move to the north, the summer temperature drops rather slowly, 
while in winter, on the contrary, it drops very quickly. This condition 
explains the long duration of the snow cover in the north of the desert 

In summer the air is very dry. The relative humidity at 1:00 P,M. in 
Kazalinsk and Tashkent averages 33 or 34 per cent There have been 
instances when the humidity in the desert dropped to 5 per cent 

Since the humidity is so low, evaporation from the water surfaces is 


very great. Thus, from the surface of the Syr-Darya at Zaporozhye sta- 
tion die evaporation is about 2 m. per year; the precipitation is one- 
tenth that figure. 

Because evaporation exceeds precipitation in the Turanian Lowland, 
some students have advanced the view that this land is undergoing 
desiccation continuously, that the rivers and lakes are decreasing in 
depth, that the water resources are diminishing, and that the desert 
threatens to engulf the oases. This view, however, is entirely mistaken. 1 
While there is indeed very little precipitation in the lowlands of the 
desert zone (200 to 100 mm., and in some places even less), the rivers 
which water this desert have their sources in the Pamir Mountains and 
the Tian Shan, in areas which have 1000 mm. of precipitation, or more, 
annually. If, in the region of Khodzhent, 2 m. of water per year are 
evaporated from the Syr-Darya, this does not mean that 2 m. of moisture 
per year evaporate also from the soils of the adjoining loessial desert; 
there is no such supply of moisture here to start with. Moisture is pre- 
served very well in the sands of the desert, as is evident from the rela- 
tively rich vegetation that grows on the sands. The following paragraphs 
explain this phenomenon. 

The water-holding capacity of sand, as distinguished from clay, is 
small. The larger the particles of which the sand is composed, the smaller 
the water-holding capacity. As a result, the moisture (from the autumn 
and spring rains and from the melting of the snows) which does not 
run off the surface, descends to the lower horizons, from which evapora- 
tion is negligible. In summer, when the temperature of the sand is higher, 
its capacity to retain water becomes still smaller. While it is true that 
capillary rising of water in sand takes place very quickly, the water rises 
to only a negligible height. Because of the low water-holding capacity 
and the weak capillary action of sand, there is generally little evaporation 
from the surface. When the top layer of the sand dries, evaporation drops 
to a minimum; the deeper the surface layer of the soil dries, the less 
evaporation takes place from the sand, and the more certain is the 
preservation of the supply of moisture in the deeper layers of the soil 
and subsoil. As a result of the negligible content of colloidal particles, 
the sandy substratum loses its salts (is leached) very easily. All of these 
factors go to explain that phenomenon which appears so strange at first 
glance, that in the desert sands, especially in sandy mounds, ground 
moisture is very well preserved, particularly fresh water. For this reason 

1 For detatfs see L. S. Berg, Kltmat i zhizn (Climate and Life), Moscow, 1922, 
p. 160. 

Fig. 15. Vegetation of the chalk cliffs. Undergrowth of Daphne sophia in an oak 
grove in Voronezh ot/ast. (Vegefatfonso/Wer. Vol. 19; part 7/8; plate 43) 

Pig. 16. The steppe in the low Mugodzhar Moun- 
tains, the southern extension of the Urals. (Bolshaya 
Sovetskaya Entsiklopedia. Vol. 56: 183) 

Fig. 17. Typical feather-grass (Stipa) steppe on 
chernozem soil in Voronezh ob/asf, (Vegefaf/ons- 
b//c/er. Vol. 17; part 2; plate 9) 

Fig. 18. The chernozem steppe in Western Siberia. 
Solonetz patches in foreground. (AziafsJraya Ros- 
siya. Vol. 2: 17) 

,.. -r 

Fig. 19. Feather-grass (Stlpa /ess/ngfana) steppe in Voronezh oblast. (Vegetations- 
bilder. Vol. 17; part 2; plate 10) 

Fig. 20. The po/yn (wormwood) steppe near Krasnoarmeisk (Stalingrad ob/asf) in 
the semidesert zone. (Vegefafionsb/lder. Vol. 18; part 4; plate 19) 

Fig. 21. Saltbush (Afn'p/ex canum) in the semi- 
desert near Lake Baskunchak. Note sparseness of 
vegetative cover. (Vegefaf/onsb/'/c/er. Vol. 18; 
part 8; plate 46) 

Fig. 22. White po/vn (wormwood, Artemisia mari- 
time) and fescue (Fesfuca su/cafa) association in 
the semidesert near Krasnoarmeisk, Stalingrad 
oblast. Note patches of bare ground. (Vegefatfo/w- 
bilder. Vol. 18; part 4; plate 20) 

Fig. 23. Black po/yn (Arfem/s/a pauc/flora) in the 
semidesert near Krasnoarmeisk, Stalingrad ob/asf. 
(Vegefafionsbf/a'er. Vol. 18; part 4; plate 22) 

Fig. 24. Biyurgvn (Anabasis salsa) and stony solonchaks on the shores of Lake 
Baskunchak. (Vegefaf/onsb/la'er. Vol. 18; part 8; plate 46) 

Fig. 25. Clumps of the halophyte sarsazan (Halocnemum strobilaceum) on the 
shore of a salt lake (presumably Baskunchak). (Vegefattonsbi/a'er. Vol. 18; part 8; 
plate 44) 

Fig. 26. Ak-Tyube barkhan sands on Mangyshlak Peninsula. (L. S. Berg, Formy 
Russkikh Pustyn. Fig. 13) 

Fig. 27. The eastern shore of Lake Balkhash. (AziafsJcaya Rossiya. Vol. 2: 57) 

: ig. 28. Barkhan dunes in the Kara-Kum, 12 miles 
jast of the Amu-Darya. (Vegetationsbilder. Vol. 3; 
sort 2; plate 7) 

: ig. 29. Surface of a fafeyr in summer. (L 5. Berg, 
: ormy Russkikh Pustyn. Fig. 1) 

: ig. 30. Sand dune stabilized by saxaul (left) and 
eeds (right). Ale-Tyube sands. (L S. Berg, Formy \ 
lusskikh Pustyn. Fig. 24) 

Fig. 31. Clay desert on the Ust-Urt Plateau, north of Lake Sam. (L. S. Berg, 
Formy Russkikh Pusfyn. Fig. 8) 

Fig. 32. Boya/ycri iSa/sola arfauscu/a) and tamarisk (Tamarix) on stabilized sand 
dunes near Farab (several miles east of the Amu-Darya). (Vegefafionsbi/der. Vol. 3; 
part 2; plate 8) 


sands greatly favor the settlement of shrub and semiarboreal vegetation, 
the long roots of which are able to reach ground water. 

In addition to the moisture which the sand receives from precipitation, 
water vapor also penetrates from the atmosphere into the sand and is 
condensed in the surface layer. This happens, as A. F. Lebedev 2 has 
pointed out, when the vapor tension is greater in the atmosphere than 
in the top layer of the soil. During the cold part of the year this condi- 
tion is realized. The absolute humidity of the air in Repetek from Octo- 
ber to February is from 2 to 5 mm., which at temperatures of 10 C. 
to + 1 C. saturates the air. If the temperature of the surface of the sand 
is lower, water vapor from die air can penetrate deeply into the sand 
(B. P. Orlov). In this manner verkhovodkaa. humid layer, which at 
Repetek, for example, lies in summer at a depth of 0.2 to 0.3 m. is 
formed in the sandy subsoil. 

All the evidence that has been presented shows that there is no basis 
for the assertion that under the present precipitation and temperature 
regime the desert zone is undergoing continuous desiccation. On the 
contrary, there is much historical evidence that during the past two to 
three thousand years the climate of Soviet Central Asia has not only 
not become drier, but appears to have become even more moist. In any 
case, the rivers in this area during the past two thousand years have not 
decreased in depth. In the fourth century before our era, just as today, 
the Zeravshan River was lost in the sands, and did not reach the Amu- 
Darya; there is evidence to this effect in the classical writers, Arrian and 
Strabo. The latter writes: "The Politimet [Zeravshan], after watering 
Sogdiana [a province of Samarkand], enters the desert country and there 
is engulfed by the sands." Incidentally, in 1S74, when there was abundant 
precipitation, the Zeravshan ran so full that it forced its way through 
to the Amu-Darya. Of fertile Margiana (that is, the Merv oasis), Pliny 
reports that it was hard to reach, because it was surrounded on all sides 
by sands. Thus, two thousand years ago, even as today, the Murgab 
River, which waters this oasis, was lost in the sands. This was true also, 
according to the testimony of Arabian writers, during the ninth and tenth 

Under present climatic conditions, the sandy deserts of Central Asia, 
if left alone, would not expand their area. They would be overgrown with 
vegetation, and would be held fast. 

We pass on to the subject of precipitation in the desert zone. There 

2 A. F. Lebedev, Pochvennte i gruntovte vodij (Soil and Subsoil Waters), Lenin- 
grad, 1930, Cos. s.-kh. izd. (State Agricultural Publication}. 


are SO to 200 mm. of precipitation annually, and only in the vicinity of 
the mountains is this amount increased. In Tashkent (absolute elevation 
478 m.) precipitation is 350 mm. The distribution of precipitation among 
the seasons is unusual. There is least precipitation in summer. The maxi- 
mum precipitation, close to half the annual quantity, comes in spring, 
when vegetation comes to life for a short time in the desert. On the 
northern boundary of the desert zone there is most precipitation in May; 
in the middle part, in April; in the south, in March. In the north, the 
precipitation is distributed more evenly among the seasons of the year 
than in the middle subzone, and particularly more evenly than in the 
south. In some parts of the desert the summer is entirely without rain. 
Thus, at Bairam-Ali (lat. S740' N) in Turkmenistan, for ten years not 
a single drop of rain fell during July, August, and September, while in 
1903 there was no rain from June through November. In Repetek (Turk- 
menistan) in 1928 there was no rain for half a year, from June through 
November. In Tashkent also, it has happened repeatedly that no rain 
has fallen from the beginning of July until the end of September; nor- 
mally, for these three months there is one rain per month, yielding 2 to 
3 mm. of precipitation. In the Turanian Lowland there is a minimum 
of precipitation in August, when precipitation is at a maximum on the 
shores of the Gulf of Finland. The precipitation in spring and winter is 
explained in large measure by the fact that at this time moisture-bearing 
cyclonic storms pass over the southern part of Soviet Central Asia from 
the west. 

The desert is characterized by clear skies. While in the forest zone of 
the Soviet Union the mean annual figure for cloudiness is 65 to 75 per 
cent, in the Turanian Lowland it is only 35 to 45 per cent, and in some 
places (for example, at Termez on the Amu-Darya) it is less than 30 
per cent. Cloudiness is least in August and greatest in winter, usually 
in January. In winter cloudiness is relatively great (50 to 60 per cent), 
but the summer is practically cloudless. At Termez, according to observa- 
tions over a period of twelve years, the mean cloudiness in August is 
3 per cent; the number of clear days during this month is 30, and there 
is not a single cloudy day. In general, there are 202 clear days per year 
here, and only 37 cloudy days. Nowhere else in the Soviet Union do we 
have such clear skies in summer as are found on the middle Amu-Darya 
and in southern Turkmenistan. (The winters are less cloudy in the Trans- 
Baikal region.) 

In general, Soviet Central Asia is a sunny land. Insolation is much 
greater here than in the forested tropics. Thus, at Bairam-AU in August 


there is 94 per cent of the possible insolation. The summer and the month 
of September in Turkmenistan have a greater number of hours of sun- 
shine than has even Cairo (lat 3005'N),* which lies 6 to 8 farther 
south. The great quantity of light and heat, together with the fertile 
soil (and the soil is fertile because, due to the scant precipitation, it is 
not leached), make the region of Soviet Central Asia very well suited 
for agriculture, particularly for the cultivation of cotton. The abundant 
heat promotes the accumulation of sugar in fruits. The wine and raisins, 
dried apricots, and Chardzhuy melons from this region are famous for 
their sweetness. The spring rains are very favorable for grains, while the 
dry month of September is advantageous for the harvesting of cotton 
and fruits. With the use of artificial irrigation, farmers in the desert zone 
may regulate the water supply to the needs of their crops; there is no 
need to fear either drought or excessive moisture. Side by side with rice, 
which requires abundant water, crops which require little water may be 

Winds in the desert zone generally do not reach a great velocity; calms 
and very gentle winds predominate. In Dzhizak, for example, 62 per cent 
of all periodic observations at the meteorological station show calm. 
The diurnal range in wind velocity conforms to that which is character- 
istic for all continental regions. On clear days the evenings and nights 
are calm, while in the daytime there blow rather strong winds, which 
reach a maximum during the afternoon. Thus, in Repetek, according to 
all mean monthly figures, the wind velocity at 1:00 P.M. is considerably 
greater than in the morning or in the evening, as can be seen from the 
table which appears below, showing the months with the highest and 
the lowest wind velocity. 

Table 8 






7: OOA.M. 
1 : 00 P.M. 
9 : 00 P.M. 







Soviet Central Asia lies southwest of the region of the Siberian anti- 
cyclone, and in winter the pressure decreases to the southwest For this 
reason, cold northeast winds prevail here in winter. The low winter 

* The original reads *lat 3117' N * This is a manifest error.-Tiu 


temperatures here are also explained by this condition. In summer, how- 
ever, the isobaric gradient lies from northwest to southeast. This accounts 
for the prevalence of northwest winds in summer. However, in the south, 
closer to the mountains, there are some departures from this scheme. 
There are exceptions also in some other places. 

Mention may be made of several of the local winds. In the area from 
the Dzhungarian Gates (the pass between the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau and 
the Barlyk range, which leads into the basin of Lake Ebi-Nor in China) 
to the eastern end of Lake Balkhash, there blows, during the cold period 
of the year, a southeast or east wind called the ibe, or ebe. This wind, 
analogous to the foehn, is distinguished by a relatively high temperature. 
Sometimes after frosts of 20 to 30 G, a thaw may accompany 
the ibe. Since this wind is also dry, it reduces or altogether removes the 
snow cover, and thus favors stock raising. 

Along the upper course of the Amu-Darya, particularly at Termez, a 
very dusty southwest or west-southwest wind, called the afghanets, often 
blows. In Termez the afghanets blows 40 to 70 days of the year. This 
wind is associated with the intrusion of cold masses of air from the north 
or northwest The dust shroud during the period of the afghanets some- 
times rises as high as 4000 m. 


We shall describe the relief of the Turanian Lowland according to 
subzones. But first we shall say something about that part of the low- 
land adjoining the Caspian (see above, pp. 114-115) which lies within 
the desert zone. We are interested now in that part of the lowland which 
adjoins the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea from the northern boundary 
of the Ust-Urt Plateau to the boundary of Iran (the Atrek River). 

During the epoch of the Khvalynsk transgression, the Caspian ex- 
tended rather far to the east along the foot of the northern escarpment 
of the Ust-Urt. Shells of Caspian mollusks have been discovered on the 
slopes of the Chegan basin, the bottom of which in 1915 lay 20 m. below 
the level of the Aral Sea, that is, at an absolute elevation of 32 m. The 
dry basin of Lake Batyr (or Karagie) on the Mangyshlak Peninsula 
reaches 130 m. below sea level. 3 We have here the deepest depression on 
dry land within the boundaries of the Soviet Union. The famous Lyuk- 
chunsk basin near Turf an (China) reaches the same depth. 

3 E. M. Murzayev, "Novie dannie po gipsometrii besstochnykh kotfovin Turanskoy 
nizmennosti*" (New Data on the Hypsometry of the Landlocked Basins of the Turanian 
Lowland), Izv. Geogr. obshch. (Report of the Geographical Society), 1936, p. 744. 


JCara-Bogaz-Gol Gulf of the Caspian, with an area of 18,346 sq. km. 
and an average depth of 10 m., constitutes a sort of vast natural 
laboratory at the bottom of which there is deposited Glauber's salt 
(Na 2 SO 4 .10HoO), as well as some sodium chloride and gypsum. About 
23.5 cu. km. of water from the Caspian flow into Kara-Bogaz-Gol Gulf 
annually (S. Shcherbak) and evaporate here. This bay, by extracting salts 
from the Caspian Sea, makes the latter somewhat less saline. 

At Krasnovodsk, on the shores of Balkhan Bay, and on the slopes of 
the Great and Little Balkhan, there is a series of terraces and beaches, 
traces of former levels of the Caspian Sea. The highest of these terraces, 
which contain Caspian niollusks (but no Cardium edule), lie at an eleva- 
tion of about 75 m. above the present surface of the Caspian (that is, 
at the elevation of the surface of the Aral Sea). During the epoch of 
the transgression [which produced these terraces], Caspian waters sub- 
merged the lowlands of western Turkmenistan east of a line from Kizil- 
Arvat to Kurtysh (on the Uzboy). Between the Great and Little Balkhan 
there was a strait, by means of which the Caspian was connected with the 
Uzboy valley (see below). Of the various Tertiary transgressions of the 
Caspian, the one which extended farther east than any other was the 
Sarmatian, which covered at least a part of the Aral Sea, and extended 
along the foot of the Kopet-Dagh almost as far as the meridian of Geok- 

The Caspian petroleum-bearing region of Turkmenistan is worth 
noting; it is delimited approximately by Cheleken, Nebit-Dagh (Nefte- 
dagh), and Chikishlyar. 4 Cheleken Island, which rises 119 m. above the 
surface of tihe Caspian, lies at the entrance of Krasnovodsk Bay. Faults 
are of fundamental importance in the relief of Cheleken Island; Andrusov 
likens this island to a broken plate. According to some authorities, 
Cheleken is underlain at a certain depth by a massif of young igneous 
rocks, to which the faulting is attributed. Cheleken is composed of Ter- 
tiary deposits, which are petroleum-bearing. On the island there are mud 
volcanoes from which there is seepage of petroleum. There are many 
springs, some of which precipitate sodium chloride, others limonite. One 
of the ferruginous springs has a temperature of 63 C. Many of the 
springs emit gaseous hydrocarbons. The streams contain so much salt 
that with the extensive evaporation here in summer, they become dammed 
by deposits of sodium chloride. On the island there is a circular salt 

4 For details and bibliography, see L. S. Berg, Retyef Turkmenii (The Relief of 
Turkmenistan), Sbomik "Turkmeniya" (Collection "Turkmenia"), II, 1929, izd Akad. 
nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences). 


lake, Porsu-Gyol, which is the crater of an ancient mud volcano. Today 
there is emission of gases and seepage of petroleum in the center of the 
lake. The desert characteristics of Cheleken are very conspicuous. Here 
we see fine examples of wind erosion of bedrock: niches, pillars, and 
"mushrooms." Kz'r, sand which has been cemented by petroleum, is very 
resistant to wind erosion. For this reason crusts of kir form plateaus 
with steep edges. As it dries, the kir crust breaks into prisms which 
resemble basaltic prisms. 

On the continent opposite Cheleken, amid the flat surfaces composed 
of the latest deposits, individual low hills (Nebit-Dagh [Neftedagh], 
MonzhuHy, Boya-Dagh, and others) appear unexpectedly; they consist 
of dislocated Tertiary strata. Some authorities consider these eminences 
laccoliths of a sort, that is, beds of sedimentary rocks lifted by masses 
of lava which hardened at some depth, before they had time to break 
through to the earth's surface. Others, however, regard these eminences 
as salt domes, which appears to be more likely (see above). Nebit-Dagh 
(Neftedagh), with an absolute elevation of 45 m., rises sharply above 
the surrounding vast solonchak, Baba-Khodzha, which will be dis- 
cussed below. In this hill, which is composed of dislocated Upper Ter- 
tiary deposits, there are petroleum beds, which are being exploited at 

In the region of Chikishlyar there are several mud volcanoes. Some, 
like Zeleny hill, rise 96 m. above the level of the Caspian. A number of 
them emit gases and mud. On the sea bottom in the region of Chikishlyar 
there are some submerged volcanoes which emit gases. 

1. Relief of the northern subzone the Tertiary plateaus. 

The Ust-Urt 5 is a plateau between the Caspian and Aral seas, bounded 
on almost all sides by distinct escarpments. The eastern escarpment, 
which drops to the Aral Sea, in some places reaches a relative elevation 
of 190 m. The surface of the Ust-Urt, composed of Sarmatian strata, is 
flat It contains scattered depressions, occupied by sands, solonchaks, or 
salt lakes* The Sam sands (absolute elevation 75 to 85 m.), which lie 
next to the lake of the same name, are well known. Here, at the shallow 
depth of 2 to 3 m. there is fresh ground water. However, in parts of the 
Ust-Urt which are not sandy, the ground water lies very deep, at 20 to 
50 m. and even 70 m., and the water is seldom fresh; it is usually more 
or less brackish. There is no fresh surface water on this plateau. The 

5 O. S. Vyalov, "Gidrogeologichesky ocherk Ust-Urta" ( Hydrogeological Sketch of 
the Ust-Urt), Trudy Vsesoyuzn. geol-razved. obyedin. (Proceedings of the All-Union 
Geological Survey Association), No. 319, 1935, p. 66, geological map, bibliography. 


highest points of the Ust-Urt reach an absolute elevation of more than 
300 m. 

The Aral Sea is an enormous saline lake, second to the Caspian in size 
among the lakes of the Old World. But this expansive basin is shallow; 
depths of 10 to 20 m. are typical ? and only near the steep western shore 
does the depth reach 68 m. The water is rich in sulphates. The fauna 
include Caspian elements, which point to a previously existing connec- 
tion with that body of water. It is noteworthy that the mollusk Carditim 
edule, which is found on the shores of the Caspian in fossil form at levels 
no higher than 21 m. absolute elevation (or 5 m. above the surface 
of the Caspian), inhabits the Aral Sea, the surface of which lies at an 
absolute elevation of 52 m. (the mean figure for the years 1911-1931). 
Deposits containing C. edtile on the shores of the Aral Sea rise no higher 
than 3 m. above the present surface of this basin. The Aral region and 
the Turanian Lowland were formerly mistakenly called the Aralo- 
Caspian Lowland. At the time this name was used, it was believed that 
a large part of the Turanian Lowland was covered by the waters of the 
Aralo-Caspian Sea during the Quaternary period. This is not the case. 
As we can see, the Aral Sea could not have been connected with 
Lake Balkhash during the Quaternary period; the absolute elevation 
of Lake Balkhash is 3.40 m. s and at its greatest extent it reached beyond 
its eastern and southeastern shores no farther than several tens of kilo- 
meters from the present shore line. It may be that the Aral Sea, or, more 
exactly, its fresh-water arms, extended as far northeast as Lake Chalkar, 6 
the surface of which lies at the same elevation. The Aral Sea cannot 
have reached beyond Chalkar, since' to the north of this lake there are 
hills composed of Tertiary deposits which rise more than 120 m. above 
the lake. 

At the time of its maximum extent, the Aral Sea was connected with 
the Caspian by way of the Uzboy (see below). 

The Kara-Kum sands adjoin the northeast shore of the Aral Sea. A 
large part of this area of sand is covered with stabilized sandy mounds, and 
there are shifting sands (barkhans) only where the vegetation has been 
destroyed by man (Fig. 26). In some parts of the Kara-Kum there are 
individual tablelike eminences of the same type as those found in the 
Turgay tableland. The northern part of the Kara-Kum belongs to the 
zone of the semidesert West of the Kara-Kum as far as the Aral Sea lie 
the Malie Barsuki sands, and still farther west, the Bolshie Barsuki sands, 
a large part of which also belong to the semidesert. 

6 Not to be confused with Lake Ghelkar at the railroad station of the same name. 


The Bet-Pak-Dala plateau, or the Northern Golodnaya Steppe, extends 
as far south as the Chu River. Here its absolute elevation is about 130 m. 
It increases in elevation to the north. On the west the plateau drops to 
the Sary-Su River in an escarpment 40 to 60 m. high. On the west it is 
composed of horizontal layers of clay and sandstone, predominantly of 
Tertiary age. On the east, however, toward Lake Balkhash, the Bet-Pak- 
Dala constitutes a continuation of the area of mslkosopoclinik (see above, 
pp. 95-96). 

Lake Balkhash is an enormous landlocked basin, about 600 km. long, 
but very shallow; its average depth is only 6 m. (Fig. 27 ). 7 The level 
of the lake, which lies at an elevation of about 340 m., fluctuates widely, 
depending on climatic changes. It is interesting that die water of the 
western part of the lake, into which the Hi River empties, is fresh, while 
the water of its eastern part is slightly brackish. The presence in the 
desert of such a lake, partly fresh and partly saline, constitutes a geo- 
graphic paradox. It may be that Lake Balkhash came into existence rela- 
tively recently and has not had time as yet to turn completely saline 

To the north of Lake Balkhash there are terraces which rise to an 
elevation of 130 m. above the surface of the lake, that is, up to 470 m. 
in absolute elevation. At the time these terraces were formed, the lake 
reached as far as the basin of Ebi-Nor in China. At Kounrad, near the 
northern shore of the lake, there are rich deposits of copper ore, sprinkled 
in the igneous rocks (quartz diorite-porphyries ) . 

2. Relief of the subzone of sands. 

As to the origin of the desert sands, it was believed formerly (Walter) 
that the sandy massifs were formed by wind erosion of desert rocks. 
But Penk (1909), Neustruyev (1915), and Lichkov suggest that the 
greater part of the sandy areas of the Turanian Lowland are of fluvial 
origin: The Kara-Kmn which adjoins the Aral Sea may have been formed 
by deposition from the lakes and the river, which at one time emptied 
into the Aral Sea. The Kyzyl-Kum is traversed by old river channels. Many 
rivers lose themselves in the Trans-Caspian Kara-Kum; and there are old 
river channels here also (see below). The epoch during which the Tura- 
nian rivers abounded in waters and transported large quantities of sand 
must belong to the glacial period. Explorers of the Sahara (Gautier and 

7 P. F. Domrachev, Issledvoaniya ozer S.S.S.R. (Exploration of the Lakes of the 
U.S.S.R.), izd- Gidrol. inst. (publication of the Hydrological Institute), No. 4, 1933, 
p. 44. (This also includes a bibliography on Balkliash.) 


Chudeau, 1908-1909) believe that the sands of this desert also are the 
result of the weathering of Quaternary alluvium by wind. 

The Trans-Caspian Kara-Kum s is the vast area of sand which is 
bounded on the east by the Amu-Darya, and which extends as far west 
as the Uzboy valley, as far north as the escarpment of the Kara-Kum 
(Unguz) Plateau, and as far south as the Kopet-Dagh piedmont. The 
Kara-Kum contains a tremendous area of shifting sands. Thus, between 
Mary and Chardzhuy (and also farther east), the railroad passes through 
a sandy sea of bare, shifting sand mounds barkhans. The height of the 
barkhans reaches 9 to 10 m., but most of them rise only 5 to 7 m. above 
the depressions. These shifting sands were produced in the Kara-Kum 
as a result of the grazing of cattle, the plowing of sands on the outskirts 
of the oases, and the destruction of saxaul thickets and other sand-binding 
agents. Fundamentally, with very few exceptions, the Kara-Kum sands 
were at one time held fast. The original shifting barkhan sands exist 
only along the Amu-Darya, where they were formed by wind erosion 
of the sandy-clayey alluvial deposits. All of the remaining area of the 
Kara-Kum is covered with sands which in their natural state would have 
been covered with vegetation. The weight of opinion at present is in- 
clined to attribute an alluvial origin to the sands of the Kara-Kum. 

Four types of sandy landscapes are distinguished in the Kara-Kum: 
barkhan sands, mound sands, ridged sands, and sandy plain. 

Barkhan sands are developed along the Amu-Darya. The barkhan strip 
at Chardzhuy is 40 to 50 km. wide. Individual barkhans often combine 
into barkhan chains, from 3 to 4 m. to 6 to 8 m. high (Fig. 28). The 
barkhan chains, like the individual barkhans, lie in a northeast-southwest 
direction, showing the prevalence of N and N\V winds (in summer) and 
S and SE winds (in winter). Depending on the winds, the chains shift 
their position, in summer to SE, in winter to NW. The annual range of 
their movement is about 20 m. No continuous movement of the sands 
in one direction (which formerly was believed to take place) has been 
observed, however. This same kind of movement is found in the barkhan 
chains at Repetek and throughout the Kara-Kum in general. Only the 
top of the chain shifts, while the foundation remains more or less sta- 
tionary. Crescent-shaped barkhans, with crests which face in the direc- 
tion of the wind, are found only rarely in the Amu-Darya valley; in the 
Kara-Kum they are altogether absent. 

Mound sands are extensive in Turmenistan. The height of the mounds 

8 See Kara-Kum, fad. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), 1930 f. 


may reach 8 to 10 in., but more often is 6 to 8 m. They are held fast 
by shrubs, among them white saxaul (Fig. 30). Under the crown o sand 
vegetation, the sand becomes compacted, cemented, and a radical change 
in the water regime results. Atmospheric moisture can no longer be 
absorbed into the deep layers so quickly; in large measure it remains 
on the surface and evaporates. Thus, conditions favorable to the settle- 
ment of the black, or solonchak saxaul are created (Dubyansky). 

The ridged sands are characterized by long, parallel ridges, running 
approximately north and south. In some places the ridges are connected 
by cross ridges. The average height is 15 to 20 m.; in some places it 
reaches 25 to SO m. The depressions between the main ridges are usually 
60 to 80 m. wide. The eastern slopes of the main ridges are more gentle 
than the western slopes. Among the ridged sands there are many takyrs 
(compact clayey areas) and solonchaks, which will be discussed below. 
The ridged sands are held fast by vegetation. The origin of this type 
of sands is obscure. They may have been formed during the Quaternary 
period at the time when the large lakes in the Kara-Kum region con- 
tracted their areas. In the central Kara-Kum, Quaternary lacustrine de- 
posits have been found. Some authorities (B. Petrushevsky, 1937) ascribe 
an aeolian origin to the ridged sands. 

Sandy plains. Some areas are covered with more or less flat or slightly 
rolling sand. There are extensive sandy plains, held fast by vegetation, 
between the Murgab and the Kelif Uzboy. 

Tafcyrs, which are very widespread in the desert zone in general and 
are common in the Kara-Kum, are flat clayey spaces, which lie in the 
gentle depressions. In spring, during the rainy season, many of the takyrs 
are turned into shallow lakes, and sometimes even into very large ones. 
They dry up in summer, and their clayey surface cracks in the manner 
of parquet floor (Fig. 29). A typical takyr is not covered with vegetation. 
At some depth in the takyr, salinization by gypsum and sodium chloride 
appears. Thus, a takyr is a deep solonchak. The thin surface crust 
(compacted and containing some absorbed sodium), on the other hand, 
according to I. Gerasimov (1931), constitutes a rudimentary solonized 
horizon. According to him, the takyr results from the leaching of salinized 
clayey or clay-loam soils by atmospheric waters, which in the desert 
always contain alkali. The upper horizons become more dispersed, and 
as they dry, give rise to a takyr crust The takyrs often become salinized 
from the surface, turning into typical solonchaks. 

Shor, or sor, is a native word for solonchak. The shors which lie at the 
southern boundary o the ridged sands are elongated depressions, 2 to 


5 km. long. Their banks, which are sometimes terraced, are rather high, 
15 to 20 m. The bottom of a shor is swampy and covered with salts. 
Some authorities regard the Kara-Kum shors as the result of karst 

Turkmenistan has several dry river channels, concerning which there 

exists an extensive literature. Let us consider first the Uzbov svstem. 

* * 

By "Uzboy system" we mean the aggregate of channels and their 
associated basins along which at one time the waters from the Aral basin 
drained into the Caspian. Subsequently this system became a bed for 
the drainage of part of the waters of the Amu-Darya into the Caspian. 
The Uzboy system consists of (1) the dry channel of the Kunya-Darya, 
(2) the Sarykamysh basin, and (3) the dry channel of the Uzboy. 

The Kunya-Darya is the old channel (now dry) of the Amu-Darya 
which flowed in the direction of the Sarykamysh basin. It is partitioned 
by two large dams. When the river is at high water, a small quantity of 
water enters the Kunya-Darya, but does not travel very far. However, 
in 1878 the waters of the Amu-Darya broke through into the Kunya- 
Darya and reached as far as the Sarykamysh lake, raising its level by 
about 8 m. 

The Sarykamysh basin lies southwest of the delta of the Amu-Darya. 
The borders of the basin, which were the shores of the old Sarykamysh 
lake, have an elevation of 3 to 4 m. above the level of the Aral Sea. The 
outlet of the Uzboy from the basin also lies at this elevation. To the 
north and west the basin is bounded by the escarpments of the Ust-Urt; 
to the south it has extended approximately as far as the wells of the 
Charyshla, where the old Sarykamysh lake joined the series of lagoons 
and lakes in which the Uzboy had its source. The lowest part of the 
basin is occupied by the two Sarykamysh lakes, which in dry years may 
evaporate completely, turning into solonchaks, as happened, for example, 
in the years 1913 and 1914. The level of the lakes in 1881 was 39 m. 
below sea level; obviously, the depression in which they lie is a deep 
one. On the bottom of the basin in some places there are shells of 
Cardium edule, sometimes in large numbers; they occur up to a height 
of 7 to 12 m. above the basin floor; that is, up to 32 to 27 m. below sea 
level. In other parts of the Sarykamysh depression there are "Sary- 
kamysh" deposits which contain numerous shells, but no C. edule. These 
deposits belong to an earlier period than those which contain C. edule, 
which penetrated into the Caspian and Aral seas during the most recent 
geological period. During the epoch when the Sarykamysh strata were 
deposited, the slightly brackish Sarykamysh basin was connected on the 


one hand with the Aral Sea, on the other, by means of the Uzboy, with 
the Caspian. 

The method by which Cardium edule penetrated into the Sarykamysh 
and Aral basins is still obscure. In the Sarykamysh basin the shells of this 
mollusk are found only as far as the elevation of the present level of 
the Caspian Sea ( 26 m.). In the Aral basin, however, they are found 
up to an absolute elevation of + 55 m. 

The Uzboy, as we have said above, has its source in the southern end 
of the Sarykamysh basin. The total length of this channel, measured as 
far as the base of the Great Balkhan Mountains, is 550 km. In this dis- 
tance the floor of the channel drops 75 m.; thus, it corresponds to the 
difference in elevation between the Aral Sea and the Caspian. In some 
places the Uzboy has worn its channel through the Sarmatian limestones 
of the Ust-Urt, which form ledges in the channel 6 and even 8 m. high. 
At 3 km. below its crossing by the railroad, the channel disappears. 
Here at one time the Uzboy emptied into a bay of the Caspian Sea, 
which today is the vast Baba-Khodzha solonchak. From this solonchak 
the Aktam channel (about 40 km. long), which empties into Balkhan 
Bay, leads into the Caspian. The Aktam is therefore the terminal portion 
of the Uzboy. In the Aktam channel lies the Molla-Kara salt lake, where 
there is a health resort. 

There are shells of Cardium edule in the Baba-Khodzha solonchak. 
Although, as we have seen, this mollusk is absent along the entire extent 
of the Uzboy channel in the Sarykamysh basin, other Caspian mollusks 
are present. 

Classical authors talk about the debouchment of the Amu-Darya (the 
Oxus) into the Caspian Sea. It may be that at one time a part of the 
waters of the Amu-Darya drained into the Caspian by way of the Uzboy. 
From the middle of the thirteenth century until 1573, as Barthold pointed 
out, water flowed again in the Uzboy. At that time only a part of the 
waters of the Amu-Darya can have flowed here; the rest were directed 
toward the Aral Sea. There is direct evidence of this in the works of the 
Iranian author Kazvini (1339). 

In addition to the Uzboy, there are other dry channels west of the 
Amu-Darya. The so-called Kelif Uzboy, which has its source in Afghanis- 
tan, belongs to this category. In 1907 water from the rivers of Afghanistan 
penetrated into this indistinct channel. 

The Kara-Kum sands reach northeast as far as the edge of the Kara- 
Kum Plateau, which rises 60 to 80 m. above the desert sands. To the 
north the plateau, which is composed of horizontal rocks of Upper 


Tertiary age, declines gradually. At the foot of the escarpment lies the 
so-called Unguz a series of dry depressions and shors (that is, hollows 
occupied by solonchaks) which some authorities believe to be one of 
the ancient channels of the Armi-Darya. Along the bottom of the Unguz 
the absolute elevation fluctuates between 95 and 115 m. 

In the Kara-Kum south of the edge of the plateau, there are round, 
conical, and plateau-shaped hills, which have been detached from the edge 
of the plateau. These hills rise 20 to 60 m. above the surrounding country* 
Some of them, for example, in the region of the Shie wells, are noted 
for their sulphur beds. The origin of the sulphur is obscure; it is believed 
that its accumulation took place as a result of chemical processes in sedi- 
mentary rocks rich in sulphates. 

The delta of the Amu-Darya begins at Nukus. The position of the 
branches of the delta changes continuously, partly as a result of the work 
of the river itself, partly because men have dammed or diverted some of 
the branches. 

The Kyzyl-Kum desert borders on the eastern shores of the Aral Sea 
in the area between the deltas of the Amu-Darya and the Syr-Darya. 
The sands of the Kyzyl-Kum are almost completely stabilized. The north- 
ern part of the desert is traversed by the dry channel of the Yany-Darya 
(Dzhany-Darya), which branches off from the middle course of the Syr- 
Darya and empties into the Aral Sea. Along its shores there are traces 
of settlement and ancient irrigation canals (art/fcs). In some parts of the 
Kyzyl-Kum there are elevations composed of Paleozoic rocks (on the 
north, Bukan-Tau, 700 m.; Tamdinsk Ak-Tau, 1029 m.). The folds of 
these elevations extend latitudinally; they form the tectonic continuation 
of the Sultan-Uiz-Dagh. The Tamdinsk Ak-Tau rises 600 to 650 m. above 
the Kyzyl-Kum. 

The Syr-Darya Lowland, which borders both sides of the Syr-Darya 
to its mouth in the Aral Sea, is bounded on the east by the Kyzyl-Kum 
and the Southern Golodnaya Steppe. The lowland consists of the present 
flood plain and the ancient valley of the Syr-Darya. To the north of the 
Kara-Tau Mountains, the lowland reaches as far as Lake Tele-Kul, in 
the lower reaches of the Chu River. From the accounts of local inhabit- 
ants, Neustruyev reports that about 1898, when water was abundant, 
the waters of Tele-Kul penetrated into the Syr-Darya and rushed along 
the escarpment of the Kara-Kemir. This escarpment, which is only 2 to 
5 m. high, and bounds the Syr-Darya valley on the east, forms the 
western edge of the Bet-Pak-Dala Plateau. The floor of the ancient valley 
of the Syr-Darya lies 5 to 10 m. above the present flood plain, and exten- 


sive areas are occupied by solonchaks and takyrs. The present flood plain 
or tugay belt of the Syr-Darya is covered with salinized meadows, sandy 
mounds, and in some places puffy solonchaks. The flood plain may be 
recognized from a distance in the desert by its verdant reeds, individual 
poplar trees, and spiny thickets of Siberian salt tree, a leguminous shrub 
(Halimodendron argenteum [H. halodendron argenteum]), in which 
pheasants take shelter. The Syr-Darya deposits so much alluvium in its 
channel that in its lower course the channel lies higher than the sur- 
rounding country-, and the river flows along the crest of a low and gently 
sloping ridge. 

Between the Kara-Tau range and the Chu River lie the Muyun-Kum 
sands, which extend for more than 500 km. The elevation of the central 
part of these sands is 300 to 3SO m. 

The Semirechye plain, drained by the Hi, Karatal, and other rivers, 
descends to Lake Balkhash, of which we have spoken already. Vast sandy 
areas stretch as far as the low southern shore of Balkhash. 9 Between the 
111 and the Karatal rivers these sands are traversed by dry channels 
(Bakanasy) which branch from the Ili River. Along these dry channels 
there are vast thickets of saxaul. 

3. We come now to a description of the loessial piedmont plains, where 
most of the arable land is found. These plains are covered by loess or 
loesslike material. 

The origin of the Central Asiatic loess is explained by tie same hy- 
potheses as the origin of the European loess (see above, p. 70 ff.). 
The adherents of the wind hypothesis believe that the dust, so charac- 
teristic for Central Asia, gives rise to the loess. But, in the first place, 
this loess, as we shall see (p. 147), is not a contemporary but a geological 
formation, as it is overlain by sierozem soils. In the second place the 
loessial dust of Central Asia is an artificial product, a result of the plow- 
ing of the soils which are developed on the loess, the wind erosion of 
the sands trampled by livestock, and the erosion of soils on the public 
roads. As observations at the special dust station at Osh have shown, the 
Fergana dust is formed from loesses. There is no reason to believe that 
aeolian loess was deposited here in the geological past as well. It is our 
opinion that deposits of various origins may have served as the parent 
material for the Central Asiatic loesses: glacial mud, carried onto the 
plain by mountain streams during the glacial period; river (fluvioglacial) 

9 S. A. NiHtin, "Pesld zapadnovo Pribalfchashya" (The Sands of the Western 
Balkhash Region), Trudy Pochv. inst. Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Soils Institute 
of the Academy of Sciences), XI, 1935, pp. 147-225, with a map. (This article deals 
also with the sands of the southern Balkhash region, ) 


deposits of the same period; and alluvial fan deposits of the postglacial 
period. On the slopes of the Kopet-Dagh in Turkmenistan, the gravel on 
the lower slopes gradually grades into loesslike clay loams, sometimes 
alternating with beds of fine gravel, sometimes completely free from 
gravel. The piedmont loesses are always interbedded with layers of 
gravel, which also testifies to the large part played by alluvial fans in 
the formation of these loesses. In the southeastern Kara-Kum there are 
extensive areas of alluvial sands, which have changed into loesslike sands 
under the influence of the processes of weathering and soil formation 
in a dry climate. Similarly, the contemporary alluvium in the delta of the 
Amu-Darya is assuming a loesslike appearance. The loesses of the Golod- 
naya Steppe without a doubt are deposits of the ancient Syr-Darya; they 
are interbedded with layers of sand and gravel. All of these facts testify 
to the fluvial origin of the parent material of the loesses and loesslike 
strata in this area. 

Loess is a material which is easily pulverized. In summer the towns of 
Central Asia may be recognized from a distance by the heavy shroud 
of loessial dust which hangs over them. This dust is a characteristic 
feature of all the settlements of Central Asia. Carried by winds and con- 
vectional currents, the fine dust rises to a height of at least 6000 m. 
Often during the dry period of the year when gales are blowing, the 
whole sky is covered by a continuous turbid shroud. In general a whitish, 
foggy atmospheric coloration is very characteristic for the landscape here. 

On the loesses of Soviet Central Asia sierozems are developed; they 
are among the most fertile soils on earth. Thus, it is easy to understand 
why the loessial piedmont plains of Central Asia were the sites of very 
ancient culture. The sloping loessial piedmont plain marks the first step 
toward vertical zonation. 

The elevation of the piedmont plain in Turkmenistan, judging from 
the elevations of the railroad stations, is from 100 to 300 m. Among the 
other loessial regions, the Golodnaya Steppe between Dzhizak and the 
Syr-Darya, which on the north merges into the Kyzyl-Kum sands, varies 
in elevation between 240 and 290 m. The Golodnaya Steppe falls away 
to the Syr-Darya in a clearly defined bluff, 6 to 20 m. high. Here extensive 
irrigation works are under construction. Another loess plain is the vast 
Fergana Lowland, which is about 300 km. long and 170 km- wide, 
although its entrance at Khodzhent (absolute elevation 320 m.) is only 
9 km. wide. The floor of the lowland has an elevation between 350 and 
500 m. and is covered by loess and sands. The Syr-Darya runs along the 
full length of the lowland. 


Loessial piedmont plains are developed also at the foot of the Alek- 
sandrovsk range and the Trans-Ili Ala-Tan, but they are absent at the 
foot of the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau. 


The Turanian Lowland is watered by several large rivers the Amu- 
Darya, the Zeravshan, the Syr-Darya, the Chu, and the Hi; but they all 
lie in interior basins, and have no outlet to the ocean. These rivers have 
their sources high in the Tian Shan and the Pamirs, which are covered 
with snow and glaciers. As they flow through the desert, they lose a 
tremendous amount of water by evaporation. Much water is taken also 
for irrigation. These rivers carry a maximum amount of water in summer, 
when the melting of ice and snow takes place most intensively in the 
mountains. Those rivers which are fed largely by the melting of low- 
lying mountain snows, reach their maximum flow at the beginning of 
the summer. Thus, the Naryn River, which belongs to the category of 
rivers which are fed by mixed sources (that is, by the melting of ice 
and both high-mountain and low-mountain snows), reaches its maximum 
discharge at the beginning of June. 

The waters of the Amu-Darya are extremely muddy. During the year 
1911, at Kerki the river carried about 50 cu. km. of water and about 0.2 
cu. km. of mud; of this figure, 92 per cent was recorded for the summer 
half-year. In some years there is even more drift. Due to the large quan- 
tity of mud, the river forms sand bars in its channel very rapidly, which 
it shifts just as rapidly, because of the swift flow. The quantity of soluble 
substances in the waters of the Amu-Darya is also tremendous. In Feb- 
ruary, when the salt content of the water of the Amu-Darya is greatest 
(as is usual for rivers in temperate latitudes), a liter of water at Kerki 
contains 0.601 gram of salt The average daily turnover of soluble sub- 
stances here was 81 thousand tons* for the summer half-year of 1912, 
while for the winter half-year it was 42 thousand tons. An enormous 
quantity of salts was carried past Kerki for the year as a whole almost 
22.5 million tons. 

The range of fluctuation in the level of the Amu-Darya along its middle 
and lower course is one to three meters. This imposing river is composed 
of a series of separate channels, divided one from another by shoals and 
sandy islands. In these separate branches the river flows at different rates 
of speed and has different gradients, and consequently, different levels. 

* This is the metric ton, which equals 1000 kilograms, or 2200 pounds. Ta. 


The difference in the levels of the river on opposite shores may be as 
great as 0.5 m. 


Like the semidesert soils, the soils of the desert are poorly developed, 
due to the small role played by water and vegetation in the soil-forming 
process (see above, pp. 119-120). 

According to the character of its soils, the desert as a whole may be 
divided into four categories: (1) clayey, or, more exactly, clay-loam 
desert, (2) stony desert, (3) sandy desert, and (4) solonchak desert. 10 
Solonchak desert is scattered in patches among the other types of desert. 
We will examine the soil cover of the desert by subzones, beginning at 
the north. 

1. On the Tertiary plateaus of the northern subzone structural siero- 
zems are developed (Fig. 31 J. 11 Neustruyev formerly called these the 
gray-brown solonized clay loams, or solonized sierozems. The surface of 
these soils is usually strewn with rubble, or the rubble is incorporated 
into the surface crust of the soil (desert pavement), or the entire soil 
mantle in general is rich in skeletal elements, so that the region of the 
gray-brown clay loams may be considered a part of the stony desert. In 
these soils the maximum quantity of carbonates is found in the surface 
horizon, a characteristic which is explained as the result of plant activity. 
The quantity of carbonates decreases with the depth, which is not the 
case in the so-called "desert" sierozems and the light-chestnut soils. The 
surface horizon is not salinized, but not far below the surface (12 to 
20 cm.) there lies a more clayey, compact (solonized) illuvial horizon, 
brownish in color, sometimes with an efflorescence of carbonates. The 
lower portion of this (illuvial) horizon contains accumulations of gyp- 
sum, which begin at 25 cm., and sometimes at 80 to 90 cm. (On the 
Ust-Urt Plateau, the thickness of the gypsum horizon may reach two 
meters or more.) These soils contain little humus; the humus content in 
the upper horizons usually does not exceed 1 per cent, and the humus 
is distributed more or less evenly throughout the soil profile. Sometimes 
these sierozems contain soluble salts all the way to the surface; that is, 
they are salinized. Sometimes they contain soda from the surface down; 

10 L. S. Berg, "Formy russkikli pustyn" (Types of Russian Desert), appendix to 
Walter's book, Zakony obrazovaniya pusfyn (Principles Which Govern the Forma- 
tion of Deserts), St. Petersburg, 1911, pp. 164-178. 

11 1. P. Gerasimov, "O struktumykh serozyomakh Turkestana" (Concerning the 
Structural Sierozems of Turkestan), Trudy pochv. inst. Akad. nauk (Proceedings of 
the Soils Institute of the Academy of Sciences), V, 1931. 


that is, they are distinctly solonized. On the Ust-Urt Plateau there are 
found platy-columnar solonetz soils, which are generally foreign to the 
desert zone. 

2. In the sandy desert processes of soil formation may take place, of 
course, only when the sands have been stabilized. Dubyansky describes 
the stabilization of the sands in the Kara-Kum as follows: 12 

As tree vegetation develops on the sands, a change takes place in the 
chemical and mechanical properties of the surface horizons of the sand. 
The dying vegetation (particularly saxaul) which covers the surface 
enriches the soil with salts and silt, at the expense of ash substances and 
the products of the more energetic decomposition of the mineral con- 
stituents of the sand. These processes take place especially vigorously 
in the thickets of solonchak saxaul. The sand of the bare barkhans at 
Repetek contains almost no particles smaller than 0.05 mm. in diameter. 
(There are only 0.1 per cent of these.) As the sand becomes overgrown 
by the pioneer sand binders, three-awn and dzhuzgun (Calligonum 
caput-medusae) , such particles become more numerous and the quantity 
of silt increases to 0.5 per cent. Under sand saxaul the proportion of 
particles smaller than 0.05 mm. reaches 9 per cent, while under solon- 
chak saxaul it may reach 40 and even 50 per cent. The quantity of silt 
decreases as the depth increases. As the surface layer is enriched with 
silt, an increase in its soluble salt content also takes place. 

Even with the naked eye, compacted, cemented sand may be seen to 
appear under the crown of desert vegetation; for example, under three- 
awn and Calligonum arborescens, where the thickness of the cemented 
sand crust reaches 5 to 10 cm. The cementation of the sand is particularly 
vigorous under saxaul. The thickness of the soil under saxaul plantations 
may reach 1.5 to 2 m. 

The compaction of the surface horizons of the sand brings about a 
radical change in the water regime of the sands. Atmospheric moisture 
can no longer be absorbed so rapidly into the deeper layers, but remains 
in large measure on the surface where it evaporates. As a result, the 
pioneer sand binders die out and are replaced by thickets of solonchak 
saxaul. 13 

12 V. A. Dubyansky, "Peschanaya pustynya yugo-vostochnykh Kara-Kum" (The 
Sandy Desert of Southeast Kara-Kum), Trudy po prikl botan. (Works in Applied 
Botany), XDC, No. 4, 1928. rr 

13 However, at present there is inclination to believe that the solonchak, or black, 
saxaul has its own associational sequence, which does not enter into the cycle of 
changes which take place among the other types of vegetation in the sands See 
M. P. Petrov, "K voprosu o proiskhozhdenii rastitelnosti peschanoy pustyni Kara- 
Kumy" (On the Question of the Origin of the Vegetation of the Kara-Kum Sandy 


3. On the loessial piedmont plains and to some extent higher up, at 
elevations of 300 to 500 m., typical sierozems are developed soils which 
were regarded by former investigators simply as loess, and which were 
called loess and aeolian-loess soils. However, Neustruyev pointed out that 
this conception was wrong. Sierozem is not a dust deposit at all, but 
undisturbed zonal soil, underlain most frequently by loess, but capable 
of being developed on other materials as well. There are no great differ- 
ences between the typical sierozem and the above-described structural 
sierozem. If the typical sierozems are of "aeolian" origin, then the same 
origin should be ascribed to the structural sierozems as well; this, how- 
ever, is not done. 

Typical sierozems are soils of light grayish-brown color, with high 
content of carbonates but containing little humus. They usually overlie 
loesses and differ very little in chemical and mechanical composition from 
loesses. The soil-forming process is apparent in the accumulation of some 
humus in the upper loess horizons, while the carbonates are washed to 
some extent into the lower horizons; thus, the maximum amount of 
carbonates in the typical sierozems is found not in the surface horizon 
(as in the above-described structural sierozems), but at some depth below 
the surface. Furthermore, the upper loess horizon (10 to 12 cm.) assumes 
a gray coloration and a platy-laminated structure. Lower down lies a 
lumpy, more compact (B) horizon. At the bottom it merges into a 
layer which is thoroughly burrowed by worms and grubs, and becomes 
saturated with moisture during the wet period of the year. Below this 
porous horizon, and sometimes even within this horizon, the efflorescence 
of carbonates begins. From a depth of 80 to 100 cm. down there is usually 
unmodified loess. 

The sierozems are very rich in carbonates. The content of carbonates 
may be 10 to 15 per cent in the upper horizon, and as high as 25 per cent 
lower down. This fact is responsible for the remarkable fertility of the 

Since ground water in the loessial piedmont plains as a rule occurs 
far below the surface, the sierozems which overlie loess are usually not 
salinized, because of the physical properties of the loess its water- 
permeability and its susceptibility to leaching; water extracts from these 
soils up to a depth of 1 and even 2 m. do not contain soluble salts in 
noticeable quantities. The deeper horizons may be salinized, containing 

Desert), Khozyaistvennoye osvoyenie pustyn Sredney Azii i Kazdkhstana (The Eco- 
nomic Utilization of the Deserts of Central Asia and Kazakhstan) collected articles 
edited by E. P. Korovin, Tashkent, 1934, pp. 31-40. 


gypsum. Where ground water is easily accessible to their surface, the 
loesses are salinized quickly and turn into salinized sierozems, and some- 
times even into solonchaks. 

The sierozems are extremely fertile, and vegetation develops quickly 
and luxuriously when they are irrigated. Enormous poplars, half a meter 
in diameter, grow within 20 to 25 years in Tashkent and Samarkand. 

Having described the zonal types of desert soils, we pass on to the 
intrazonal formations. 

In some places, where ground water is able to reach the surface of 
the earth and evaporate, solonchak soils are developed. They are very 
extensive here and are particularly abundant in the valleys of contempo- 
rary and ancient rivers and along lake shores. 

Puffy solonchaks, or kebirs, are of interest. They lie in the vicinity of 
water basins, but in places not subject, or seldom subject, to inundation. 
As a result of the great heat in summer, the salts (predominantly sul- 
phates and sodium chloride) rise to the surface from the moist subsoil 
and are precipitated here, loosening the surface horizon of the soil and 
forming a friable puffy layer. Farther down, in the sticky and wet layer, 
there is an abundance of gypsum crystals. The quantity of water-soluble 
salts in the upper puffy layer may reach 36 per cent of the weight of the 
air-dry soil. A solonchak covered by white salts is called a sor or shor. 

There are no typical columnar solonetz soils in the desert. But platy- 
columnar solonetz soils are found as far as the extreme south of the Ust- 
Urt, while in northern Semirechye there are platy-lumpy solonetz soils. 
Farther south the processes of leaching decrease in intensity, the car- 
bonate content increases, and solonetz soils are found only under excep- 
tional conditions. 

In the region of the ancient valley of the Syr-Darya (and in some 
other places), takyrs are very widespread These may be considered 
rudimentary soil formations (see above, p. 138). 


The vegetation of the desert is unique. There is no continuous vege- 
tation cover in summer, autumn, or winter. The plants grow far apart, 
and the bare soil may be seen in the spaces between them; the area of 
bare soil is larger than the area under vegetation. However, during the 
spring rainy reason, the ground is covered, sometimes completely, 
by a short-lived carpet of vegetation which fades quickly the so-called 
ephemera, composed of grasses, sedges, and some dicotyledons. Among 
these there are many annuals. By the middle of spring all this vege- 


tation fades and is replaced by typical desert xerophytes, among which 
there are many spiny plants and sometimes polyn, as well as halophytes. 

We will describe the vegetation of the desert according to subzones: 

1. The northern subzone, where structural sierozems are developed, 
constitutes the transition to the semidesert, and some botanists classify 
it with the semidesert. In the soils of this zone, as explained previously, 
there is an accumulation of gypsum not far from the surface; therefore, 
tha vegetation, the roots of which penetrate into the medium which has a 
high salt content, must be able to withstand such salinization. Chief 
among such plants are the halophytes. 

The preponderant species of this group are boyalych (Salsola arbuscula 
[Fig. 32], which is replaced in the Bet-Pak-Dala by the Mongolian spe- 
cies, S. laricifolia) and biyurgun (Anabasis salsa} (Fig. 24). Boyalych 
is an undershrub, 30 to 50 cm. high, and is characteristic for the semi- 
desert and the northern part of the desert zone. The individual plants of 
this species lie 0.5 to 2 m. apart. Biyurgun is a small undershrub, 10 to 
15 cm. high, which covers large areas on the water di\*ides, slopes, and 
even in the valleys, but is found predominantly in shallow depressions. 
In addition, there is the peculiar xerophytic halophyte tasbiyurgun (Nano- 
phyton erinaceum), a small procumbent undershrub with small spiny 
leaves. There is also a good deal of polyn here. 

The polyns are represented by white polyn (Artemisia terrae-albae) , 
which is widely distributed in this subzone, as well as in the south of 
the semidesert; Turanian polyn (A. turanica); and black polyn, or maikara 
(A. maikara), which replaces A. paucifiora here. The polyns grow 30 to 
50 cm. tall'. Five to ten shrubs grow to a square meter. 

In shallow depressions there is Caucasian pea shrub, the legume 
Caragana grandiflora var. steveni, which grows in bushes up to 1 m. 
high. On die ground, the lichen Aspicilia alpino-desertorum grows in 

This subzone may be called the poZt/n-halophyte desert. In some places 
polyn (which, as we have seen, is characteristic for the semidesert) pre- 
dominates in the vegetation cover. 

Because precipitation is at a maximum during the latter half of 
spring, this subzone is very poor in ephemera plants which complete 
their life cycle for a given year quickly during the spring. Hot weather 
here sets in very soon after the period of maximum precipitation. There 
is practically no spring; winter is followed after a very short interval 
by summer. Nevertheless, there are some ephemera here, for example., 


As in the semidesert, the distribution of vegetation and soils in this 
subzone is complex. One type of vegetation is replaced by another 
within a short distance, depending on local elevations and depressions in 
the relief. Thus, on the southern Ust-Urt and in the Bet-Pak-Dala three 
vegetational groupings are widespread: on slightly elevated portions of 
the relief we find (1) polijn, or (2) boyalych together with polyn, while 
in depressions we find (3) biyurgun. 

The sands in this subzone (the Barsuki and the Aral Kara-Kum; 
Korovin includes also the Muyun-Kum and the Balkhash sands) have a 
great deal in common with the sands of the more southern subzone, which 
will be described below. But there are some differences. The saxaul Am- 
modendron conottyi is replaced here by the closely related species A. kare- 
Iini 9 which the Kazakhs call kuyan-sayek ("hare's bone"). The vegetation 
of the northern sands includes Siberian wheat grass (Agropyron sibiri- 
cum), some feather grasses (Stipa szowitsiana and S. hohenackeriana), 
Old World winter fat (Eurotia ceratoides), and the polyn Artemisia 
terrae-albae. On the sodded sands wheat grass is abundant and some- 
times covers as much as half the surface of the soil; there are also 
feather grasses. In spring ephemeral vegetation develops here: vivipa- 
rous bulbous blue grass, brome, and sand sedge [Carex physodes]. 
On still more compact, sandy-loam areas, wheat grass is replaced by the 
polyn Artemisia terrae-albae. Wheat grass and polyn, which are charac- 
teristic for the northern sands, are not found as a rule on the southern 
sands; here the stabilized sands are covered with sand sedge. This is 
easy to understand, since the northern subzone constitutes the transi- 
tion from the semidesert (with its preponderance of polyn and grasses) 
to the southern desert. But we must keep in mind that polyn of the A. ter- 
rae-albae group is found also in the two southern subzones of the desert, 
while in the ridged sands of the Trans-Caspian Kara-Kum, wheat grass 
often acts as the sand binder. 

2. The vegetation of the sands of the central subzone shows a distinct 
adaptation to the surrounding environment. Many of the plants here are 
adapted for struggle against dryness of the air and against becoming 
covered by sand. Thus, some shrubs, in order to decrease evaporation, 
are either entirely devoid of leaves, or have very small or narrow leaves. 
Dzhuzgun, a buckwheat shrub (genus Calligonum), which is found 
from the Sahara to Mongolia and is very characteristic for the sands of 
the Turanian Lowland (where it is represented by almost thirty species) 
(Fig. 35), has short, filiform leaves, which it sheds quickly. The twigs 


which bear the fruit arc assimilative organs. They drop off also at the 
end of June, after the fruit is ripe. In this way evaporation is reduced 
to a minimum. New assimilative twigs appear the following spring, 
during the rainy season. Saxaul (Arthrophytum) 15r has a similar struc- 
ture. It is represented by two species the white, or sand, saxaul (A. per- 
sicum, or A. acutifolium) and the black, or solonchak, saxaul (A. aphyl- 
lum, or A. haloxylon) (Fig. 33). The latter is entirely devoid of leaves, 
while the white saxaul bears small leaflets. In autumn, when the fruit 
ripens, the saxaul sheds its assimilative twigs. The leguminous sand shrub 
Eremosparton is completely devoid of leaves. The desert shrub halophytes 
and the sand astragali have very few leaves. Some plants have thorns in 
place of leaves. Many arenaceous plants have the faculty of developing 
accessory roots and shoots., which make it possible for them to withstand 
becoming covered by the sand. 

The first pioneer to appear on the barkhan sands of the Trans-Caspian 
Kara-Kum is three-awn grass, Aristida pennata var. karelini, which some- 
times grows a meter tall. When the three-awn becomes covered with sand, 
long rhizomes develop from buds in the axillae of the leaves; these 
rhizomes grow quickly through the sand and develop a new stem along 
the ground. Three-awn is followed by the shrub dzliuzgun (Calligonwn 
turkestanicwn) . The accessory roots of the dzhuzgun, which grow tre- 
mendously long (over 30 m.) 3 are disposed chiefly horizontally, in the 
moist subsoil horizon. The "sand acacia," Ammodendron conollyi (Fig. 
34), which sometimes grows into small trees as tall as 7 m., has an equal 
facility for developing accessory roots when covered by the sand; 
Dubyansky observed accessory roots on this plant growing at a distance 
of more than 3 in. from the base of the trunk. Syir-kuirytik (Ercmospar- 
ton flaccidum) has similar properties. 

On the sand mounds, in addition to the above-mentioned plants, there 
grows kara-kandym (Cattigonum eriopodum), a tall shrub or small tree, 
3 to 3.5 m. high; and the arborescent halophyte cherkez (Salsola richteri), 
which also reaches 3 m. in height. The grass Aristida pennata var. karelini 
is replaced on the sandy mounds by another, squat variety, var. minor, 
which, so far as the struggle against the sand is concerned, does not have 
the same properties as var. karelini. Between the shrubs the sand is over- 
grown by the sand sedge Carex physodes (ilyak in Turkmen) . 

Sedge, by desiccating the sand, soon kills off the pioneers: dzhuzgun, 
"sand acacia," syir ktiiryuk (Eremosparton), and particularly three-awn 

14 Now it is called Haloxylon once more. 


(Aristida pennata var. karelini), which is the first to disappear. The dead 
bushes of three-awn, which are preserved for several years, indicate 
clearly the beginning of a change in the vegetation. 

In the second stage of the development of plant cover on the sandy 
mounds, in addition to the above shrubs, several new ones appear: 
dzhuzgun, chakish (Calligonum setosum], the halophyte chogon (Salsola 
subaphylla), the ephedra bordzhok (Ephedra strobilacea), and the sand 
or white saxaul. The latter is very widespread. Among thickets of sand 
saxaul, on the bottom of the more overgrown depressions, there appears 
solonchak, or black saxaul. 

Gradually the sand pioneers die out and are replaced by thickets of 
solonchak saxaul. According to Dubyansky (1928), this is the final stage 
in the development of the vegetation in the central Kara-Kum, the stage 
of "sandy mounds with stands of solonchak saxaul." 

Under present climatic conditions these groves of saxaul do not tend 
to die out. However, as noted earlier, 13 some authors are of the opinion 
that the black saxaul does not replace the white, but appears as part 
of a different cycle of changes. 

In areas of sandy mounds sand saxaul grows on the mounds, while in 
the bottoms of the depressions, as pointed out above, solonchak saxaul 
bushes are common. Sand saxaul always grows with an admixture of 
shrubs in Turkmenistan, with Calligonum setosum, kandym ( C. eriopo- 
dum) 9 the arborescent halophyte cherkez (Salsola richteri), chogon 
(S. sttbaphylla} , and the astragalus singren (Astragalus ammodendron) . 
The last provides excellent fodder for livestock. The herbaceous cover 
consists of sand sedge (Car ex physodes). The level of ground water here 
lies far below the surface, at 30 to 60 m. 

On the ridged sands there is no such wealth of shrubs. These sands are 
held fast by herbaceous vegetation wheat grass, brome (Bromus), and 
sedge. Of the shrubs, there is some dzhuzgun, white saxaul, "sand acacia/* 
and others. 

On the sandy plains of the Kara-Kum, where the sand layer is thin, 
polyn predominates, and the spaces between the polyn bushes are occu- 
pied by sand sedge [Carex physodes] and grasses. Where the sand layer 
is thicker, there appear the usual sand shrubs. 

In the Balkhash sands there is a great deal of ephedra (Ephedra 
lomatolepis) , which promotes the stabilization of the sands, but which 
is not important as fodder. Less numerous are polyn thickets, and still 
less numerous, black saxaul. On the relatively stable, but at the same 

15 See footnote on pp. 146-147. 


time sparsely overgrown sands of the Balkhash area, the rubber-yielding 
Chondrilla is found. 

In spring, during the rainy season, on all types of more or less stable 
sands there appears an ephemeral vegetation, which dries up by the 
middle of May. It consists of sand sedge (Carex pkysodes) and various 
grasses predominantly viviparous bulbous blue grass; also wheat grass, 
brome, and others, as well as dicotyledons. In number of individuals, 
perennials, such as the sedge and the blue grass, predominate in the 
plant cover, but there are also many annuals grasses, papilionaceous 
plants, and others. Sedge covers not more than half the soil surface. This 
plant is die only member of the group under discussion which is capable 
of developing long rhizomes that bear shoots and accessory roots. While 
the vegetation of the shifting sands does not include any tuber or bulb 
plants, there are some plants of these types on the stable sands. 

In winter among the sandy mounds on the northern slopes there may 
be found thickets of mosses and lichens. 

Among the sands there are some solonchaks and takyrs. A takyr, when 
it is not covered with sand, does not support vegetation, but halophytes 
settle on the periphery. The first plant to take hold on a tdkijr is the small 
undershrub Salsola gemmascens, a crooked, squat halophyte typical in 
southern Turkestan; it is followed by S. rigida, which resembles it in ap- 
pearance. In the north of the desert zone the pioneer on the takyrs is 
biyurgun, the halophyte Anabasis salsa, which is also a small undershrub; 
this plant is found from the lower Volga region to Mongolia. 

In the sands in the Kara-Kum, the Kyzyl-Kum (along the branches 
of the Dzhany-Darya and the Kuban-Darya), the valley of the Syr- 
Darya at Chiili, the Muyun-Kum, and between the IK and the Karatal 
there grow large thickets of black saxaul. They are associated not with 
the sandy areas, where shrub sand saxaul grows in mixed stands, but 
with the salinized sandy-loam and clayey areas. Saxaul is one of the most 
peculiar woody plants of the desert. Korzhinsky has written (1896): 

Thickets of saxaul can be compared neither with forests nor with shrub vege- 
tation of the temperate belt, and, in general, not one of the terms used in 
literature and science may be applied to them. They constitute a completely 
unique type of vegetation, so original and curious that I believe it can never 
be erased from the memory of anyone who has had occasion to see it even once 
in his life. 

Another student (Shnitnikov, 1925) describes the thickets of black saxual 
as follows: 


The saxaul forest makes a strange and even an awe-inspiring impression on a 
person who is not accustomed to it. First, in spite of its dense stand, it has 
about it a kind of luminous quality, due to the pale bark and the arrangement 
of the branches, which do not give shade. In hot weather it is hotter within 
the saxaul thicket than outside it, because it cuts off the wind and at the 
same time gives little protection against the sun. Furthermore, there is usually 
silence in the saxaul forest, as the bird population is far from rich in either 
species or number of individuals. An awe-inspiring effect is produced by the 
mass of dead saxaul lying about, which is dark in color and has the oddest, 
most fantastic shapes. A dead saxaul forest presents a particularly gloomy as- 
pect: some of the trees have fallen and lie in lifeless, black heaps, while others 
stand upright, stretching out their branches, which appear to be writhing in 
convulsions. (See Fig. 33.) 

Black saxaul often reaches a height of 4 to 6 m., and occasionally 
even 8 m. The stand in such a "forest" is not dense; there are about 300 
trees (more than 2 m. high) to a hectare. Sometimes individual speci- 
mens may measure as much as 120 cm. in diameter near the ground. 
Contrary to former opinion, saxaul grows rather rapidly; on abandoned 
plowlands there may be found saxaul four years old which is 1.5 m. high. 
The hea\y wood of the saxaul provides an excellent fuel. The specific 
gravity of black saxaul wood is 1.2 (while that of pine is 0.5). The saxaul 
tree is so hard that it is difficult to chop it with an axe. But virgin saxaul 
groves, as has been pointed out already, are filled with masses of wind- 
falls, the total quantity of which sometimes exceeds the amount of wood 
that is standing, and these windfalls can lie for decades without deteri- 
orating. (White saxaul, on the contrary, may be preserved for only a 
short time. ) Saxaul can survive neither strong salinization of the subsoil, 
nor inundation by water. Black saxaul grows best on slightly salinized, 
clay-loam soils associated with the valleys of former rivers, in places 
where there is, even temporarily, an influx of ground water. In the Trans- 
Caspian Kara-Kum large flocks of sheep graze all year round in the thick- 
ets of black saxaul. 

3. Vegetation of the loessial piedmont plains. The vegetation on soils 
which are not excessively saline, in the Golodnaya Steppe between 
Dzhizak and the Syr-Darya, may serve as an example of this plant asso- 
ciation. In spring, during the rainy season, a solid stand of ephemera 
covers the surface, but fades as soon as the rainy season is over. The 
summer and autumn vegetation has a typical desert character, or the veg- 
etation may even fade completely. Ephemera are plants which have a 
very short vegetative period. They begin to develop in March and drop 
their seeds by the end of April. The speed with which these plants de- 


velop, as Popov points out, is due in part to the fact that they are winter 
plants, which germinate in late autumn when the rains begin to fall. The 
great majority of these ephemera are blue grasses and sedges. It is inter- 
esting to note that these perennials, in spring, usually form a continuous 
cover, denser than the cover formed by steppe vegetation. 

It may be said that the plant associations of the ephemera-covered desert 
develop the maximum density which may be reached by herbaceous vegetation. 
The soil is completely covered with herbage; furthermore, its surface is a con- 
tinuous sod, so compact that the soil is penetrated with difficulty by a spade 

Viviparous bulbous blue grass (Poa bulbosa var. vivipara) is a peren- 
nial grass which usually grows 30 to 40 cm, tall, in small tufts 2 to 3 cm. 
in diameter. Its stem at the base forms what appear to be small bulbs, 
which are capable of surviving drought over very long periods. These 
bulbs have germinated after having lain for ten years in a herbarium. 
But this blue grass also has another sort of small bulb, from which it gets 
the name "viviparous." In the ears, that is, in the axillae of the floral 
leaves, instead of flowers there develop small bulbs, fifty in number, 
which serve the plant as seeds; when they fall off, they give rise to new 
plants. The grazing of livestock does not injure the blue grass, since 
the stock, by loosening the sod, scatters in different directions the small 
bulbs which lie at the base of the stem, and permits new sod to form. The 
root system of the blue grass reaches a depth of 12 to 15 cm. According to 
the observations of Spiridonov, in 1915 in the Golodnaya Steppe the blue 
grass began to ear on April 5, while the small bulbs in the ears began to 
develop on April 16. 

The narrow-leaved sedge, Carex pachystylis (C. hostii), is also a per- 
ennial plant, very closely related to the sand sedge C. physodes. Its up- 
right stem is 15 to 20 cm. tall. In the Golodnaya Steppe in 1915 it bloomed 
on March 27, while on April 12 most of the plants bore fruit. It repro- 
duces chiefly vegetatively, by means of growing rhizomes. 

During the early days of March the vegetation of the loessial piedmont 
plains awakens. By the end of March the earth has a continuous low 
cover of sedge and blue grass, among which may be distinguished the 
flowers of prostrate knotweed, speedwell, and geranium. In the middle of 
April poppies bloom in large numbers, in some places covering the steppe 
with a continuous red carpet. The perennial buttercup (Ranunculus 
severzovii), which reproduces vegetatively, and the liliaceous Ixiolirion 
tataricum [I. montanum tataricum], which reproduces by small tubers 


developed on a rhizome, also blossom at that time. At the end of April 
the steppe begins to turn yellow, and by the middle of May it already 
takes on its summer and autumn appearance: Sedge, blue grass, and 
other spring plants fade, and in their place there appears the small, in- 
significant, prostrate euphorbia, or taban-kok ("green sole," Euphorbia 
cliamaesyce var, canescens). This euphorbia does not form a close cover, 
but is scattered in patches 3 to 8 cm. in diameter, with spaces 3 to 12 cm, 
between. It grows until autumn. Sometimes in the interspaces there are 
lichens. In 1915 young sprouts of euphorbia were observed on May 10; 
flowers appeared in the middle of May, According to Spiridonov (1921), 
euphorbia provides fodder for sheep. 

Among the ephemera there arc annuals as well as perennials. The an- 
nuals include Mdhomia turkcstanica, a crucifer, the violet flowers of 
which in some places stud the steppe in a continuous cover; also poppies, 
legumes, and tlio curious plant Diarthron vesiculosurn, which continues 
to bloom even at the beginning of May, when all the other plants luivo 
faded, and grows until autumn, while the other annuals have a total life 
cycle which is only one to one-and-a-half months long. 

In the Goloclnaya Steppe is found the gigantic umbellifcr devTs-dung 
giant fennel, or savyk-hiray (Ferula foeMda), which yields a foul-smell- 
ing, resinous substance used in medicine. The resin is contained in the 
vigorously developed roots. The doviVs-dnng giant fennel is a perennial 
plant, but it dies after its seeds have ripened. 

In some places in the Golodnaya Steppe grow thickets of ak-kuray 
CPsoralca dntpacea), a large papilionaceous perennial, which grows up 
to 1 m. high. It blooms in the middle of May, bearing pale-violet .(lowers. 
In some parts of the steppe there arc areas covered by the polyn Ar- 
temisia scopaeformiv. 

The same type of vegetation is found on unplowcd loessiul areas in 
the neighboring Tashkent ralon. Levant polyn, or dcinnina (Art tun tola 
cina), is characteristic for the region of Arys station. The flower heads of 
this plant yield a well known anlhelmintic, santonin. 

Large areas of the Goloclnaya Stcppo are occupied by solonelwks, on 
which grow the halophytcs sarsazan (Halocnamwn strobilaccum) > kara* 
barkcn (Hdoatachys caspica), balyk-knz (Salsola bmata), kuyandzlitm 
(Halocharis htepida), and the annual halophytc Gamanthm gflwwwr/w, 
as well as tamarisk, and others. Where ground water lies rather deep (3 to 
4m.), the polyn ArtenvMa maritima predominates. On the moist solou- 
chak shores of water basins, the halophytc Sdicornia hcrbacva appears in 
largo numbers. 


4, Vegetation of the river valleys. Because of the saline subsoils, the 
abundance of salt in the river waters (see above, p. 144), and the intense 
evaporation, the meadows in the desert zone, as a rule, are salinized. 

In the tugay belt or the contemporary flood plain of the Syr-Darya, 
so-called azhrek meadows are widespread. Azhrek is the grass Aeluropus 
liloralis, which belongs to the rhizome group, and is characterized by 
leaves covered with grains of salt emitted by the leaf tissues. It has a 
powerful root system. In some places this solonchak grass, which is 
eaten readily by livestock in autumn and winter, forms a rather dense 
ground cover. Azhrek is accompanied by two other grasses, the Ber- 
muda grass, Cijnodon dactylon (also a rhizomic plant), and Atropis dis- 
tans [Pitccincllia distans], which is sod-forming. In addition to the azhrek 
meadows, in the flood plain we find enormous reed thickets (Phragmites 
comnvunti) (Fig. 36), in some places thickets of the spiny shrub Siberian 
salt tree (Halimodendron argenicnm [H. halodendron argenteum], a 
legume), and individual poplars. The Hood plain also contains some puffy 
solonchaks with scattered bushes of dzhingyl or tamarisk (Tamarix), as 
well as sands. 

The ancient flood plain of the Syr-Darya, or the terrace which lies 
immediately above the meadow terrace, constitutes a takyr, in the broad 
sense of the word. In addition to the bare patches of takyr, there are 
solonchaks; thickets of black saxaul, white polyn (Artemisia tcrrae-albac) , 
and biyurgun; and sands. The southern boundary of the distribution of 
biyurgun along the Syr-Darya is the latitude of Tashkent; the southern 
boundary of white polyn, Arys. Because of the predominance of these 
plants, this desert is called the biyurgun-polyn desert 

The thickets of polyn are separated sharply from the patches of 
biyurgun. Among the polyn is found the squat halophyte itsegck (Anaba- 
sis aphylla). In some places the latter achieves great development, and 
such places may be called polyn-itsegek deserts. 

Biyurgun is a plant which is characteristic for the northern zone of the 
desert (and for the semidesert). Nevertheless, along the Syr-Darya val- 
ley it penetrates far into the subzone of sands, bordering upon the south- 
ernmost subzcmc. 

We have referred above to the tugay belt, by which name geographers 
designate the flood plain. But tugay in the language of the local population 
means forest The tree vegetation along the rivers of the Turanian Low- 
land is most unique. It consists of a very small number of species. 
The Euphrates poplar (Populus divertifolia [P. euphratica]) predomi- 
nates; this tree has narrow and long lower leaves, like the willow, while 


its upper leaves are broad. There is an admixture of another poplar, the 
bloomy poplar (P. pnnnosa). The maximum age of the poplars is thirty 
to forty years. These trees are accompanied by a number of shrubs: wil- 
low or tal 3 Russian olive or dzhidd (Elacaffius angpstifolia) 9 several spe- 
cies of tamarisk (Tamarix), whose pink and violet flowers add much to 
the color of the landscape, the above-mentioned spiny shrub Siberian salt 
tree, and, finally, the wolfbeny (Ly claim) . 

Among the herbaceous plants of the tugaij arc vines which twine the 
trees and shrubs. These include oriental clematis (Clematis oriontalis) 
with stems sometimes as thick as a man's hand, Cynanchum acutum, and 
hedge glorybind (Calyslcgia scpimn [Cotwolwiliis septum]). In the 
tugay regions the common rocd (Phragmitcs comninnia); dogbane 
(Apocynum venctum), which yields a valuable fiber (in the flood plain 
of the Hi River the dogbane grows taller than a man); common licorice 
or iniya (Glycyrrhyza gfafrm); camers-lhoni or dzhantak (Alhagi came,- 
lorum [A. pscudalhagi]}\ and Syrian beim caper (ZygpphyUum Jalxigo) 
are common. 

The thickets of tall grass in the lower courses of the Surkhan and the 
Vakhsh (tributaries of the Amu-Darya) arc of interest. The common 
reed (Phragtnites communis) and the bamboolike giant reed (Arundo 
donax) sometimes grow as tall as 6 to 8 in. In addition there are also the 
giant grasses Erianthwt ravcnnac (which grows 3 m. high) and Sacclianim 
spontaneinn. In some places these thickets spread over tens of kilometers, 
and tigers and deer take shelter in them. 

In the river valleys there are dense thickets of tamarisk, which some* 
times form impassable brakes. 

The valley forests of Semirechyc have a different appearance 1 . Here 
there are no poplars. In some places in Semirechye along the river val- 
leys (Chu, Talas, Hi, Karatal, and also the western shores of Lake Issyk- 
Kul) there are found unique choe-grass meadows (nazy) (Fig. 37), 
Ghee grass (Lasiagrostis splmidens or Stipa splendent}) is a tall grass, 
up to 1.5 m. high, which forms a sod, Its shiny, elastic sterns are used 
for weaving matting. It also yields excellent raw material for the manu- 
facture of paper. Chce grass is found also in the mountains. The sod tufts 
of the chee grass never grow entangled with each other. In the Kani- 
Kum which adjoins the Aral Sea chee grass grows in the depressions 
among the sands, In these depressions soils of the meadow type are 
developed; sometimes they are saline. 



The fauna of the desert is unique. Here many of the animals are 
clearly adapted to withstand dryness, high temperatures, and the pecu- 
liarities of the sandy, clayey, solonchak, and stony soil. Many of them 
require very little water. Sonic? of them, during the hot season of the 
year, go into a dormant state. Many which live in the sandy areas have 
feet which are adapted to locomotion on the surface of shifting sands 
(susliks, beetles, and others). Protective coloration is widespread: the 
sand animals are yellow; the takyr animals, gray; and the animals which 
live in stony areas, variegated. 

Some of the elements of the desert fauna of the Turanian Lowland are 
distributed widely throughout the entire desert belt of the Old World, 
from Syria to Central Asia for example, the desert bullfinch (Bucanetes 
githaginciw) . There are many such forms, which may be found from 
Africa to the deserts of Central Asia. The following may serve as exam- 
ples: the giant desert monitor lizard, jackal, hyena, Macqueen's bustard 
(Olis macqncmi), desert nightjar (Capriinulgus acgyptius), desert lark 
(Aminomaiics dcserti), carpet viper (Echis carinala), and the sand lo- 
custs Plalyplerna. 

The fauna of the northern wibzonc differs very little from the fauna of 
the semidosert. The Mngodzhar suslik (CUclliis pygitiaeus inugosaricus) * 
which is associated with the clayey soils, is found as far as the northern 
shores of the Aral Sea. The typical yellow suslik (Citcllm fulvus) and its 
southern brother (subsp, av/V/mv), which goes into a dormant state in 
summer, arc found on sandy soils. The suslik is of economic importance. 
In this sulwone there are also jerboas: the large jerboa, Allactaga jaculus 
[A. ?na/or], and two small jerboas, A. elalcr and Alaclagulun aoonliou 
[A. pnmilo]. 

The Ust-Urt was inhabited at one time by large numbers of kiang or 
wild ass (Equus hcmionnst), saiga antelope, and goitered gazelle; the 
two latter are encountered occasionally even today. Mountain sheep 
(Ovis orwntalis) are found sometimes along the western and southern 

The fauna of the subzonc of sands is far more unique* Here we find 
the typical long-toed sand suslik (Spermophilopsts leptodactylus) 9 which 
Inhabits the sands from Turkmenistan to Semircchyc. Its long, thin toes 
are beautifully adapted for running along the sand. This suslik does not 
htbcruto iu winter. In the sandy mounds a large jerboa (Khombonujs 
opimiifs) is found in great numbers; in the Turkmonian Knra-Kuin there 


are sometimes more than a thousand of its burrows to a hectare. Where 
this jerboa is abundant, it is impossible to ride across the sands on horse- 
back because of the burrows. By excavating the sand, the jerboas pro- 
mote its desiccation and the resulting destruction of shrub vegetation. 
The small gerbil (Meriones meridianus) has a similar distribution. The 
three-toed jerboa (Dipus sagitta) is also very characteristic for the sands. 
The brush-toed jerboa (Paradipus ctenodactylus] is known in Repetek 
and farther east. The hare is common. The neighborhood of Repetek is 
inhabited by the peculiar barkhan cat (Eremaelurus thinobius). Of the 
large mammals on the stable sands there are kiang (Equus hemionus), 
goitered gazelle (GazeJla subgutturosa), and saiga antelope (Saiga saiga 
[S. tatarica]). Today these have almost disappeared. The Central Asi- 
atic red deer, or khangul (Cervus elaphus bactrianus] is found sometimes 
in the Kyzyl-Kum, in the saxaul groves as far east as the Syr-Darya. 1G 

Among the birds, Pander's chough-thrush, kum-tauk, or kum-sauskan 
(Podoces panderi), a bird of the crow tribe, is characteristic for the sand 
saxaul. The sands, particularly the sandy mounds, are its native habitat. 
It is not found in the clayey desert, nor in the mountains of the desert. 
It does not leave the sands even during the winter. In spring and summer 
it feeds on the grubs of beetles and the seeds of grasses, while in autumn 
and winter it feeds on the seeds of saxaul, dzhuzgun, and other shrubs. 
Other birds in the sandy desert are the desert wheatear (Oenanthe de- 
serti); the desert warbler (Sylvia nana); the tiny Trans-Caspian scrub 
warbler (Scotocerca inquieta platyura), native to the Turkmenian Kara- 
Kum (this species is distributed from the Sahara to Beluchistan); the 
desert raven (Corvus corax ruficollis); and the desert great gray shrike 
(Lanius excubitor pallidirostris) . The mountains of the Kyzyl-Kum are 
inhabited by the rock partridge (Caccabis chukar, or Alectoris graeca), 
which is found often in the sands as well. 

The sands are the realm of the reptiles. Here there are many tortoises 
(Testudo horsfieldi') and a great many lizards: the toadheads (Phrynoce- 
phcdus), including the large and curious long-eared toadhead (Phrynoce- 
phcdtis mystaceus) and the sand toadhead (P. interscapularis) , which 
dig themselves quickly into the sand; the fringe-toed gecko (Terato- 
scincus scincus), that peculiar night lizard, which looks as though it were 
covered with scales; another night lizard, die lobe-footed gecko (Cros- 
sobamon pipiens); the Russian house agama (Agama sanguinolenta), 

16 N. A. Bobrinsfcoy, "Geograficheskoye rasprostraaenie oleney Sredney Azii w 
(Geographic Distribution of the Deer of Central Asia), Zool zhurn. (Zoological Tour- 
nal), XII, p. 84. 


which can change its color; the burrowing lizards (Scapteira) , reticu- 
lated and striped; and the ichkemer, a gigantic desert monitor lizard 
(Varanus grteeus), which reaches a length of more than 1.5 m., and can 
bite fiercely. Of the snakes, the following are characteristic: the small 
sand boa (Eryx miliaris), up to 0.75 m. long; the strela-zmeya ("arrow- 
snake"), or ok-dzhilan (Taphrometopon lineolatum) , a long and slender 
snake, which gets its name from the unusual speed of its locomotion; 
and, in Turkmenistan, the poisonous carpet viper (Echis carinata), which 
is found from North Africa to India. 

Of the sand beetles there are many apterous carabids (Discoptera), 
which resemble cockroaches. The following beetles are characteristic: 
the chafer, Rhizotrogus, which looks as though it were covered with 
flour (the grubs of the chafer feed on the roots of dzhuzgun); the trans- 
lucent, reddish, sand-colored darkling beetle, Ammozoum; the large, black 
and white darkling beetle (family Tenebrionidae), Sternodes caspia, 
one of the most characteristic insects of the sands; and the saxaul longi- 
corn beetle, Turcmenigenia. One of the most characteristic sand beetles 
is the "sand burrower," Thinorycter, which is found in the barkhan sands 
along the middle Amu-Darya near Farab. This small beetle, 3.5 mm. 
long, is a dung beetle (Aphodiini), but unlike other dung beetles, it has 
lost its lower wings, since it feeds not on the droppings of mammals, but 
on the remains of vegetation in the sands. The feet of the sand-burrower 
beetle represent an advanced stage in the development of the fossorial 
foot of the typical sand borrower. 17 

The fauna of the loessial piedmont plains includes the suslik, gerbil, 
jerboa, mole rat (Ellobius talpinus), hedgehogs, Russian desert fox, 
Macqueen's bustard (Otis macqueeni), crested lark (Galerida cristata), 
tortoise, desert monitor, toadheads, and strefo-zmeya ("arrow-snake"). 
The suslik, Citettus fulvus oxianus, according to Kashkarov, is as much 
a desert ephemeral as the plants described above. In March it emerges 
from its burrow, puts on fat, reproduces, and at the end of spring, when 
the vegetation fades, returns to its burrow, where it sleeps for eight to 
nine months, until the following spring. In the Syr-Darya Kara-Tau this 
suslik is found up to an elevation of 1000 m. The desert tortoise (Testudo 
horsfieldi) has the same life cycle as the suslik. The gerbil (Meriones 
erythrourus eversmanni) is found in large numbers as far as Semirechye; 
it is a pest because of its habit of storing wheat in its burrows, sometimes 
by the tens of kilograms. Lizards for example, the Caspian sand gecko 

17 A. F. Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, Russk, entom. obott. (Russian Entomological 
Review), XIX, 1935, p. 83. 


(Gymnodactylus caspius)are found often in the houses. The large 
jerboa of the northern deserts is replaced here by the closely related 
species Allactaga severtsovi. Among the insects are termites, which are 
common in the Golodnaya Steppe; and, among the arachnids, a phalangid. 

The tugay is the habitat of the Turkestan tiger, or dzhulbars (Fells 
tigris virgata); in some places this tiger occurs in large numbers (for 
example, in the deltas of the Amu-Darya and the IK), while in other 
places it has been driven out (for example, in the lower course of the 
Syr-Darya, where it was found as late as the middle of the nineteenth 
century). The tiger hunts wild boar, which appear in large numbers, and 
which, in the delta of the Amu-Darya do serious damage to the crops. 
In the reed thickets the jungle cat (Felis chaus), which hunts pheasants, 
is common. In the shrubs which grow on the river flood plains there are 
many pheasants, or kargaul, of different species. Sometimes one may see 
the peculiar nests of the tit The numerous aquatic birds include the glossy 
ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). Hares and jackals (Canis aureus [Tlios 
aureus] ) are numerous in the tugay. In the tugay along the Amu-Darya, 
the Turkestan red deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus) is found occasion- 
ally as far as the delta, occasionally also in the Kyzyl-Kum, in the saxaul 
thickets. It is rather more numerous in the tugay along the Vakhsh and 
the Pyandzh. 18 

The Asiatic or migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) reproduces in the 
reeds. Among the locusts native to the tugay, there are many subtropical 
and tropical genera, particularly Indian. There are even some Indian 
species. The flood plains of the rivers serve as nesting places for hosts 
of mosquitoes. 

The aquatic fauna is very unique. Representatives of European fauna 
(more exactly, Pontic-Caspian-Aral fauna), such as bream, carp, pike- 
perch, catfish, pike, and minnow [Aspius aspius], mingle with represent- 
atives of Central Asiatic fauna like the Old World minnow (Schizotho- 
rax), a peculiar cyprinid with a poisonous black peritoneum (the rest 
of it being quite edible). This minnow is peculiar to the mountains and 
to the region of the loessial plains. However, it also inhabits Lake 
Balkhash. But it is not found in the Aral Sea, for which the following 
fish are characteristic: the ship, a small sturgeon (Acipenser nudiventrte) ; 
the cyprinid barbel (Barbus brachycephalus) , which reaches a weight of 
15 kg.; and, very rarely, the Aral brown trout (Salmo trvtta aralensis), 
which goes up into the Ainu-Darya. The shovelnosed sturgeon, or 

18 K. K. Flerov, "Turkestaasky den ill khanguT (The Turkestan Deer or 
Trudy Tadzhik. kompl eksp. (Proceedings of the Tadzhifcistan Expedition), X, 1935. 


skafiririkh (Pseudoscaphirhynchus), native to the Amu-Darya and the 
Syr-Darya, is interesting. It is a peculiar member of the sturgeon fam- 
ily whose nearest relatives are found in the Mississippi. The unique 
Balkhash perch (Perca schrenki) is found only in Lake Balkhash and 
its basin, while the other species of this genus, the common perch (Perca 
fluviatilis), is native to the basin of the Aral Sea, northern Asia, Europe, 
and North America. 

In those rivers of Turkmenistan which drain from the Kopet-Dagh 
but which do not belong to the basin of the Caspian Sea, we find a unique 
fauna of the Iranian type. 

Near the town of Turkestan (and only there) is found the Turkestan 
fresh-water crayfish, Astacus kessleri. Representatives of this genus gen- 
erally are absent farther east (and in Siberia); they reappear in the Amur. 

A few words now about the fauna of the oases. The Senegalese turtle 
dove (Streptopelia senegalensis ermani) nests in the towns and villages 
which lie no higher than 1600 m. in absolute elevation. The character- 
istic cooing of this bird, which is heard beginning in the spring, lends 
a peculiar charm to the settlements of Central Asia. It spends the winter 
in Tashkent. The stork (Ciconia ciconia) is common. Sparrows, which 
nest in large numbers in the oases, do great damage to the crops. They 
belong to three species: the house sparrow, the Spanish or black-breasted 
sparrow, and the field sparrow. Some of them build their nests in the 
trees. The Indian golden oriole (Oriolus kundoo) is common. The un- 
usual Indian paradise flycatcher (Tchitrea paradisea turkestanica), which 
is found also in the mountains, nests in the oases. 

The deserts of the Transcaucasus will be discussed below, in the chap- 
ter on the Caucasus (pp. 235-239). 

Yin Mountains of Soviet Central Asia 


IN Soviet Central Asia four mountain systems may be 
distinguished, according to the period during which 
the most intensive folding took place (Berg, 1936). These are (see map) : 

(1) The Caspian system, in which the -most intensive folding took 
place during the Mesozoic period. This system includes the Mangyshlak 
Mountains, the region of Krasnovodsk Plateau, and the Great Balkhan. 

(2) The Kopet-Dagh-Pamir system, which is the youngest. This system 
underwent the most intensive mountain-forming processes during the 
Tertiary period. It belongs to the alpine type of mountain system (or, 
at any rate, is closely related to the alpine type). This system includes 
the Little Balkhan, Kopet-Dagh, Paropamiz, and the southern arcs of the 
Tian Shan (that is, the Hisar, Peter I, and Darvaza ranges), as well as the 
Trans-Alay range and the Pamir. The Himalayas are a continuation of 
this system. 

(3) The central arcs of the Tian Shan, in which the most intensive 
folding took place during the Upper Paleozoic period: the Alay, Turkes- 
tan, Zeravshan, Karategin, Fergana, and Kokshal ranges; the ranges along 
the left bank of the Naryn, the Khan-Tengri, the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau, 
the Tarbagatay, and the Saur. The Kuen-Lun is a continuation of this 

(4) The northern arcs of the Tian Shan, in which the most intensive 
folding took place during the Lower Paleozoic period: the Sultan-Uiz- 
Dagh, the Kyzyl-Kum Plateau, the Nura-Tau, the Chatkal range, the 
Pskem range, the Syr-Darya Kara-Tau, the Talas Ala-Tau, the Aleksan- 
drovsk range, the Susamyr, the Dzhumgol, the ranges along the right 
bank of the Naryn, the Terskei- Ala-Tau (?), the Kungei-Ala-Tau (?), 
the Trans-Ili Ala-Tau (?), and the Chu-Ili Mountains. Our inadequate 
knowledge at present makes it impossible to distinguish clearly the north- 
ern from the central arcs of the Tian Shan. 



1. The Caspian system. The Mangyshlak Mountains lie between Kochak 
Bay on the west and the Gulf of Kaidak on the east (Fig. 38). Here the 
Kara-Tau ridge, composed of strongly dislocated marine Triassic strata 
on which are superimposed Jurassic and Cretaceous sediments, extends 
WNW to form an enormous anticline. To the north and to the south there 
lie two ranges composed of Upper Cretaceous strata and known as the 
Northern Ak-Tau and the Southern Ak-Tau; they are separated from the 
Kara-Tau by elongated depressions. A large part of the Mangyshlak 
Kara-Tau is a plateau which drops in a steep escarpment to the depres- 
sion which separates it from the Northern Ak-Tau. The absolute eleva- 
tion of this plateau on the west is 300 to 340 m. The highest points of 
the Kara-Tau rise to 557 m.; of the Ak-Tau, to 320 m. 

The Krasnovodsk Plateau lies between Krasnovodsk Bay and Balkhan 
Bay on the south, and the Gulf of Kara-Bogaz-Gol on the north. To the 
east it stretches as far as the Chilmamet-Kum sands. The plateau drops 
to Kara-Bogaz-Gol Gulf in a precipice 260 to 280 m. high; the mean ele- 
vation of the plateau above sea level, however, is about 200 m. The 
plateau is composed of almost horizontal Tertiary strata; at the southern 
edge of the plateau these strata overlie the eroded Krasnovodsk anti- 
clinical fold, which is composed fundamentally of Mesozoic rocks (Juras- 
sic to Cretaceous). At Krasnovodsk there is a massif of igneous rocks, 
the Sha-Kadam ("shah's foot"), 185 m. in absolute elevation, composed 
of porphyrite and diorite. 

At its eastern end the Krasnovodsk Plateau adjoins the Great Balkhan 
range (elevation 1867 m.). In form the Great Balkhan, with many reser- 
vations, may be considered a plateau. The Great Balkhan system con- 
sists of several anticlinical folds. These mountains are composed largely 
of a thick bed of limestones, which date from the Upper Jurassic to the 
Lower Cretaceous. 

2. The Kopet-Dagh-Pamir system. The Kopet-Dagh, or Turkmen- 
Khorasan mountain range lies in southern Turkmenistan. It is possible 
that this range is tectonically an eastern extension of the Elburz Moun- 
tains, which overlook the basin of the Caspian Sea from the south, but 
little is known on this subject as yet. On the east the Kopet-Dagh extends 
as far as the Tedzhen; beyond this river, in Afghanistan, it merges into 
the Paropamiz. The main body of the Kopet-Dagh lies in northern Iran; 
only the outskirts of the range lie within the boundaries of the Soviet 
Union. South of Firyuza there is a peak 2940 m. in elevation, while to 
the south of the international boundary there are elevations of over 
3300 m. Within Turkmenistan the Kopet-Dagh is composed of Greta- 


ceous and Tertiary deposits. From the middle of the Miocene period 
the open sea no longer penetrated into the region of the present Kopet- 
Dagh; only inland seas, like the Caspian, extended into this area. Of the 
deposits left by such seas, the Sarmatian, developed in the foothills, 
extends not quite as far east as the meridian of Geok-Tepe. Very intensive 
folding took place here between the Sarmatian and the Akchagyl (the 
middle of the Pliocene). There were severe dislocations also at the end 
of the Pliocene. The Kopet-Dagh, which nowhere reaches into the re- 
gion of everlasting snows, in general has a desert aspect There are no 
forests growing on it; the trees on its slopes include individual specimens 
of archd (juniper), and only in the deep valleys are there found maple, 
elm, fig, and other trees. TThe Kopet-Dagh is very poor in water, espe- 
cially its northern slope, which is drained by only insignificant streams 
which lose themselves in the desert. 

On the east, as we have said, the Paropamiz is a continuation of the 
Kopet-Dagh; it constitutes the connecting link between the Kopet-Dagh 
and the Hindu Kush. Only the foothills of the Paropamiz lie within the 
boundaries of the Soviet Union. This is the Badkhyz country, which lies 
between the Tedzhen and the Murgab; it reaches an absolute elevation 
of 1255 m. The Paropamiz range, which lies within Afghanistan, is vis- 
ible from the hills in the vicinity of Kushka. 

Beyond the Amu-Darya, the Kopet-Dagh-Pamir system continues in 
the Peter I range, near the eastern end of which, not far from the place 
where it borders upon the Akademii Nauk (Academy of Sciences) range, 
a majestic peak was discovered recently; this is Stalin Peak, the highest 
point in the U.S.S.R., 7495 m. in elevation (Fig. 39 ). a East of the 
Akademii Nauk range, at the source of the Muk-Su River, which empties 
into the Surkhob (Vakhsh), lies the Fedchenko Glacier, the longest 
valley glacier in the world; it is 77 km. long, and descends from an ele- 
vation of 5330 m. to 2900 m. A characteristic feature of the Peter I range 
and of the other ranges of the Pamir-Alay is that they are convex to the 
north. This is evidence that the fold-forming impulse came from the 
south; there was a vigorous development of seas during the Upper 
Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic, and, finally, a very intensive folding 
toward the middle or at the beginning of the Tertiary period. 

Pamir is the name given to the mountainous country which stretches 
from the Trans-Alay range on the north to the Hindu Kush on the south. 
On the east the Sarykol range serves as its boundary; on the west, the 

1 This elevation appears in the report, Tadzhiksko-pamirskaya ekspeditsiua 1933 &. 
(Tadzhik-Pamir Expedition, 1933), Leningrad, 1934; 


Pyandzh valley. The Pamir constitutes a lofty desert upland, a minia- 
ture Tibet, where the ranges reach 5000 to 5500 m. in elevation, while 
the valley bottoms (in the eastern Pamir) lie at 3600 to 4000 m. (Fig. 
40). Lake Kara-Kul, which has no outlet, lies at an elevation of 3954 m. 2 
Lake Zor-Kul, at the source of the Amu-Darya, lies at about the same 
elevation. This lake is the source of the Pamir River, which, together with 
the Vakhan-Darya, forms the Pyandzh (as the Amu-Darya is called above 
the mouth of the Vakhsh). 

Lake Sarez, in the Bartang or Murgab valley, is of interest. It was 
formed on February 18, 1911, as a result of a colossal landslide which 
dammed the course of the Bartang at Usoy village and formed a ridge 
800 m. high across the valley. From that time the level of the lake has 
risen, and the lake itself has grown larger in size. In October, 1913, it 
was 28 km. long, 280 m. deep, and its surface lay at an elevation of 
3077 m. 3 In August, 1915, it was 350 m. deep. In 1934 its depth had 
reached 500 m., and it was 60 km. long. 4 The mountains which surround 
the lake rise to an absolute elevation of almost 6000 m. The descent of 
the tremendous mass of crumbled material at the time of the landslide 
was accompanied by an earthquake, which some believe to have been 
the cause, others (L Preobrazhensky, 1920), the result, of the landslide. 

The Pamir is divided into western and eastern parts; the former con- 
stitutes a strongly dissected mountain country, while high plains pre- 
dominate in the latter. 

The ranges of the Pamir in general form arcs convex to the north. 
They consist of intensely dislocated strata, from pre-Cambrian to Ter- 
tiary. Ancient glaciation in the Pamir was very extensive. In the Murgab 
valley at one time there was a glacier 240 km. long, which received more 
than 55 lateral glaciers, some of which were 80 and even 90 km. long. 
According to the investigations of D. V. Nalivkin, two, and in some 
places three phases of glaciation are distinctly apparent in the Pamir. 
At present, glaciers of the hanging and cirque types predominate, but 
there are also some valley glaciers. 5 

2 Its depth reaches 236 m.-N. L. Korzhenevsky, "Oz. Kara-Kul [fiz.-geogr. ocherk]" 
(Lake-Kara-Kul [Phys.-Geogr. Sketch]), Tadzhiksko-pamirskaya ekspeditsiya 1934 g. 
(Tadzhik-Pamir Expedition, 1934), Trudy (Proceedings), XLII, 1936, p. 34). 

8 G. Shpilko, Izv. Geogr. obshch. (Report of the Russian Geographical Society), 
Vol. 50, 1914, Nos. 1, 2. 

4 P. P. Chuyenko, "Sarezskoye ozero" (Lake Sarez), Tadzhiksko-pamirskaya 
ekspeditsiya 1935 g. (Tadzhik-Pamir Expedition, 1935), Moscow, 1935, pp. 357- 

5 Concerning the glaciation of the Pamir, contemporary and ancient, see K. K. 
Markov, "Istoriya relyefa i oledeneniya Pamira" (History of the Relief and Glaciation 
of the Pamir), Shorn. Pyat let po Pamiru (Collection, Five Years in the Pamir) izd. 
Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), Moscow, 1935, pp. 249-324. 



In the western Pamir, up to an elevation of 4500 m., extensive areas 
are covered by loess of diluvial origin. 

The Pamir is bounded on the north by the mighty Trans-Alay range, 
in the middle of which rises the high Lenin Peak* (7129 m.), discov- 
ered in 1871 by A. P. Fedchenko. The mean elevation of the ridge is 

MAP 9. Pamir ranges. 

5000 to 6000 m. Kyzyl-Art Pass, which leads from the Alay valley to the 
Pamir, has an elevation of 4082 m. The Trans-Alay range, according to 
its structure, appears to be an intermediate link between the Pamir and 
the southern arcs of the Tian Shan. 6 The most vigorous tectonic folding, 
which determined the present character of the range, took place during 
the Upper Tertiary period. 7 

The Peter I, Hisar, and Darvaza ranges belong to the southern arc of 
the Tian Shan. The chains of the central and northern arcs have been 
enumerated already (p. 164). 

* Originally named Mount Kaufman. ED. 

8 A. P. Markovsky, "O nekotoroy zakonomernosti raspredeleniya tektonicheskikh 
elementov Pamiro-Alaya" (Concerning Some of the Principles of the Distribution 
of Tectonic Elements in the Pamir- Alay), Tadzhikskaya kompl. eksp. 1932 g. (Tadzhik 
Expedition, 1932), Trudy (Proceedings), II, Leningrad, 1934. 

T V. P. Rengarten, "Zaalaisky khrebet" (The Trans-Aky Range), ibid., p. 38. 


The name Tian Shan is given to the aggregate of ranges of different 
age, which lie to the north of the Trans-Alay range and to the east of 
the Amu-Darya. However, there is no sharp boundary between the Tian 
Shan and the Pamir-Alay. The Tian Shan was regarded formerly as a 
system of folded mountains which were formed during the Tertiary 
period, and was considered to be of the alpine mountain type. But we 
have seen already (p. 164) that this view is mistaken. Only the southern 
arcs of the Tian Shan were formed during the Tertiary period; the other 
ranges of this mountain system were formed by folding which took place 
during the Lower and Upper Paleozoic period. In the course of the long 
continental period which followed, the folds of the northern and of some 
of the central arcs were denuded and turned into those peculiar flat, 
bare summits (syrts) which we find south of Lake Issyk-Kul, in the 
Dzhungarian Ala-Tau, and in other ranges. In the Tertiary period the 
Tian Shan region closely resembled the present Kazakh Folded Country 
(see above, p. 95). During that period, and, in the opinion of some 
authorities, at the beginning of the Quaternary, new dislocations took 
place; these gave the Tian Shan its present character. Until recently 
these dislocations were supposed to have been caused by thrust faulting. 
However, it may be pointed out that as a result of such movements, there 
should have been found young volcanic effusions, of which there is no 
trace in the Tian Shan. Consequently, at present there is inclination to 
consider these dislocations as faults of tangential origin. However this 
may be, the Tian Shan ranges are formed of massifs in the shape of chains. 

Traces of the glacial epoch are less in evidence in the Tian Shan than 
in the Alps. Some students believe there were two glacial epochs, while 
others (Makhachek) believe there was only one. The snow line during 
the glacial period was 600 to 800 m. lower than at present, while within 
the mountains, it was as much as 400 to 500 m. lower; that is, much 
lower than was the case in the Alps. As for the present glaciers, we have 
spoken already of the Fedchenko Glacier. Another large glacier, the 
Inylchek, which has its beginning in the region of Khan-Tengri (ele- 
vation 6992 m.), 8 is more than 70 km. long; its lower end lies at 2880 
m. (Fig. 41). 

A very characteristic feature of the glaciers of the Tian Shan is the 
accumulation of moraine material in their lower extremities. A third or 
a fourth of the length of some of the glaciers is so cluttered with detritus 
that the surface of the ice is completely obscured by it. On the Inylchek 

8 Hie elevation of Khan-Tengri is given according to the data of the mflitaiy- 
topographical survey of 1912 (22,940 ft.). 


Glacier the rock fragments form a continuous cover over the entire 
lower 20 km., reaching a thickness of 100 m. The same condition exists 
on the Zeravshan Glacier and on many others (Fig. 42). The explanation 
lies in the fact that in the dry climate of Central Asia, weathering and 
disintegration of rocks proceed very intensively. 

Another characteristic of many glaciers of the Tian Shan (this is par- 
ticularly noticeable in the Peter I range) is the absence of any neve 
basin at their heads. The glaciers are fed by avalanches of snow, falling 
from the steep walls which surround the glacier. 

The snow line in the Tian Shan, as a result of the dryness of the cli- 
mate, reaches a considerable elevation. In the northern chains it lies at 
3400 to 3600 m., that is, about a thousand meters higher than in the north- 
ern chains of the Alps. The snow line is lowest in one of the northernmost 
ranges, in the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau, where it lies at 3200 m. To the 
south, and also to the east, the snow line rises. In the central Tian 
Shan, passes which lie even higher than 4000 m. are free from snow 
in summer. In the western part of the Peter I range, the snow line lies 
at 4300 m.; in the eastern part, at 4600 m. In "desert" Pamir it lies ex- 
tremely high, at 5000 m. and even higher. 

The Tian Shan has few lakes. Conspicuous among them is Issyk-Kul, 
a large and brackish mountain lake which is bordered on the north and 
south by the snow-clad chains of the Tian Shan (Fig. 43). Along its 
northern shore stretches the Kungei-Ala-Tau, with a mean elevation of 
4000 m., while the Terskei-Ala-Tau, with a mean elevation of 4000 to 
5000 m., rises above its southern shore. The highest summits reach eleva- 
tions of over 5000 m. The surface of the lake itself lies at 1624 m. At its 
western end the Kungei-Ala-Tau is cut by the majestic long and narrow 
Baum Gorge, along which the Chu River takes its tumultuous course. 
This river flows within several kilometers of the western end of Issyk- 
Kul, but instead of emptying into the lake, cuts across the Kungei-Ala- 
Tau. The lake is very deep; near the southern shore its depth reaches 
702 m. 9 On the slopes of the Terskei-Ala-Tau there are several hot 
springs, from which the lake received its Kirghiz name (Issyk-Kul, "hot 
lake**). The waters of Issyk-Kul contain 5.8 grams of salt per kilogram 
of water; 10 that is, approximately half as much salt as the waters of the 

8 L. S. Berg, "Gidjologicheskie issledovaniya na Issyk-Kule v 1928 g." (Hydro- 
logical Explorations on Issyk-Kul in 1928), Izv. GidroL inst. (Report of the Hydro- 
logical Institute), No. 28, 1930. 

10 V. P. Matveyev, "Gidrologicheskie issledovaniya na oz. Issyk-Kul v 1932 g." 
(Hydrological Explorations on Lake Issyk-Kul in 1932), Ozero I$$yk-Kul (Lake 
Issyk-KulT, izd. Sov. po izuch. prirodnykh resursov, Akad. nauk (publication of the 
Council for the Study of Natural Resources, Academy of Sciences), 1935, p. 37. 



Aral Sea. The temperature of the water in the open part of the lake 
does not fall below 4 C. even in winter; X1 for this reason, with the ex- 
ception of several bays, Issyk-Kul is not covered by ice in winter. 


In the Kopet-Dagh there is a weather station at Gaudan (lat 3740' N), 
to the south of Ashkhabad, at an elevation of 1485 m. The temperature 
and precipitation at this station for the years 1898-1914 are shown in 
Table 9. 

Table 9 










































As compared with Ashkhabad (elevation 227 m.), the summer is con- 
siderably cooler, and the annual temperature range is smaller. There is 
almost as much precipitation as at lower altitudes; the maximum, how- 
ever, occurs not in March, but in May. This shift in maximum rainfall 
retards the development of vegetation at Gaudan. There is more precipi- 
tation in autumn than in winter in Gaudan; in Ashkhabad and in the 
lowlands, it is the other way around. 

In Kheirabad (Kopet-Dagh, above Ashkhabad), at an elevation of 
2027 m., the following amounts of precipitation were observed for the 
years 1928-1931 (for comparison, the figures for Ashkhabad are given 
for the same period) : 12 

Table 10 





























Just as in Gaudan, the maximum precipitation comes in May. The 
dryness of this locality, situated so high up in the mountains, is remark- 

There is far more precipitation in some parts of the western Tian Shan 

11 V. P. Matveyev, Priroda (Nature), 1936, No. 4, pp. 74-77. 

U M. Pashinsky, Klimat i pogoda (Climate and Weather), 1932, p. 176. 


which lie at corresponding elevations. Thus, in the Hisar range, on the 
southern slope, at an elevation of 1700 m., more than 1500 mm. of pre- 
cipitation annually has been recorded; the maxima come in January and 
May, while the minimum comes in August (11 mm.). 13 

In the mountains of Soviet Central Asia, the phenomenon of tempera- 
ture inversion is very common. In winter (and at night in summer) the 
temperature is higher on the mountain slopes (but not on the plateaus) 
than in the valleys. Thus, in Irkeshtam (elevation 2850 m.), it is notice- 
ably cooler in summer than in Narynskoye, which lies 835 m. lower, 
while in winter it is considerably wanner. Another factor which must 
be taken into account is that the cold waves which spread from the 
north usually do not reach above elevations even as low as 500 m. For 
this reason, Tashkent (elevation 479 m.), for example, is considerably 
warmer in winter than Turtkul, which lie in the same latitude, but 
400 m. lower. 

Sometimes, however, cold air masses affect considerably higher eleva- 
tions as well. 

The foehn is a very common phenomenon in the foothills of the Cen- 
tral Asiatic mountains. In winter an anticyclone lies over Central Asia. 
As a result, when cyclones pass over the western Tian Shan from the 
west (which happens often there in winter), conditions are created 
which favor the appearance of eastern foehns. Foehns, which are fre- 
quent in the region of Tashkent, sweep from the mountains out of the 
valley of the Chirchik. Sometimes in December when the foehns are 
blowing, the temperature here rises above 22 C. Foehns are especially 
frequent from November to April. 

Lake Issyk-Kul has a remarkably moderating effect upon the tem- 
perature of the surrounding areas. Although Karakol (which is situated 
near the shore of the lake) lies 900 m. higher than Alma-Ata (775 m.), 
the mean January temperature in Karakol is 5.1 C., while in Alma- 
Ata it is 8.6 C.; that is, on the shores of Issyk-Kul, which never freezes, 
the temperature is 3.5 C. higher. 

Very low winter temperatures are observed on the high plateaus; at 
Pamir station (elevation 3650 m.) frosts as low as 47 C. 'have been 
recorded. The wannest month, July, has a mean temperature of about 
14 C. The frost-free period here usually lasts about two months, in some 
years even less. The diurnal temperature range in the Pamirs is very 

18 1. S. Shchufcfc and M. A. Gilyarova, "Kukhistan," in the publication "Tadji- 
kistan," Trudy Tadzk^pam. eksp. 1933 g. (Proceedings of the Tadzhik-Pamir Ex- 
pedition, 1933), No. XXIII, 1936, p. 248. 


great; in winter a temperature of 20 C. may be followed in the after- 
noon by a rise in temperature to several degrees above C. The tem- 
perature of the soil in summer may reach over 50 C. In the eastern 
Pamirs there are extensive areas of permanent ground frost. Cloudi- 
ness is small, the mean annual figure being only 39 per cent. It is great- 
est in spring and winter, least in autumn (in October, 21 per cent), 
when there is also a minimum of precipitation. There are only 45 cloudy 
days on the average during the year. 

The distribution of agriculture and fruit growing is a good indication 
of the climate in the mountains. On the shores of Issyk-Kul, which 
lies at an elevation of 1624 m., grains are grown winter and spring 
wheat, barley (which grows here as high up in the mountains as 1850 m. ) , 
and oats. In the village of Tamga, on the southern shore, apples, water- 
melon, pumpkin, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn are raised, but grapes 
and melons will not ripen. In Karakol excellent apples, apricots, and 
plums are cultivated. To the south of Issyk-Kul wheat will ripen at ele- 
vations of 2100 to 2400 m. In the Alay valley wheat is sown up to 2700 m., 
and barley up to 3000 m. In Shugnan (on the Gunt River) fields of 
barley and peas rise to 3350 m. and wheat up to 3250 m., while apricots 
are cultivated up to 2400 m. On the Shakh-Dar, a tributary of the Gunt, 
the cultivation of apples and pears extends up to 2700 m., apricots up to 
3000 m.. wheat up to 3000 to 3200 m., and barley and vegetables up to 
3400 m. Along the Pyandzh River, grapes are cultivated up to 2000 m. 

Table 11 shows the limit of cultivation for crops which grow in the 
Zeravshan valley: 

Table 11 


Bice 1200 m. 

Corn 1300 

Peaches 1400 

Grapes 1800 

Millet 1950 

Apricots 2100 

Barley 2500 

For comparison we may point out that in the Alps the boundary of 
grain culture, and of cultivation in general, does not rise above 1900 m.; 
it rises this high only on the southern slope. 
In the Turanian Lowland the maximum precipitation, as we have jseen 


(p. 130), comes in spring, the minimum in summer. In the mountains, 
however, the maximum comes in summer, and the minimum in winter. 
Tashkent (479 m.), Khodzhent (329 m.), and Andizhan (500 m.) 
have their maximum precipitation in March; Osh (990 m.), in April; 
Narynskoye (2031 m.) and Irkeshtam (2850 m.), in May; Pamir station 
( 3650 m. ) , in June; and the upper course of the Naryn (3600 m. ) , in July. 
Minimum precipitation comes not at the end of the summer (in August), 
as in the lowland, but in winter, in January and February. The delay in 
the precipitation maximum in the mountains is related to the fact that 
the higher the mountains are, the later the vegetation develops, and the 
farther the precipitation of local significance advances into the months 
of the warm season. However, on the Pamir Plateau, with its desert land- 
scape, the vegetation has no effect on the precipitation. Here the maxi- 
mum precipitation comes in June; this is an echo of the climate of Tibet 

The steppe and even the desert extend far up into the mountains of 
Central Asia, The Pamir Plateau, as we have said, is conspicuous for its 
desert character, especially the eastern Pamir. At Pamir station the mean 
annual precipitation is about 60 mm. During the entire month of May, 
1914, there were only 2 mm. of precipitation (all in one day). 14 How- 
ever, in the snow-clad region of the mountains, where the glaciers origi- 
nate, there is probably no less than 1000 mm. of precipitation per year. 

Landlocked basins in the mountains are characterized by their dryness, 
since the air is carried here by descending winds, which bring no pre- 
cipitation. The Issyk-Kul basin (about 1600 m. in elevation), over which 
western air currents predominate, may serve as an example. The western 
shore of the lake has a desert aspect; Rybachye has only 100 mm. of 
precipitation per year. But at the eastern end, where, because of the 
relief, the air has to ascend, there is far more precipitation; Karakol 
has about 500 mm. In winter in the western part of Issyk-Kul there is 
almost no snow, while in the eastern part there is an abundant snowfall. 
On the northern slopes of the Terskei-Ala-Tau, forests of Schrenk's spruce 
are found only in the eastern part, beginning in the vicinity of Ton Bay, 
where there is abundant rainfall. Correspondingly, the snow line in the 
Terskei-Ala-Tau in the western part lies at 3850 to 3950 m., while in the 
eastern part it lies at 3500 m. Similarly, Lake Iskander-Kul, which lies on 
the northern slope of the Hisar range in the Zeravshan basin, at an ele- 
vation of 2268 m., has only about 300 mm. of precipitation annually 
(Fig. 44). 

14 Western Pamir also has a desert character; but there is more precipitation here; 
in the lower parts of the valleys the precipitation is about 200 mm. per year. 


Soil Belts 

Our discussion of the vertical zonation of the mountain soils will be 
restricted to certain mountain districts which have been studied thor- 

On the northern slopes of the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau, in what was for- 
merly Lepsinsk uyezd (district), the soils, beginning at the lowest eleva- 
tion, appear in the following order (Prasolov, 1909): 

Up to 600 m. Soils of the sierozem type, solonchaks, and desert 

600 to 800 m. Chestnut soils of the dry po/yn-grassy steppes and 

shrub steppes. 

800 to 1200 m. Chernozem steppe. Dry-land (unimgated) fields. 
1200 to 2000 m. Chernozemlike mountain-meadow soils under tall 

meadow herbage. 
2000 to 3000 m. Mountain-meadow leached and peaty soils under 

subalpine and alpine short meadow herbage. 
3000 to 4300 m. Everlasting snows and glaciers, 

In some places the steppes extend much higher up. Thus, in the moun- 
tains of Chimkent raion chestnut soils extend up to 1500 m., and cher- 
nozems up to 1800 m. 

South of Naryn, poZyn-fescue steppes lie at 2500 to 3000 m. 

As we see, there is no zone of mountain forest podzolized soils here, 
since forests are represented poorly in the Tian Shan. However, in some 
places, between the chernozem (steppe) and meadow zones there is 
wedged a forest-steppe zone. This zone is found, for example, on the 
slopes of the Fergana range, where, in Andizhan raion, the zonal se- 
quence of soils is as follows (Neustruyev): 

1. Lowlands. (Andizhan lies at an elevation of 500 m.) PoZt/n-halophyte 
solonchak desert; solonized sierozems, solonchaks, and meadow soils. 
Thanks to artificial irrigation, this is the most important agricultural 
region: cotton, rice, barley, millet, and wheat are grown here. 

2. Adyrs foothills. Semidesert on sierozems, which change quickly with 
the elevation; up to 1100 to 1200 m., light sierozems. PoZyn-grass and 
mixed-herbaceous vegetation. Region of dry farming, which suffers often 
from drought. 

3. Grassy steppe with dark sierozems rich in organic matter, which 
grade into soils analogous to chernozems. These soils are characterized 
by a high (up to 12 per cent) content of organic matter, nutlike struc- 


ture, and accumulation of carbonates not very far from the surface. 
Solonchaks and solonetz soils are absent. Reliable crops without irriga- 
tion. In the dells and ravines, thick-shell Persian walnut (Juglans fallax 
[]. regfa fallax] ) occurs. This zone extends up to 1600 m, 

4. Forest zone, or, more correctly, forest steppe: strips of forest of 
thick-shell Persian walnut, plum, and apple alternate with meadows and 
grassy steppes. Under the forest the soils are strongly humus (over 21 
per cent), with a distinct nutlike structure, which is reminiscent of forest 
clay loams or brown forest soils (Pankov, 1935 ). 15 In the unforested sec- 
tions there are chernozems. 

5. Meadow steppe (dzhailyau), 1700 to 2500 to 2700 m. on the slopes 
facing Fergana and up to 3000 to 3200 m. on the opposite slope of the 
range. On prominent parts of the relief, on soils which are very similar 
to chernozems, there is steppe with polyn and capillary feather grass. 
Extensive meadows on chernozemlike meadow soils occur. In the upper 
parts of this zone (the meadow steppe), there are small coppices of 
Schrenk's spruce, thickets of juniper, and, in the valleys, maple, poplar, 
and birch. The soils of this zone are chernozemlike, and, up to the zone 
of mountain-solonchak soils, are characterized by high humus content 
and a distinct horizon of carbonate accumulation. The meadow steppe 
may be cultivated up to 2500 m. (Fig. 45). 

6. The subalpine zone begins at 2700 to 3000 m. This is a zone of high- 
mountain meadows. Here and there at elevations over 3000 m. there 
is feather grass. In some places the soils are calcareous and resemble 
chernozem; in others they are lacking in carbonates, lighter in color, and 
have a brown sod horizon. 

From the examples cited, it is plain that the influence of the desert 
extends far up into the mountains. The air in the mountains is so dry 
that we find chernozem steppes with feather grass and polyn at eleva- 
tions which in the Alps are covered by everlasting snows. 

Vegetation Belts 

It must be kept in mind that, with such big differences in latitude as 
there are, for example, between the Kopet-Dagh (lat 38 N) and the 
Dzhungarian Ala-Tau (lat 44 to 46 N), corresponding vegetation belts 
are bound to differ considerably. On the other hand, because of the pecul- 

16 Brown forest soils, reported in Tadjikistan and apparently found also in the 
mountains of Fergana, occur at elevations from 1500 to 2200 m. Thick-shell Persian 
walnut grows well on them (M. A. Pankov, "Pochvennie resursy Sredney Azii" 
[Soil Resources of Central Asia], Subtropteheskie kultury v Sredney Azii [Subtropical 
Crops in Central Asia], Tashkent, 1935, pp. 108-110), 


iar climatic conditions which obtain in certain parts of the Tian Shan, 
the scheme of vertical zonation, such as we presented above for soils, 
cannot be the same in all the ranges. Thus, at the very same eleva- 
tion we may find in some places alpine meadows, in others, steppes 
and semidesert. In the Pamirs, high-mountain desert is found at an ele- 
vation at which on ranges of the Tian Shan there lie everlasting snows and 

The absence of pine and oak in the mountains of Central Asia must 
be noted. Pine is replaced by arborescent junipers. Spruce and fir have 
a limited distribution; they are found only in the east. However, in the 
mountain forests here, there are many wild fruit trees and shrubs: 
thick-shell Persian walnut, apple, pear, wild myrobalan plum (Prunus 
divaricata [P. cerasifera divaricata]), apricot, almond, pistache, Russian 
olive, grape, and others. The mountains of Tadzhikistan 16 and Fergana 
were among the first centers in the world where fruit plants were cul- 

The following scheme reflects roughly the vertical zonation of vege- 
tation for the Tian Shan as a whole: 17 

1. On the low foothills, covered with sierozems, is found the same 
desert vegetation which was described for the loessial piedmont plains 
(pp. 154-156). There is somewhat more precipitation here than lower 
down. In spring, in addition to desert sedge and blue grass, many bulb 
plants bloom here: crocus (Crocus korolkowi), hyacinth, gagea, irises, 
and tulips. Of the summer plants, the first to bloom is the peculiar umbel- 
lifer Scaligeria, which blooms and bears fruit for three to four years after 
germination, and then dies. About half the species are annuals. Among 
the perennial herbaceous plants, more than half are tuber and bulb 
plants. The perennials grow as scattered individuals, one or two to a 
square meter. The spaces between them are filled with ephemera; the 
species are few in number, but each of them is represented by an aston- 
ishingly large number of individual plants. Thus, in Tashkent raion there 
are as many as five thousand or more plants to one square meter 
(Korovin, 1934, p. 273). 

The species composition of the foothills vegetation differs somewhat 
according to individual regions, but in general, the fundamental species 
everywhere is desert sedge. On the mounds (hairs) in Turkmenistan 
between the Tedzhen and the Murgab and farther east, among the plants 

16 "Plodovie Tadzhikistana" (Fruit Plants of Tadzhikistan), Leningrad, 1935, izd. 
Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences) (Tadzhik. eksp. 1932 g. 
[Tadzhik Expedition, 1932]). 

17 Cf. Korovin, 1934. 


which form the background of the vegetation, the desert sedge is ac- 
companied by the gigantic umbellifer Ferula badrakema. This plant forms 
peculiar thickets; it yields resin. East of the Amu-Darya the sedge is 
accompanied by different species of the labiate Phlomis, in some places 
(in southern Turkmenistan, along the Zeravshan, and in Tashkent raion) 
by the papilionaceous drupe scurf pea, ak-kuray (Psoralea drupacea), 
and in the foothills of the Fergana and Aleksandrovsk ranges and farther 
east, by polyn. 

2. Higher up, where there is more precipitation, the desert vegetation 
of the low foothills gradually assumes a semidesert character. In many 
places, in the Kopet-Dagh, at Samarkand, in the mountains of Tadzhikis- 
tan, in Fergana, in the Tashkent-Chimkent region, and in the Aleksan- 
drovsk range, it is replaced by wheat-grass semidesert. Here the wheat 
grass Agropyron popovii, characteristic for this semidesert, predomi- 
nates, forming a thin cover. The stems of this rhizomic grass grow half 
a meter high. Another grass is the bulbous barley (Hordeum bulbosum), 
which grows a meter high; its sod is composed of rhizomes. Among the 
dicotyledons, the inula (Inula grandis) is distinguished by its large 
leaves, and the gigantic umbellifer Ferula by its height. Sometimes the 
vegetation forms a rather dense cover about half a meter tall; but the 
soil is not covered with sod, as in the true steppes. At the beginning of 
April this semidesert is overgrown with ephemeral vegetation, among 
which the viviparous bulbous blue grass is the most numerous species. 
Near Tashkent at the beginning of April there are many tulips ( Tulipa 
greigi) and irises. In the middle of June the wheat grass begins to bloom. 
In the middle of July the vegetation of the semidesert fades. Korovin 
(1934) calls this zone the ephemeral steppe, but it is really semidesert, 
of course; it might be called mixed-herbaceous and wheat-grass semi- 
desert. As distinguished from the semidesert of the lowlands, there is no 
polyn here. This semidesert contains many endemic species and even 
endemic genera. 

In Semirechye this semidesert is replaced by polyn and feather-grass 

In the semidesert and steppe zones, beginning at an elevation of 
600 m.> from the Kopet-Dagh on the west as far as the western shore 
of Issyk-Kul there are found thickets of common pistache (Pistatia vera), 
a shrub or small tree which grows in thickets with a thin canopy (Fig. 
47). In southern Tadzhikistan and in some places in Fergana pistache 
grows together with almond. Thickets of pistache are particularly com- 
mon in Kushka raion. 


3. Above the semidesert belt of the foothills lies the belt of mountain 
dry steppes on chestnut soils. This zone is well expressed everywhere, 
from the Kopet-Dagh on the west to the Tarbagatay on the east. These 
grassy steppes may be called feather-grass and fescue steppes, since capil- 
lary feather grass (Stipa capillata) and fescue (Festuca sulcata var.) pre- 
dominate. The soil here is covered as densely with the sod of these grasses 
as in the steppes of the lowlands. In addition to these grasses we may 
find koeleria (Koeleria gracilis) and the pinnate feather grass Stipa 
kirghisorum. In some places, for example in the southern Kara-Tau, 
there are bushes of spiraea (Spiraea hypericifolia) . In general, in the 
Tian Shan these steppes are very similar in character to the steppes of 
the lowlands o Kazakhstan. In the Kopet-Dagh other species of feather 
grass are found. 

4. At an elevation of 1200 to 1500 m., on chernozems there appear 
meadows, usually accompanied by trees. Often at the same elevation 
there are steppes, which occupy the southern slopes and the flat water- 
shed areas, while the meadows are associated with the northern slopes. 
This is a region of dry-land (unirrigated) agriculture. 

The vegetation consists of tall herbaceous plants, 70 to 80 cm. and 
up to a meter high, which form a close stand, but the surface of the soil 
is not covered with sod so densely as in the flood-plain meadows. There 
are extensive thickets of shrubs in this zone: sweetbrier rose, the above- 
mentioned spiraea, honeysuckle, and others, which grow in a close cover. 
The average height of the shrubs is 1 to 2 m. Dense thickets of different 
species of sweetbrier rose, up to 1 m. high, are especially characteristic. 

Two types of low-mountain meadows may be distinguished (Korovin, 
1934) in the mountains of Central Asia: one is found on the northern 
ranges from the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau (and even from the Tarbagatay 
and the Altay ) as far as some parts of the Talas Ala-Tau and the Fergana 
and Alay ranges; the other is found on the ranges which lie farther west 
and south. In the part of the Kopet-Dagh within the Soviet Union, there 
are generally no meadows. 

The northern low-mountain meadows: The large Ligularia altaica, or 
sasyk-kuray (Compositae), which grows up to a meter in height and 
bears yellow flower clusters, is characteristic for these meadows. Another 
large plant found here is the tall Eremurus (Liliaceae). These meadows 
bloom about the end of July, when the blue Delphinium confusum, pink 
scabious (Scabiosa alpestris}, geranium, and other flowers form a striking 
carpet Smooth brome (Bromus inermis) and orchard grass (Dactylis 
glomerata) are found in both northern and southern meadows. Some- 


times the grasses are numerous (capillary feather grass, timothy, koeleria, 
and fescue), and the meadows merge into meadow steppe, changing 
into steppe on the southern slopes. In some of the meadows the capillary 
feather grass yields to the pinnate feather grass Stipa kirghisorum. Pin- 
nate feather-grass steppes are particularly extensive on the slopes of the 
Fergana range and in the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau. 

The southern meadows: The tall umbellifers, Ferula and especially 
prangos (Prangos pabularia), are characteristic for these meadows. 
Prangos, which grows as tall as 1 m., sometimes forms a dense cover. 
It bears yellow flowers. The desert candle (Eremurus robustus) also 
grows on the southern meadows. In some places (for example, on the 
Alay range) the gigantic umbellifers "Ferula jaeschkeana and F. ovina 
are prominent. At lower elevations the meadow plants are accompanied 
by many dry-steppe plants (wheat grass, inula, and others). 

Many plants of the southern foothill meadows lose their leaves with 
the coming of hot weather and drought. Such plants include prangos, 
Eremurus, various shrubs, and others. Korovin calls these the ephemeral 

In the southern meadow zone of the Tian Shan there are patches of 
deciduous forest, although they are not very extensive. Their lower 
boundary in the western Tian Shan lies at an elevation of 1400 to 1500 
m.; their upper boundary in Fergana reaches 2000 m.; in Tadzhikistan 
it reaches 2800 m. Forests of thick-shell Persian walnut (Juglans fallax 
[J. regia fallax] ) 18 are characteristic for the ranges which lie as far north 
as the Talas Ala-Tau and as far east as Fergana (Fig. 46). There are nu- 
merous apple trees (Pyrus malus and P. korshinskii) in these forests, rep- 
resented by a large number of different strains. Sometimes thick-shell Per- 
sian walnut forms a dense canopy in the forests. Individual walnut trees 
grow in Darvaza at elevations up to 2300 m. In some walnut forests 
in the Arslanbob valley in Fergana, maple (Acer turkestanicum), apple, 
wild myrobalan plum (Prunus divaricata [P. cerasifera divaricata]), 
euonymus, and honeysuckle grow together with the walnut. Pure stands 
of maple may be found above the walnut forests in some parts of Fergana. 
In the Fergana range there are wild almond and apricot. In the Ugam 
Mountains (Tashkent rafon), the trees include thick-shell Persian walnut, 
apple, maple, wild myrobalan plum, and pear (Pyrus heterophytta) ; 
there is also a great deal of honeysuckle, spiraea, hawthorn, barberry, and 
Celtis australis. Often the trees are twined with grape vines. In the moun- 
tain forests of Tadzhikistan there is much maple. In this same zone, in 
18 This is a form of the common Persian walnut, Juglans regia. 


addition to deciduous trees, there are thickets of arborescent juniper 
archa, Juniperus polycarpos seravschanica (kara-archa)-on the rocky 
slopes. Within this zone, at an elevation of 1432 m., lies the weather 
station of Chimgan, where 995 mm. of precipitation were recorded in 

Stands of hawthorn (chiefly Crataegus monogyna) and apple, which 
have more nearly the character of shrub thickets, are very extensive in 
the Tian Shan. 

In the mountains of central Tadzhikistan 19 the forest zone occupies a 
belt between 1500 and 2800 m. Turkestan maple (Acer turkestanicum) 
and thick-shell Persian walnut predominate among the trees at elevations 
up to 2200 m. The shrub or sapling of the Turkestan pearlbush ( Exochorda 
alberti [E. korolkowii alberti], which belongs to the rose family and is 
related rather closely to the spiraea) is common. In some places there is 
flowering plum (Prunus ulmifolia [P. triloba]) as well. The Turkestan 
maple is a relict form, the closest relatives of which are found in the Medi- 
terranean countries, the Caucasus, the Himalayas, and the Far East. Other 
ancient types which have an interrupted distribution are the thick-shell 
Persian walnut, pearlbush, and flowering plum. Higher up, between 2200 
and 2800 m., tree and shrub vegetation is represented by the Turkestan 
maple, juniper (Juniperus polycarpos seravschanica), Austrian brier rose 
(Rosa lutea [R. foetida]), and honeysuckle. 

In the Trans-Ili Ala-Tau the thick-shell Persian walnut is absent. Here 
in the low-mountain meadow zone grow sparse, deciduous forests of 
apple, mountain ash, white birch (Betula tiamchanica}^ aspen, poplar, 
maple, apricot, elm, and others. From these forests, which abound in 
apples, the town of Alma-Ata got its name (from d\m& apple). In the 
neighborhood of this town the cultivation of a famous variety of apple, 
the Vernensk Aporta, has been developed. Wild apple grows in Semire- 
chye at elevations from 800 to 1500 m., and in some places even higher. 
(There are some apples on the shores of Issyk-Kul.) The upper limit of 
deciduous forests here lies at 1500 to 1700 m. 

5. Above the low-mountain meadows lie the subalpine meadows. (It 
is not possible to draw a clear boundary between them everywhere.) 
In the Trans-Ili Ala-Tau they begin at an elevation of 1500 to 1600 m.; 
on the Fergana range, which is drier, a thousand meters higher, at 2500 

19 N. F. Goncharov, Ocherk rastttelnosti tsentrdnovo Tadzhikistana (Sketch of 
the Vegetation of Central Tadzhikistan), Moscow, 1936, izd. Akad. nauk (publica- 
tion of the Academy of Sciences). 

20 White birch, in general, is widespread in the valleys of the Tian Shan mountain 


to 2700 m.; in central Tadzhilastan, at 2700 m.; in the May valley still 
higher, at S100 to 3200 m. In this same belt, or a little above it, there 
are usually coniferous forests of spruce and fir, and also juniper groves. 

Although the herbaceous vegetation of the subalpine meadows is dis- 
tinguished from that of the low-mountain meadows by its shorter stand, 
the height of the herbage here is still considerable. The flowers are 
brightly colored. They bloom simultaneously, and there are a great many 
species. The soils are of the mountain-meadow type. Several species of 
Trisetum are characteristic among the grasses; occasionally there is 
pinnate feather grass (Stipa kirghisorum) , which in some places extends 
into the alpine zone (up to 3000 m.). Among the other plants are the 
composite Senecio soongoricus; the labiate Phlomis; the composite Ligw- 
laria altaica; and in some places (in the mountains of Tashkent raion 
and in Tadzhikistan), the umbellifer prangos. 

In central Tadzhilastan the subalpine meadows lie at elevations from 
2700 m. to 3000 m. The most numerous plants here are the composite 
cousinia (Cousinia stephanophora) and the spiny shrub astragalus ( Astra- 
galus nigricalyx), but the large umbellifer Ferula occurs also. According 
to Goncharov, in the meadow region there is less precipitation than in 
the forest belt. 

On the southern slopes in central Tadzhikistan the cousinia meadows 
extend up to 3500 m., while on the northern slopes between 3000 and 
3500 m. there are high-mountain fescue steppes. Fescue grass (Festuca 
sulcata) is the dominant species in these steppes. There is also much 
cousinia and polyn (Artemisia lehmanniana) . In general the vegetation 
of the high-mountain fescue steppe has a xerophytic appearance, and in 
summer there is less precipitation here than in the belt of cousinia 

Spruce and fir do not extend west of long. 72 E. Only in some places 
in the mountains of northern Semirechye do we find coniferous forests, 
which resemble the taiga to some extent; they are on the northern slopes, 
associated with ravines. Schrenk's spruce (Picea schrenkiana) is a mag- 
nificent shapely tree with a narrow crown, which is found in the Dzhun- 
garian and Trans-Hi Ala-Tau, in the eastern part of the Aleksandrovsk 
range, in the Issyk-Kul basin, in some places in the mountains to the 
south of Issyk-Kul, in the Fergana range, in the eastern part of the Trans- 
Alay, and on the southern slopes of the Chatkal range and the Talas 
Ala-Tau. Przhevalsky describes Schrenk's spruce as follows: In form it 
"resembles a sugar loaf: the short, extremely dense branches nowhere 
protrude from the general mass; the whole tree looks a great deal as 


though it had been artificially pruned." Schrenk's spruce grows as tall as 
50 m., and reaches a diameter at breast height of 2 m. Students of the 
spruce-forest soils in the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau classify them as slightiy- 
podzolized forest types, (Perhaps they are brown forest soils.) The spruce 
forests here contain aspen, bird cherry, raspberry, and juniper. On the 
northern slopes of the Tarbagatay there is Siberian spruce (Picea excelsa 
obovata [P. obovata]). Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) is found in some 
places in the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau, while a closely related species, the 
Turkestan fir (A. sibirica semenovi), is found in the Talas Ala-Tau and 
in the Chatkal range. In all the rest of Central Asia, the only conifer is 
the juniper. Spruce and spruce-fir forests nowhere occupy large areas. 
In addition to spruce and fir there are the small Tian Shan mountain 
ash (Sorbiis tianschanica) , several species of honeysuckle, Semenov's 
euonymus [Euonymus semenovii?], raspberry, and sweetbrier rose. In 
some places the undergrowth contains the singular shrub abelia ("Moses* 
staff," Abelia corymbosa), 3.5 to 4 m. high; staves are made from its 
solid wood. Often the soil is covered with moss. In the herbaceous cover 
northern forest forms may be found orchids, pyrola, and stone bramble. 

Of the junipers in the zone of subalpine meadows, the arborescent, 
so-called "semiglobular" juniper, or saur-archa (Juniperus semiglobosa) 
is widespread; it grows in true forests on the slopes of the Turkestan 
and Alay ranges. The ground in these juniper groves is covered with 

In the dry climate of the Tian Shan, spruce and fir extend up to an 
elevation at which in the Alps there is usually everlasting snow, and 
first appear at an elevation at which conifers usually terminate in the 
Alps. Thus, the spruce zone on the northern slope of the Dzhungarian 
Ala-Tau lies between 1500 and 2300 m.; 21 in the Trans-Ili Ala-Tau, be- 
tween 1800 and 2800 m.; in the Kungei-Ala-Tau, between 1850 and 
2850 m.; in the Terskei-Ala-Tati, between 2100 and 2800 m.; and in the 
Chatkal range, between 1800 and 2850 m. Juniper grows even higher. 
The upper limit of juniper in the Peter I range is 3000 m. 

6. Above the zone of subalpine meadows lie the alpine meadows. The 
alpine herbaceous plants are distinguished from the subalpine by their 
small height. Many have leaves at the base of the plant in the form of a 
rosette. Small undershrubs are represented by cushionlike forms. These 
include the saxifrage (Saxifraga alberti}, prickly thrift (Acantholimon 
marmoreum) , rock jasmine (Androsace villosa), and others. Masses of 

ai L. Rodin, Tmdij Bot. inst. Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Botanical Institute 
of the Academy of Sciences) (3), No. 1, 1934, p. 274. 


flowers lend a variety of color to the alpine glades. Of the shrubs, the 
trailing Turkestan juniper, uryuk-archa (Juniperus pseudosabina turke- 
stanica), is widespread in the alpine zone. Cobresia meadows are very 
characteristic for the alpine zone of the central Tian Shan; these mead- 
ows are named after the sedge Cobresia, which in some places covers 
the soil with a continuous sod. Sometimes the entire vegetation of the 
meadow consists of one species of cobresia (for example, C. capittifolia) ; 
sometimes there are also dicotyledons, for example, the common edel- 
weiss, Leontopodium alpinum. 

The sequence of zones for southern and central Tadzhikistan accord- 
ing to N. F. Goncharov (1936) is shown in Table 12. 

Table 12 


Desert, semidesert, and steppe vegetation up to 1800 m. 

Thickets of shrubs (chiefly Rosa) 1800 to 2000 

Forest belt 

Maple forests with pearlbush and thick-shell Persian walnut 2000 to 2200 

Maple thickets with shrubs (Rosa and others) 2200 to 2700 

Subalpine meadows 

Mixed-herbaceous meadows with cousinia or bent grass 2700 to 3000 

High-mountain steppes with cousinia and fescue 8000 to 3500 

Alpine meadows 
Alpine short meadow herbage over 3500 

Having examined the vegetation zones of the mountains, we should 
mention several types of xerophytic plants which do not fit into the above 
scheme; their appearance depends upon local conditions of relief and 
climate. They are found in the Kopet-Dagh (and several other ranges), 
in the Pamir, and in the syrts to the south of Issyk-Kul. 

The Kopet-Dagh. These are desert mountains which within the Soviet 
Union are unforested. The desert here extends high up into the moun- 
tains; thus conditions are created which lead to the appearance of a 
peculiar type of plant, the so-called "mountain" xerophyte. We will de- 
scribe briefly the zonal sequence in Ashkhabad raion: 

Up to an elevation of about 850 m., on sierozems, there is desert 
vegetation of the type peculiar to the loessial piedmont plain. At an eleva- 
tion of 320 to 440 m. there is polyn semidesert on "desert-steppe" ?iero- 
zems (closely related to the light<shestnut soils), with a very thin herba- 


ceous cover. The polyns belong to the Artemisia maritima group. After 
the middle of June, the vegetation fades. In this zone typical spiny moun- 
tain xerophytes appear, growing on schists. These plants include Acantho- 
limon (Plumbaginaceae), which grows in cushions, with spiny, awl- 
shaped leaves; and Acanthophyllum (Caryophyllaceae), which is very 
similar to Acantholimon in appearance and in the arrangement of the 
leaves. At an elevation of 500 to 1150 m., on light-chestnut soils, there 
is wheat-grass and mixed-herbaceous steppe. Here feather grasses are nu- 
merous. This is a region of pastures and meadows. In some places wheat 
and barley are grown here without irrigation. At an elevation of 1100 to 
2200 m., on dark-chestnut soils, we find feather-grass and fescue steppes. 
In the steppe zone mountain xerophytes reach an extensive distribution; 
often they grow in the form of spiny, cushion-shaped undershrubs. 
Acantholimon and Acanthophyllum have been mentioned already. The 
typical xerophyte, Gypsophila aretioides (Caryophyllaceae), native only 
to the Kopet-Dagh, also is worth noting. It is found, for example, at 
Gaudan, at an elevation of 1500 m. It grows in the form of pale gray- 
green cushions, 1 to 1.5 m. in diameter, sometimes flat, sometimes semi- 
globular. The cushion consists of a multitude of stems which grow so 
close together that a horse may walk across them without leaving a trace; 
the cushion is so compact that rain will not penetrate it. This gypsophila 
blooms in a host of white sessile flowers. Sometimes other plants, which 
also form cushions, settle on the gypsophila; for example, Dionysia 
tapetodes. Gypsophila burns well, and is used for fuel. Other xerophytes 
are the shrub tragacanth astragali. These small shrubs, which grow half 
a meter high and have spiny leaves, yield a resinous substance, tragacanth 
gum. Another legume found here is Onobrychis cornuta, which has spiny 
leaves. Sometimes the cushions of this plant grow interwoven with 
Acantholimon, forming one continuous, enormous cushion. 

In the steppe zone on the northern slopes, beginning at an elevation 
of 1000 to 1200 m., there may be found at first individual specimens, 
and, higher up, thickets of arborescent juniper (Juniperus polycarpos 
turcomanica), growing 15 to 17 m. tall. In some places, as an admixture 
with the juniper, there is maple. Beginning at an elevation of 1500 m., 
the juniper thickets are developed rather more profusely. Usually they 
do not form continuous stands, nor do they extend high up into the 

Mountain-xerophytic vegetation reaches its most typical development 
in the Kopet-Dagh above the steppe belt, at elevations of about 2000 m. 
and higher. 


In the gorges of the central Kopet-Dagh, which are usually dry, grow 
shrub thickets of hawthorn, sweetbrier rose, honeysuckle, barberry, my- 
robalan plum (Prunus cerasifera), and cotoneaster (Cotoneaster racemi- 
flora). Occasionally there are blackberry and woodland European grape. 
Here and there in the wetter gorges there are trees of Persian walnut 
(Juglans regia), willow, maple (Acer monspessulanum) 9 poplar, ash, 
elm (Ulmus densa [U. carpinifolia], of the smoothleaf elm group) (Fig. 
48), and juniper. In some places there are many wild fruit trees; in 
addition to the walnut and myrobalan plum, which have been mentioned, 
there are also almond, pear, plum, common fig (Ficus carica), and white 
mulberry. These shrubs and trees do not extend higher than 1200 m. 

The flora of the southern slope of the western Kopet-Dagh, for ex- 
ample in Karakalinsk raion, contains a large number of Iranian elements, 
such as the yellow jasmine (Jasminium fruticans), Christ's-thorn paliurus 
(Paliurus spina-christi) , common pomegranate (Punica granatum), Vitex 
agnus-castus, common jujube (Zizyphus vulgaris [Z. jujuba], plane tree 
(Platanus orientalis), almond, pistache, and others. 

Mountain xerophytes are found in several other mountain ranges be- 
sides the Kopet-Dagh the Nura-Tau, Mogol-Tau, Kara-Tau, and others. 
Among the plants found on the Kara-Tau is the rubber-yielding tau- 
saghyz (Scorzonera tau-$aghy$) , a composite undershrub. 

The Pamir Plateau, with its dry and cold climate, constitutes a typical 
desert with all the various attributes of deserts soils of the sierozem 
type, takyrs, solonchaks, and shifting sands. The vegetation is sparse, and 
the mountain slopes, as well as the valleys, are far from covered with 
verdure. Among the characteristic plants are the small squat halophytic 
undershrub, Old World winter fat (Eurotia ceratoides, native to the 
stony desert of the Pamirs), which is used for fuel; Acantholimon dia- 
pensioides, which is flattened in the form of a cushion, and rises 3 to 
5 cm. above the stony soil; the cushion-shaped legume, crazyweed 
(Oxytropis); the high-mountain polyn, Artemisia skorniakovii; and tiae 
feather grass Stipa orientalis. In the Pamirs, just as on the Kopet-Dagh, 
other plants often settle on the cushion-shaped plants. Thus, on the large 
cushions of Oxytropis there have been found as many as ten species of 
other plants. Lichens and mosses grow on the takyrs; sometimes they 
cover as much as half the surface. On the solonchaks there are very few 
plants; one of them is the annual crucifer Dilophia ebracteata. In moist 
places in the valleys there are cobresia meadows (see above, p. 184); 
solondiak sedge meadows are common. But there are alpine meadows 
as well. 


South of Issyk-Kul, the normal mountain zonation of vegetation is not 
observed on the syrts, since they have a more or less flat surface. Where 
the climate is dry, even at high elevations, steppes and high-mountain 
desert predominate, while in the wetter places there are cobresia meadows. 

Along the Naryn River, steppes rise to an elevation of 2800 m. Here 
grasses predominate: pinnate feather grass (Stipa kirghisorum) , fescue, 
koeleria, desert oat (Avena desertorum), timothy (Phleum boehmeri), 
wheat grass (Agropyron ferganense), and capillary feather grass (Stipa 

In the upper Naryn basin the syrts are occupied by high-mountain 
desert, which resembles the Pamir desert to some extent. Here we find 
the familiar cushion-shaped prickly thrift, Acantholimon diapensioides. 
The peculiar high-mountain squat polijn, Artemisia rhodantha, is promi- 
nent; its leaves rise 2 to 3 cm. from the ground, while the rhachides rise 
8 to 10 cm. The small bushes of this polyn are scattered sparsely over 
the gray soil. Among them are found cushions of the above-mentioned 
prickly thrift and tussocks of feather grasses. We have spoken already of 
the cobresia meadows. 


The fauna 22 of the semidesert and the lower zones of the foothill 
steppes does not differ greatly from that which we find in the lowland 
loessial plain. The European and the bearded partridges (Perdix perdix 
and P. daurica [P. barbata] ) are permanent residents here. In the desert 
mountains of Tadzhikistan there are fox, wolf, hyena, and porcupine 
(Hystrix hirsutirostris [H. leucura hirsutirostris]), while higher up in 
the mountain semidesert and the mountain steppe there are mountain 
sheep (Ovis vignei). In the foothills the goitered gazelle (Gazella sub- 
gutturosa) is common. 

The following animals are native to the deciduous forest: porcupine 
(Hystrix hirsutirostris satunini [H. leucura satunini]), which does not 
go high up into the mountains; wild boar, found from the tugay belts 
to the source of the Naryn (3300 m.); and the Tian Shan badger (Meles 
meles tfanschanensis [M. leptorhynchus tianschanensis] ), which is found 
also in the desert. The Siberian roebuck (Capreolus pygargus tianschani- 
cus) is common here, although more usually it inhabits the coniferous 
forests. Birds characteristic for the nut-bearing forests are: the Indian 

22 Cf. Kashkarov, 1931. V. N. Shnitnikov, Mkbopitayushchte Semirechya (The 
Mammals of Semirechye), Leningrad, 1936, izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the 
Academy of Sciences). 


paradise flycatcher (Tchitrea paradisea turkestanica) , which extends 
as far north as the Talas Ala-Tau; the stock dove (Columba oenas tian- 
schanica); and the Old World goldfinch (Acanthis caniceps [Carduelis 

In the spruce-fr forests there is Siberian roebuck, or ilik, which changes 
its reddish summer coloration for gray in winter; red deer, or bogu 
(Cervus elaphus canadensis n. sibiricus [C. elaplms sibiricus]} 9 in the 
Dzhungarian Ala-Tau; lynx; stoat (Mustela erminea ferghanae); the 
Turkestan weasel (Arctogale nivalis pallida [Mustela nivalis nivalis]); 
and the mouse hare (Ochotow rutila). In addition there are bear and 
manul cat (Otocolobus manul [Felis manul]) in Semirechye. Among 
the birds in the spruce groves of Semirechye are many northern types, 
such as the nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes rotfachildi) , which 
feeds on the seeds of Schrenk's spruce; the crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) ; 
the bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula); several tits; and the three-toed wood- 
pecker (Picoides tridactylus tianscJianicus) . All of these birds except 
the bullfinch are permanent residents in the spruce groves of Semirechye. 
The bullfinch, and also the pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) and 
Siberian rose finch (Uragus sibiricus) come here to spend the winter. 
Near water in the region of the spruce forest (and also to some extent 
in the deciduous forest) lives the Himalayan blue thrush (Myophonus 
coeruleus temmincki); in some places this member of the thrush family 
remains to spend the winter; the bird is the size of a jackdaw. In the 
spruce groves the large Asiatic turtle dove (Streptopelia orientalis meena) 
occurs in large numbers. Some birds nest in the spruce forest, but in 
winter many of them are found in the deciduous forest also. In Semire- 
chye these include the black-breasted accentor; the Tian Shan kinglet, 
which resembles the warbler Leptopoecile sophiae; several creepers; a 
northern taiga bird, the hawk owl (Surnia ulula tianschanica) ; and the 
mountain serin (Serinus pusillus), which may be seen in winter in the 
towns of Semirechye. The spruce forests of Semirechye contain black 
grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), which nests also in other places. 

The white-winged hawfinch (Mycerobas carnipes) is characteristic for 
the jumper thickets. Because of its thick beak, it is called baltd-tumsuk 
("ax-nose 9 *) by the Kirghiz. This variegated bird of the finch family 
feeds on juniper seeds. In Semirechye it lives in the spruce forests also, 
and in winter it may be found on the streets of Karakol. The rock par- 
tridge (Caccabis chukar [Alectoris graeca]) without sufficient basis it 
has come now to be called Alectoris kakelik [A. graeca falki]is common 
in the juniper groves. 


The subalpine and alpine zone. Here bobac are very characteristic 
the red or long-tailed Marmota caudata; the two-colored, or Altay-Tian 
Shan M. baibacina centralis; and the Talas M. menzbieri, occur at eleva- 
tions from 200 to 4500 m. On the high-mountain fescue steppes of Fer- 
gana, in some places there is found a small relict suslik (Citellus relictus). 
The high-mountain sheep Ovte polii and O. vignei graze on the high- 
mountain fescue steppes. In the alpine zone, amid the rocks and rubble, 
the mouse hare (Ochotona rutila, a rodent the size of a rat) is common. 
This animal is called the "hay stacker," because of its habit of preparing 
stores of hay in the form of small ricks for the winter. It is interesting 
that the bobac, suslik, mouse hare, and sheep all appear in the lowlands 
in the steppes and to some extent even in the desert (for example, the 
mountain sheep Ovis orientalis, which inhabits Mangyshlak) as well as 
in the subalpine and alpine zones. Different explanations have been pro- 
posed for this similarity between steppe and high-mountain fauna. Menz- 
bier (1914) believes that the mountain sheep, snow pheasant (Tetra- 
ogallus), and rock partridge (Caccdbis [Alectoris]) first settled in the 
lowlands, and subsequently turned into mountain forms as the lowlands 
were uplifted and transformed into mountains. This view is maintained 
by A. Semenov-Tian-Shansky for beetles, and by Uvarov for orthoptera. 
However, by analogy with the vegetation, the opposite view may be 
upheld that the steppe forms are derived from mountain forms which 
were forced to descend into the lowlands during the glacial period. Some 
steppe forms, however, may have moved into the mountains during the 
xerothermic period. 

Among the other animals found in the subalpine and alpine zones 
are the following: The Asiatic ibex, or kiik (Capra sibirica) does not 
descend below 2500 m., and ranges as high as the boundary of ever- 
lasting snows. The snow leopard, or kaplan (Leopardus uncia [Felis 
undo] ), which hunts goats and sheep, ranges almost as high. The Tian 
Shan bear ( Ursus arctos leuconyx [U. arctos isabellinus] ), closely related 
to our brown bear, is found not only in the alpine zone, but also in the 
forest zone. In the alpine zone it feeds on bobac, digging up their bur- 
rows; it eats herbaceous plants, chiefly alpine fleeceflower (Polygonum 
alpinum), and descends into the valleys when the berries and fruit 
(myrobalan plum, apple, and apricot) ripen. In Semirechye the northern 
dhole (Cuon alpinus hesperius) is found in a form which is also native 
to the Altay. The common wolf and fox also enter the alpine zone. 
Among the birds is the large Himalayan snow pheasant (TetraogaUus 
himalayensis), a bird which appears at very high altitudes; it is the 


companion of the ibex and the mountain sheep. The alpine chough 
(Pyrrhocorax graculus), which is found in great numbers in the moun- 
tains of southern Europe and southern Asia, is common also in the 
alpine zone of the Tian Shan, and is found in the Pamirs. A related form, 
the red-beaked chough (P. pyrrhocorax), appears at somewhat lower 
altitudes. The following birds are very characteristic: the alpine horned 
lark (Eremophifa alpestrte [Otocoris alpestris]), water pipit (Anthus 
spinoletta blackistoni), alpine accentor (Prunella cottarte rufilata), and 
the finches Leucosticte nemoricdla altaica [Montifringilla nemoricola 
altaica] and L. brandti [M. brandti}. It is interesting to note that the 
European martin (Chelidonaria urbica meridionalis) in Central Asia 
never nests in the towns. It nests usually in the alpine zone (sometimes 
close to the snow line), but also in the foothills and in the forest zone. 
In the Dzhungarian Ala-Tau the zone of subalpine meadows is in- 
habited by the endemic Siberian newt (Ranodon sibiricus), which does 
not descend below 1800 m. 

The following fish are native to the mountains of Central Asia, from 
the Kopet-Dagh as far east as the Balkhash basin: the Old World minnow 
(Schizothorax) , a peculiar fine-scaled cyprinid which replaces the trout 
here; the cyprinid osman (Diptychus), which occurs east of the Syr- 
Darya; and the loach (Nemachilus) . Trout are found in Central Asia 
only in some of the mountain streams of the Amu-Darya basin; for 
example, in the Alay valley. The sisorid catfish, Glyptosternum stolicz- 
fati, native to the mountains of the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya basins, 
is unique. 

In the subalpine zone of the Tian Shan appear the singular flightless 
apterous locusts, Conophyma, characteristic also for other mountain 
regions in the Caucasus and in Europe. 

The fauna o the Pamir has much in common, on the one hand, with 
Tibet and, on the other, with the syrts of the Naryn basin, which lies 
south of Issyk-Kul. The huge mountain sheep, Ovis polii, which is 
native also to the syrts, is characteristic for the high-mountain desert of 
the Pamir. The long-tailed marmot (Marmota caudata), red mouse hare 
(Ochotona rutila), Pamir hare (Lepus europaeus tibetanus), and yak, 
or kutas (which is bred by the Kirghiz), also are widespread in the Tian 
Shan, Tibet, and the Himalayas. The following birds nest here: the 
Tibetan snow pheasant (TetraogaUus tibetanus}\ griffon vulture (Gyps 
jvlvus himalayensis); mountain or Indian goose (Anser indicus), which 
also inhabits the syrts; Tibetan sand grouse (Syrrhaptes t&etanus, of the 
sand-grouse family); desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti); and isabelline 


chat (O. isdbellina). Both the wheatear and the isabelline chat, which 
appear in the syrts, are common in the desert of the Turanian Lowland 
as well. 

Of the fish on Pamir, the cyprinid genus Schizopygopsis is characteris- 
tic for Tibet. 

While the Pamir is distinguished by the presence of eastern, Tibetan 
elements, the Kopet-Dagh 23 contains a large number of western Asiatic 
forms native to Asia Minor, the Transcaucasus, Iran, and Afghanistan. 
The following large mammals are found here: the wild goat (Copra 
aegagrus [C. hirciis aegagrus] ) ; mountain sheep ( Ovis orientalis cyclo- 
ceras), which still inhabit Dushak mountain in large numbers; leopard 
(Leopardus pardus [Felis pardus]); cheetah (Aclnonyx jubatus [A. 
venaticus raddei]), which is native to the loessial foothills; manul cat 
(Otocolobus manul [Felis manul]); the very rare Syrian bear (Ursus 
arctos syriacus); and the honey badger (Mellwora indica). The reddish 
mouse hare (Ochotona rufescens), the white-footed mouse (Calornyscus 
bailwardi hotsoni), and the hare Lepus europaeus tibefanus are rodents 
which are found in the Kopet-Dagh and on the Great Balkhan. The 
alpine meadow mouse (Microtus nivalis), which inhabits the Caucasus, 
is found in the neighborhood of the snow patches. Of the birds, the 
Caspian snow pheasant (Tetraogcdlus caspius) is native to the high 
mountains. Lower down, in the belt of juniper groves, we find the white^ 
winged hawfinch and rock partridge, which were mentioned above. The 
wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) is numerous here. The beautiful 
seesee partridge (Ammoperdix grfeeogularis) , which inhabits western 
Asia, is native to the Kopet-Dagh foothills. Among the snakes in the 
Kopet-Dagh may be found the poisonous spectacled cobra (Naja naja 
coeca), which reaches a length of 1.8 m., and the equally poisonous 
blunt-nosed viper (Vipera lebetina), which grows as long as the cobra. 
In some places in the foothills termites (Hodotermes turkestanicus) are 
numerous. The Moroccan locust and the locust Calliptamus italicus are 
insects which breed in the Kopet-Dagh. 

Of the fish, the Old World minnow (Schizothorax), a representative 
of a Central Asiatic genus, is characteristic for the Kopet-Dagh. This 
region is the western boundary of its distribution. 

28 S. I. Ognev and V. G. Heptner, "MIekopitayushchie srednevo Kopet-Daga i 
prilezhashchey ravniny" (Mammals of the Central Kopet-Dagh and the Adjoining 
Plain), Trudy nauchno-issled. inst. zoohgii (Proceedings of the Zoological Scientific- 
Research Institute), III, No. 1, Moscow, 1929. 

IX The Soviet Humid Subtropical Regions 

THE region of subtropical lowland forests is repre- 

I sented in the U.S.S.R. only by two unconnected 

sections of the Transcaucasus: (1) the Colchian Lowland in the western 

Transcaucasus and (2) the Talysh Lowland in the eastern Transcaucasus. 


The region of subtropical forests is characterized by a hot summer. 
The winter is so moderate that many plants are able to vegetate the 
year round without interruption. Rainfall is heavy. The vegetation con- 
sists of broad-leaved forests, which include an admixture of evergreen 
species* This type of climate and vegetation is found also on the lower 
slopes of the adjoining mountains. 



The Colchian Lowland is situated along the lower course of the Rion; 
it reaches up the river about as far as Kutais. Narrowing gradually, it 
extends along the Black Sea coast approximately to the mouth of the 
Kodor (south of Suldium); to the south it extends as far as Kobuleti 
(north of Batum). The lowland measures approximately 90 km. from 
west to east This area slopes gently to the sea; a large part of it is 
occupied by swamps. 


The climate of Colchis is moist and warm. There is much precipitation, 
more than 1000 mm. annually in some places as much as 2500 mm. In 
no other lowland in the U.S.S.R. is there so much precipitation (if Datum, 
which we have classified with the mountain zone, is included here). 


Fig. 33. Soxaul (Wo/oxy/on ammoaWron) in the Trans-Caspian sandy desert near 
Repetek. (Lipsky, iesnaya Rastffe/nosf v Tortestone. Fig. 5) 

Fig. 34. "Sand acacia" (Ammodendron 
cone////) in the Trans-Caspian sandy 
desert near Repetek. (Lipsky, lesnaya 
Rastiielnost v Turfcesfane. Fig. 1) 

Fig. 35. CaWigonum erinacevm on a 
j mound in the Bolshie Barsuki sands. 
(Lipsky, JLesnaya Rasfife/nosf v Turfces- 
fane. Fig. 6) 

Fig. 36. Reed thickets on the shore of 
Lake Balkhash. (Azlatskaya Ross/ya. 
Vol. 2: 135) 

Fig. 37. Ghee grass (Laaagrosfis 
[Stipa] sp/encfens) in the region of Lake 
Zaisan. (Vegefatfonsfai/c/er. Vol. 18; 
part 8; plate 48) 

Fig. 38. The Airakli table mountains on Mangyshlak Peninsula. (L. S. Berg, 
Formy Russkikh Pustyn. Fig. 5) 

Fig. 39. Stalin Peak, the highest point in 
the U.S.S.R. (Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsik- 
lopedia. Vol. 44: 31) 

Fig. 40. The high Pamir. (Bolshaya Sovet- 
skaya Entsiklopedia. Vol. 44: 31) 

.>*' v* s" -' 

Fig. 41. Khan-Tengri, the highest mountain of the Tian Shan. (Aziafskaya Rossiya. 
Vol. 2: 50) 

Fig. 42. The detritus-covered lower end of the Zeravshan Glacier. (Aziaiskaya 
Rossiya. Vol. 2: 44) 

Fig. 43. Lake Issyk-Kul in the Tian Shan. (Aziatskaya Rosslya. Vol. 2: 53) 

Fig. 44. Lake Iskander-Kul in the HIsar range (Samarkand ob/asf). (Aziatskaya 
Ross/ya. Vol. 2: 44) 

Fig. 46. Thick-shell Persian walnut (Jug/ans fa/'/ax 
[J. reg/a fa/fax] ) in Fergana oblast. (Aziatskaya 
Rossiya. Vol. 2: 137) 

Fig. 47. Pistache shrubs in Fergana oblast. 
skaya Rossiya. Vol. 2: 137) 

Fig. 48. Karagach (U/mus densa [U. carp/n/fo/ia]) 
in Samarkand ob/asf. (Azfafskaya Aossi/a. Vol. 2: 



Table 13 
















Ozurgeti t 














* 31-year means. 1 43-year means. J 13-year means. 25-year means. 

The precipitation is distributed (see table) more or less evenly 
throughout the year, and the fact that there is no dry period has a 
pronounced effect on the vegetation. 

The minimum precipitation comes in May, the maximum in autumn 
and winter; but at Poti and in other parts of the Colchian coast, the 
greatest precipitation comes in August, which is the warmest month. 
The monthly total of precipitation varies greatly. In Kutais in one year 
493 mm. fell during the month of February; in other years, however, 
there has been almost no precipitation (0.5 mm.) during this month. 
The precipitation falls chiefly in the form of heavy showers. In Poti 
207 mm. of precipitation once fell in June in one day. 

Cloudiness is relatively great; in Poti the mean annual figure is 62 
per cent. As one moves away from the sea, cloudiness decreases. The 
annual range in cloudiness is not great; in Poti the maximum (in January 
and February) is 69 per cent, the minimum (in October), 55 per cent. 

The winds have a monsoon character. In summer they blow moist and 
cool from the sea; in winter they blow rather warm and dry from the 
land. The summer winds from the sea are due to the fact that in summer 
the pressure over the Black Sea is higher than the pressure over the land. 
In winter the pressure over the Black Sea is low, while over the Caucasus, 
particularly over the Armenian Plateau, the pressure is high. 

Because of the monsoon character of the winds, the relative humidity 
in the western Transcaucasus, as Voyeikov has pointed out, is greater dur- 
ing the warm season than during the cold. For example, in Poti the rela- 
tive humidity is 86 per cent in summer, and 77 per cent in winter, while 
in areas which do not have the monsoon it is usually the other way 

In Kutais the summer monsoon is poorly expressed, while the winter 
monsoon (NE, E, SE) is quite distinct. The winter monsoon here is a 
dry and warm wind. It blows in spring also, in the form of a sultry and 



even drier wind. When it lasts as long as a week, the vegetation suffers 
severely. From November to April in Kutais the monsoon blows an 
average of at least 11 days (and as many as 15 days) a month. 

The monsoon in Kutais has a foehnlike character. However, typical 
foehns (warm and dry descending winds) are very frequent also. In 
Kutais there are 114 days during the year when the foehn blows; that 
is, two and one-half times as many as in those parts of the Alps which 
are celebrated for foehns. In December in Kutais the foehn blows about 
one day out of two. In summer, however, foehns are much less frequent. 
In June and July there are S to 4 days a month with foehn. These winds 
are dry and warm, like the monsoon, and they raise the winter tempera- 
ture of Kutais perceptibly. Foehns result when masses of cold air descend 
into the Rion valley from anticyclones in the Caucasus, and particularly 
from the Armenian Plateau; they undergo compression and their tem- 
perature rises as they descend. When a cyclone passes over the Black 
Sea, the velocity of the foehn wind may reach the force of a tempest. 
When foehns occur in winter in Kutais, the temperature rises an average 
of 2 to 5 C., and sometimes even more. During the foehn of March 
24-27, 1899, the temperature in Kutais reached 30 C., while the relative 
humidity fell to 9 per cent. 

Shore breezes arise along the coast during calm noncyclonic weather. 
During the day they blow from the sea, at night from the land. 

The Colchian Lowland, protected by mountains from the cold east 
winds, and warmed by the sea, has a very mild winter. However, the 
summer here is hot. In the table which appears below, the mean monthly 
temperatures for Poti are given: 

Table 14 












Vv AW 

Meaa diurnal 

Meaa tempera- 














ture atlrOO 














The diurnal range, 18 C., is very small, smaller than anywhere else 
in the U.S.S.R., with the possible exception of the western Murman coast 
The winter is very mild; the mean temperature of the coldest month is 
over 4 C., which permits the cultivation of a number of subtropical 
plants tangerines, lemons, and bamboo. 


The wannest month is not July, but August, as in marine climates. 
Autumn in the Colchian Lowland is extremely warm. (October is warmer 
than April by 4 to 5 G.) This is due in part to the high temperature 
of the sea along the southern part of the Caucasian littoral. In September 
the sea has a surface temperature of 22 C.; in October, over 18 C.; in 
November, over 13 C. Also, the warm foehns begin to blow in autumn. 

The absolute maxima in some years may reach over 18 C. in January, 
and 39 to 40 C. in July and August. However, there are sometimes 
rather severe frosts in winter. Thus, in Poti the thermometer has dropped 
occasionally to 11.5 C. On the average, however, in Poti there is only 
one day annually when there is no thaw; that is, when the maximum 
temperature does not rise above C. 


The soils of the Colchian Lowland belong to the bog and half-bog 
types. Brown forest soils * and alluvial soils are developed in the more 
elevated places. There are no red soils on the plain, but they are devel- 
oped in the foothills and in the mountains. 


The special features of the vegetation cover are related to the peculiari- 
ties of the warm and humid climate of Colchis. Plant life is unusually 
luxurious; there is an admixture of evergreen plants, and a profusion of 
vines and ferns. Growth is extremely vigorous, and it is extraordinarily 
difficult to subdue the forest here. In Guriya, along the Choloku River, 
according to Medvedev, an area which has been under a cornfield may 
be overgrown in the space of one or two years by a six-meter under- 
growth of alder and Caucasian wing nut, so that only the remains of 
the stalks of dry corn among the thickets of trees show that there was a 
field here recently. Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) achieves a profuse 
growth here very rapidly, growing as tall as a man in the course of one 
summer; this weed is difficult to destroy here. 

On the sandy seacoast grow two spiny shrubs, common sea buckthorn 
(Hippophae rhamnoides) and blackberry (Rubus discolor). These 
shrubs are twined with the vines of travelerVjoy (Clematis vitalba) 
and sturdy greenbrier (Smilax excels& Liliaceae). Beyond the coastal 
vegetation lie bogs covered with a dense forest of hairy alder (Alnus 
barbata, a species closely related to the European alder, A. glutinosa), 

1 Concerning these soils, see below, pp. 250-251. 


brittle willow (Salix fragilis), and Caucasian wing nut (Pterocarya 
jraxinifolia; in Georgian, lapini). All of these trees are twined with sturdy 
greenbrier vines, common hop (Humulus lupulus], blackberry, hedge 
glorybind (Calystegia sepiwn [Convolvulus septum]), and Grecian silk 
vine (Periploca graeca). Alder grows here very quickly; in 5 to 6 years 
it reaches dimensions which require 25 to 30 years to achieve in other 
parts of the U.S.S.R. Forests in which alder predominates spring up as 
a result of lumbering and stock grazing. 

On slightly elevated places there is oak (Quercus hartwissiana), 
European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), some oriental beech (Fagus 
orientalis) (Figure 49), and common pear (Pyrus communis). The 
epiphytic common polypody (Polypodium vulgare) is found growing 
on some of the trees. The trees are twined with vines; in addition to 
those enumerated above, the vines found here include the evergreen 
Colchis ivy (Hedera colchica), and also the European grape (Vitis vini- 
fera)* Among the other evergreen plants occasionally there are English 
holly (Ilex aquifolium) and butcher's-broom (Ruscus aculeatus and 
B. hypophyttum), and even common box (Buxus sempervirens) . Such 
is the picture, for example, near Poti. In the vicinity of Lake Paleostom 
on the sedge peat bogs, there is found the enormous arborescent royal 
fern, Osmunda regalis, which grows also farther north, in the alder bogs 
at Adler, and farther south, at Kobuleti. 

Somewhat farther in the interior, the country rises a little in elevation 
and becomes drier. Here we find either forests on dry soils, or cultivated 
fields. Oak and hornbeam predominate, with an admixture of a great 
many other trees and shrubs: zelkova (Zelkova carpinifolia), pontic 
azalea (Azalea pontica [Rhododendron luteum]), hawthorn (Crataegus 
oxyacantha) 9 European filbert (Conjlus avettana), oriental hornbeam 
(Carpinus orientalis), European chestnut (Castanea vesca [C. sativa]) 9 
common pomegranate (Punfca granatum), and others. Near the dwell- 
ing places grow centuiy-old thick-shell Persian walnut trees. 

The Colchian forests, like the Talysh forests, contain a series of relict 
Upper Tertiary forms, analogous to the flora of Ussuri faay, Japan, and 
the Atlantic states of North America (N. I. Kuznetsov, 1909). Colchis, 
and tiie western Transcaucasus in general, served during the glacial 
period as a shelter where thermophilic Upper Tertiary flora were able to 
survive. Among the characteristic Tertiary species of the Rion Lowland 
there are first of all the Caucasian wing nut and zelkova. The Caucasian 
wing nut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia), an enormous tree up to 30 m. tall, 
which belongs to the same family as the thick-shell Persian walnut, grows 


in abundance on moist soils subject to flooding along the river shores and 
on the outskirts of the bogs. This tree is associated particularly with the 
lowland, and is not found in the foothills. It extends about as far east 
as Kutais. The rapid growth of the Caucasian wing nut has been men- 
tioned already. Its light wood, which has little durability, is put to various 
incidental uses. The zelkova (Zelkova crenata [Z. carpinifolia], which 
belongs to the elm family), unlike the Caucasian wing nut, grows on 
the drier and more elevated portions, predominantly within oak stands, 
up to an absolute elevation of 300 m. The hard and solid wood of the 
zelkova serves many purposes. It provides a first-class building material, 
since it can withstand the humid climate of Colchis for tens and hundreds 
of years. For piles, bridges, and so forth, zelkova has no substitute; it 
excels oak in durability. 

Both these trees have an almost identical intermittent distribution; 
they are found not only in the western Transcaucasus, but also in Talysh 
and on the southern shore of the Caspian, as well as in some parts of 
the eastern Transcaucasus. Species closely related to the Caucasian wing 
nut and the zelkova are found also in the Far East, in China and Japan; 
and on the island of Crete there grows a species very closely related to 
the Caucasian zelkova. Closely related and perhaps even identical species 
of both genera grew during the Tertiary period in Europe, Asia, and 
North America, extending into the extreme north. Zelkova (the species 
Z. carpinifolia) was discovered recently in Pliocene deposits in the 
neighborhood of Sofia in Bulgaria, together with other plants which 
are typical for the western Transcaucasus: box, holly, yew, and chestnut. 
Of the other Tertiary types which grow in the Rion Lowland, Kuznetsov 
lists the shrub evergreen pontic rhododendron (Rhododendron ponti- 
cum) and the annual herb BJiampJucarpa medwedewii, which was found 
first in the neighborhood of Poti and which is very typical for the Colchian 
Lowland. This semiparasitic plant of the figwort family (Scrophularia- 
ceae) belongs to a genus which is found in the tropics, chiefly in Africa. 
The Colchis trapa (Trapa cokhica) also belongs to this group of relict 

During the glacial period many European forms came down into this 
area from the north. On the bogs of the Rion Lowland, the following 
northern plants are found: the roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), 
the common bog bean (Menyanthes trifoliata), sphagnum mosses, the 
beak rush Rhynchospora alba (of the sedge family), and others. 



The fauna of Colchian, unlike the flora, is neither abundant nor unique. 
Among the birds is the pheasant (Phasfanus cokhicus). The fish are 
closely related to those found along the Black Sea coast of Asia Minor. 
The Colchis cyprinids, barbel (Barbus tauricus escherichi), khramulya 
(Varicorhinus sieboldi), minnow [Leuciscus cephalus], shemaya [Chal- 
calburnus chdcoides], and rechnoy rybets (Vimba vimba tenella) are 
characteristic. There are many mollusks, myriapods, a kind of fresh- 
water crayfish (Astacus colchicus), and a host of malarial mosquitoes. 
Two scorpions are found here, the Mediterranean (Euscorpius italicus) 
and the Mingrelian (E. mingrelicus) . 


The Talysh, or Lenkoran, Lowland lies to the south of the Mugan 
Steppe, in a narrow strip 5 to 30 km. wide and 100 km. long, between 
the Caspian Sea and the Talysh Mountains. It is drained by the Vilyazh- 
Chay, Lenkoran, Putasar-Chay, and Astard rivers (the last-named lies 
along the boundary with Iran), The lower valleys of these rivers are 
largely occupied by swamps. 

Along the coast there are fresh-water and salt lakes and ponds, which 
are separated from the sea by chains of dunes, 4 to 6 m. high. A small 
body of water such as this is called a mortso. The longest mortso extends 
from Lenkoran to the mouth of the Kumbashinka* 


As in Colchis, precipitation is abundant (about 1200 mm. annually), 
but here it is distributed unevenly among the months. During the first 
half of the summer, in June, there is a dry period; the maximum pre- 
cipitation comes in autumn, in September and October. In Lenkoran the 
mean annual precipitation for the years 1847-1904 was 1252 mm., being 
greatest in September (216 mm.), least in June (24 mm.). However, 
sometimes there is less than 1 mm. of precipitation during the entire 

The summer is hot, the winter moderate. In Lenkoran, in lat 38X N, 
the mean July temperature is almost 26 C., the mean January tempera- 
ture, + 3 C* But occasionally there are very severe winters. Thus, in 
January 1925, the temperature in Lenkoran dropped to 15 C.; the 


Araks River and Kizil-Agach Bay were frozen and a great number of 
aquatic birds were destroyed. (Flamingoes perished by the thousand.) 
The winds in Lenkoran have a monsoon character. In summer and 
spring ESE and SE winds prevail, while in winter (from November to 
February) WNW winds prevail, blowing from the land. These variations 
in wind direction correspond to the distribution of atmospheric pres- 
sure over the southern part of the Caspian Sea and over the continent. 
The winds from the land blow in the form of foehns, warm and dry 
winds which descend from the mountains; sometimes they raise flie win- 
ter temperature to 19 C. On the coast there are marked sea breezes in 


The soils on the shore itself are alluvial, while farther inland from 
the coast there are red soils, which are replaced in the foothills by brown 
forest soils. 


The vegetation 2 in general has the same Tertiary appearance as in 
Colchis, but the composition of the flora is somewhat different. The 
flora of Talysh belongs to the Hyrcanian province, the boundaries of 
which correspond to the northern slopes of the ranges which border 
the southern coast of the Caspian, There are very few evergreen plants 
in Talysh. 

In the forests of the Talysh Lowland the prevailing species is the en- 
demic Persian parrotia (Parrotia persica), which often grows in dense 
thickets. This tree is distinguished by the unusual durability of its wood 
and by its very slow growth. It does not reach a great height, standing 
only 6 to 20 m. tall; its trunk begins to branch very low, almost at its 
base. Usually the very characteristic chestnut-leaf oak (Quercus cos- 
taneaefolia var. dbtusiloba) grows together with the Persian parrotia. 
This oak is a rather shapely tree, although it does not reach the mighty 
stature of the typical chestnut-leaf oak, which grows higher up in the 
mountains. The association usually includes European hornbeam (Car- 
pinus betulus) and zelkova (Zelkova carpinifolia). The latter, as in Col- 
chis, is extensively cut over. On the forest outskirts and in the glades, vines 
grow in profusion: Grecian silk vine, greenbrier, and ivy (Hedera 
pastuchovii); the vines of traveler's-joy (Clematis vitalba), which grow so 
densely in Colchis, are absent here. The naturalized American grape vine 

A. A. Grossheim, Flora TalysJia (The Flora of Talysh), Tiflis, 1926, p. 247. 


(Vitis labrusca orientalis) is very common here. Flowering plants, as well 
as mosses, lichens, and ferns, appear as epiphytes on the trees. Thus, bitter 
cress (Cardamine hirsuta), herb Robert geranium (Geranium roberti- 
anum)* oxalis (Oxalis corniculata), and others may be found blooming 
on the trunks of the Persian parrotia. In the herbaceous layer society, 
sedges and Mazanderan blue grass (Poa masenderana) grow in profu- 
sion. Evergreen shrubs of the Talysh Lowland are the butcher's-broom, 
Ruscus hyrcanus, and the Alexandria laurel (the local Russian species, 
Danae racemosa). 

"The lowland forest," writes Grossheim, "begins to develop somewhat 
later than do the mountain forests; the flowering of some of the species 
occurs later, and the forest itself begins to turn green and to blossom at 
the time when the forests of the lower and middle mountain zone already 
stand in the full adornment of their spring verdure." This condition 
without any doubt is a consequence of temperature inversion. Down 
below, where the cold air descends, the temperature is lower than up 
above. (In the same way also, the vegetation in the river valleys of the 
Soviet Union flowers later than in the interstream areas.) 

Today the lowland forests have been cut down almost entirely, and 
have been replaced by rice fields, gardens, and settlements. 

On the waterlogged sections there grow low forests of almost pure 
thickets of alder (Alnus barbata), profusely tangled with vines. Tliese 
alder groves are analogous to those found in Colchis. Among other vines, 
the endemic Lenkoran blackberry (Rubus raddeanus), which bears pink 
flowers in May, is characteristic. The Persian parrotia and the shrub 
butcher's-broom are absent here, but individual specimens of chestnut- 
leaf oak, Caucasian wing nut, zelkova, and fig are encountered some- 
times. The undergrowth contains much hawthorn ( Crataegus monogyna). 
The coastal dunes are covered with a herbaceous vegetation, while 
the inland dunes bear shrub vegetation, with ephedra (Ephedra vul~ 
garis [E. distachya}) predominating in the north, and common pome- 
granate (Punica granatum), in the south. The pomegranate grows as 
tall as a man, and sometimes even 3 to 4 m. high. Holy bramble (Rubus 
sanctus), often growing taller than a man, is widespread throughout 
the dunes; this plant, which is almost evergreen, flowers and bears fruit 
up to the end of December. Sweetbrier roses grow in profusion; medlar 
(Mespttus germanica) and common quince (Cydonia oblonga) are com- 
mon. In some places there are Grecian silk vine and grape. 

On the shores of the lakes there are reed bogs which contain vast 
thickets of the tall common reed, Pkragmites communte. The surface of 


the lakes is covered by a mass of trapa (Trapa hyrcana). In the bogs 
between the dunes, iris (Iris pseudacorus) predominates. 


The pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) feeds readily upon the berries of 
the holy bramble, and the jungle cat (Felis chaus) hunts the pheasant 
in the holy-bramble thickets and the reeds. The flowers of the honey 
locust attract large numbers of bees, and the bees attract whole bevies 
of bee-eating birds. Tigers, which hunt the numerous wild boar of the 
region, are found in Talysh (most often encountered in the vicinity of 
Prishib village); occasionally they penetrate into other parts of the east- 
ern Transcaucasus; in 1923 a tiger was killed not far from Tiflis. In both 
the mountains and the lowlands, there is leopard (Leopardus pardus 
tullianus [Felis pardus tullianus]). The porcupine (Hystrix hirsutirostris 
[H. leucura hirsutirostris]) also appears occasionally. Lake Kaladagny 
(south of Lenkoran) was noted at one time for its great number of swans. 
On Sara Island (south of Kizil-Agach Bay) there was formerly an enor- 
mous colony of Caspian herring gull (Larus cachinnans [L. argentatus 
cachinnans]), the eggs of which were an item of economic importance. 
In 1908 an area of ten hectares was covered entirely with the nests of 
the herring gull. A large number of these gulls have been preserved in 
the reservation on Kulagin Island, north of Sara. Great flocks of birds 
spend the winter on the mortso between Lenkoran and Kumbasham; 
these include swans (now exterminated), ducks, coots, and shore birds. 
The curious Indian gallinule (Porphyrio poliocephdus), a southern bird, 
also nests here, and the glossy ibis and flamingo, as well as the Smyrna 
kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), are encountered. One of the insects 
in the Lenkoran forests is the unusual longicorn beetle, Parandra caspia, 
which is found along the southern coast of the Caspian from Astrabad 
to Lenkoran; other species of this genus are native chiefly to the neo- 
tropical region. 

Among the domestic animals the zebu is to be noted. 

X Mountains of the Caucasus 


THE North Caucasus Foreland, in general, is a con- 
I tinuation of the Ukrainian and South Russian steppes, 
and to some extent also of the semidesert. However, in the central part 
it rises in elevation to form the Stavropol Plateau (827 m.), composed 
of Tertiary strata. This plateau, which lies on the watershed between the 
Kuban basin on the one hand, and the Terek and Kuma basins on the 
other, separates the western North Caucasus Foreland from the eastern. 
The Stavropol Plateau lies nearest to the mountains of the Caucasus in 
the vicinity of Mineralnie Vody. 

We will describe the mountains of the Caucasus under the following 
four subdivisions: (1) the Glavny (Main) range of the Caucasus, 
(2) Daghestan, (3) the Armenian Plateau and the dry regions of the 
eastern Transcaucasus, and, finally, (4) Talysh. 



The Caucasus range 1 is a system of folded chains, which extend ESE 
from Anapa on the Black Sea. The town of Ilkhi-Dagh, near the point 
where the Sumgait River empties into the Caspian (lat. 4054 N) is gen- 
erally considered the -eastern end of the Caucasus range. Tectonically, 
however, the range ends somewhat north of this point, in the region of 
Kilyazi station, where the folds either disappear beneath the Caspian, 
or are cut away by the coast line (Rengarten, 1930). The length of the 
range is over 1100 km. Its width in the region of Mount Elbrus is nearly 
180 km.; in the region of the Georgian Military Highway, 110 km. 

1 Concerning the relief, see I. S. Shchuldn, "Ocherki geomorfologii Kavkaza" 
(Sketches of the Geomoiphology of the Caucasus), X Bolshy Kavkaz (The Greater 
Caucasus), Moscow, 1926. 



The Caucasus consists of the Vodorazdelny (Water Divide) range, 
which is not crossed by any rivers, and the ranges which adjoin it on the 
north and south, which in some places are higher than the Vodoraz- 
delny. In the central part, west of Krestovy Pass and between the me- 
ridians of Elbrus and Kazbek (both these peaks, as we shall see, lie in 
the Peredovoy range), the Vodorazdelny range has an average elevation 
of 3600 m. (Fig. 51); in this section it is covered throughout its entire 
length by everlasting snows, and in spots by glaciers (Fig. SO). Many of 
the peaks are higher than Mont Blanc. At the head of the Shkhar River 
the Vodorazdelny range reaches an elevation of 5148 m. The core of the 
range here is composed of granites and gneisses, which are pierced by 
veins of greenstone* On the north and on the south the granite core is 
bordered by belts of metamorphic schists. East of Krestovy Pass, the 
Vodorazdelny range drops in elevation, and the granites disappear. Only 
some of the peaks (Bazar-Dyuzi, elevation 4487 m., and others) rise 
as high as the snow line and are covered by glaciers. 

In the region of Elbrus, the mighty Peredovoy range branches off 
from the central part of the Vodorazdelny range at a distance of 10 to 15 
km. to the north of the water divide. The highest point of the Peredovoy 
range, and also the highest point of the entire Caucasus, is Mount Elbrus 
whose twin peaks reach 5629 m. and 5593 m. This mountain is an ex- 
tinct volcano which was formed during the Upper Tertiary period. 
Twenty-two glaciers, with a total area of 144 sq. km., descend from 
Elbrus; its glaciers and snow feed the Kuban and some of the tribu- 
taries of the Terek. Although Elbrus is an extinct volcano, a sulphurous 
gas is emitted on its eastern border, while along the descending streams 
(for example, along the Malka) there are a great many mineral springs; 
in these there is a copious emission of carbonic acid, and some of them 
have temperatures as high as 22 C. Elbrus and many other peaks of the 
Peredovoy range are considerably higher in elevation than the peaks 
of the Vodorazdelny. 

The other giants of the Peredovoy range include Dykh-Tau (5198 m.)> 
Koshtan-Tau (5145 m.), the volcanic andesite cone of Kazbek (5043 m.), 
and others. 

Orographically, the Peredovoy range is not a distinct chain. In gen- 
eral, it is composed of the northern spurs of the Vodorazdelny range. 
In some places the Peredovoy is connected by cross ranges with the 
Vodorazdelny. These connections give rise to mountain basins, which 
have a relatively dry climate. 

To the north of the Peredovoy range lie much lower ranges, which do 


not rise as high as the snow line. These include the Skalisty, which 
stretches from the Belaya River to the boundary of Daghestan, and 
which rises over 3300 m. in elevation, and the Cherny, which is well 
defined from the sources of the Kuma to the Terek; Mount Bermamyt 
(elevation 2591 m.; 30 km. from Kislovodsk) in the Cherny range is 
famous for its fine view of Elbrus, 

The following ranges branch from the Vodorazdelny to the south: 
the Gagry (3260 m.) and Bzyb (3000 m.) ranges, which are composed 
predominantly of limestones; the Kodor range (over 3800 m.); the 
Svanetiya range (4000 m.)> which feeds a large number of glaciers 
(Fig. 52); and the Lechkhumsk and Rachinsk ranges. In the longitudinal 
valleys between these ranges lie the sources of the Bzyb, Kodor, Ingur, 
Tskhenis-Tskhali, and Rion rivers. The Kartalinsk range (between the 
Pshavsk Aragva, lora, and Kura) and the Kakhetinsk range (between 
the lora and the Alazan) branch from Great Borbalo peak (elevation 
3295 m.) in the eastern part of the Vodorazdelny range. Both these 
ranges, composed of Tertiary deposits, have an elevation of about 3000 m. 
on tifcie north, but drop in elevation to the south. 

Between Great Borbalo and Bazar-Dyuzi the main range does not ex- 
ceed 3700 m. in elevation. Beyond Baba-Dagh it drops considerably in 
elevation and branches into a series of chains. 

The snow line on the Caucasus rises from west to east, due to the fact 
that moisture comes from the west. The following figures show the ele- 
vation of the snow line in selected localities (Reinhard) : 

Table 15 


Oshten-Fisht 2650 to 2750 
Upper Mzymta 2950 

Upper Teberda 2925 

UHu-Uzen valley 8250 

Northern slope of Elbrus 3850 

Southern slope of Elbrus 3575 


Ejestovy Pass 8400 

Shakh-Dagh 8635 

Southern slope of Bazar-Dyuzi 3900 

There are about 1400 glaciers on the Caucasus range, and they cover 
a total area of 2000 sq. km. One of the largest is Dykh-Su, which de- 
scends from Dykh-Tau and Shkhar peaks; it is over 15 km. long. The 


glaciers on the southern slope are smaller than those on the northern. 
The largest, with a length of 13.5 km., is the Lekzyr in the Svanetiya 
range, in the Ingur basin. It descends to an elevation of 1734 m., lower 
than any other of the present glaciers in the Caucasus. 

During the glacial period the center of glaciation in the Caucasus 
was in the Elbrus region. In Daghestan, then as today, there were only 
isolated centers of glaciation. On the northern slope of the Caucasus 
range, the glaciers reached farthest down in the valleys of the Kuban and 
the Ardon as low as 900 m., but they did not descend into the plain. 
Ancient moraines are found still lower in the western Transcaucasus. In 
the Kodor valley they are found at 350 m., in the valleys of the Bzyb and 
the Mzymta, at 450 m. To the east, the lower boundary of diluvial glaciers 
rises abruptly, and along the Belaya Aragva it is found at 1450 m. Al- 
most all the ancient moraines belong to the last glacial epoch (Wiirm). 
In some places, however (for example, along the Vaksan and the Terek), 
older moraines have been preserved. In the foothills and on the plain 
there are several fluvioglacial terraces; for example, on the Kuban, 
Vaksan, and Terek there are no less than three terraces, the lowest of 
which corresponds to the last glaciation. 

During the last glacial epoch the snow line in the western Caucasus 
was 1200 to 1300 m. lower than at present. The distribution of winds and 
of precipitation in the West and Central Caucasus during the glacial pe- 
riod were about the same as they are today; at that time, according to 
Reinhard, moisture was brought chiefly by west winds. The n6ve basins 
of the large glaciers contained only slightly more snow than at present; 
their growth took place chiefly at the lobes. Thus, the increase in the size 
of the glaciers was brought about not by a greater influx of new masses 
of ice from above, but by slower thawing at the lower extremities. From 
this fact, Reinhard draws the fair conclusion that the glaciation of the 
Caucasus, and also of the Alps, must be explained by lowered tem- 
perature, rather than increased precipitation. 2 

On the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, between Novorossiisk and 
Zugdidi, there is a series of distinct terraces, 200 and even 240 m. above 
the level of the sea. In Abkhaziya six such terraces are described, 3 in 

2 A. L. Reinhard, "K voprosu o chetvertichnom oledenenii Kavkaza" (Concerning 
the Quaternary Glaciation of the Caucasus), Doklady Akad. nauk (Reports of the 
Academy of Sciences), 1927, A, pp. 319-323. 

3 O. N. Mikhailovskaya, "Chetvertichnie terrasy Abkhazii" (Quaternary Terraces in 
Abkhaziya), Trudy 1 Vsesoyvznovo geograf. syexda 1933 (Proceedings of the First 
All-Union Geographical Convention, 1933), HI, 1934, pp. 82-94, map. 


other places as many as eight. On some of the terraces marine fauna have 
been discovered; for this reason they are ascribed to the Quaternary 
period, but it is difficult as yet to determine their age more exactly. 

During the postglacial period the Caucasus experienced an interval 
when the climate was drier than it is at present. Evidence of this, as 
Reinhard points out, is the fact that at one time there was much more 
talus than at present. In the upper valleys the glacial formations are 
buried under talus, which is held in place by the vegetation cover. This 
epoch the xerothermic, as it is called by botanists had its effect on the 
flora and fauna of the Caucasus. 

Earthquakes are frequent in the Caucasus. They are particularly fre- 
quent in Shemakha, which experienced severe quakes in 1828, 1859, 
1869, 1902, and 1920. 

The first folding on the site of the present Caucasus range took place 
during the pre-Cambrian period (perhaps during the Huronian). There is 
no clear evidence of Lower Paleozoic (Caledonian) dislocations, but the 
possibility of such dislocations cannot be denied. Folding which took 
place during the Upper Paleozoic period (Variscan) at the end of the 
Lower and the beginning of the Middle Carboniferous is quite ob- 
vious. The dislocation at the end of the Triassic and the beginning of 
the Jurassic was very marked. Further dislocations took place during 
the Liassic period, when a geosyncline began to form on the site of the 
Caucasus range; also during the Upper Jurassic, and at the end of the 
Cretaceous. Finally, a very severe dislocation occurred between the de- 
position of the Sarmatian and the Meotichesk strata, which affected the 
entire Caucasus (according to Rengarten). Powerful tectonic processes 
continued throughout the Pliocene. They were accompanied by volcanic 
eruptions in the region of Kazbek (Rengarten, 19S2). 

A peculiar feature of the Caucasus range, as compared with the Alps, 
is the presence of volcanoes, which are found predominantly in the cen- 
tral part (Elbrus, Kazbek), and which were still active relatively re- 
cently (speaking geologically). Elbrus was still active during the Upper 
Pliocene (post-Akchagyl) period. In the Nalchik basin thick beds of 
volcanic tuffs have been discovered, overlying Tertiary deposits. In the 
vicinity of the Georgian Military Highway, Levinson-Lessing found the 
moraine of a Pleistocene glacier, covered with lavas. There were erup- 
tions here even after the end of the glacial epoch. Another point of 
contrast with the Alps is the relatively poor development of glacial lake 


According to Rengarten, 4 in crossing the Caucasus by the Georgian 
Military Highway the following orographic units may be observed: 

1. The sloping plain of North Ossetia, composed of gravel. The elevation 
at the city of Ordzhonikidze is about 630 m. 

2. Rolling foothills, composed of unconsolidated Tertiary deposits. Mount 
Lysaya, elevation 1036 m.; Tarskaya, elevation 1226 m. 

3. High foothills, composed of Cretaceous deposits. Mount Fetkhus, ele- 
vation 1743 m. 

4. The Peredovoy range, composed of Upper Jurassic limestones. Mat- 
Lam, or Mount Stolovaya, elevation 3002 m. This zone is 7 to 8 km. wide. 
The Terek cuts across the zone in a gorge 300 m. wide. 

5. A zone of Liassic argillaceous shales. Because this zone is eroded easily, 
longitudinal valleys are developed along the tributaries of the Terek. 

6. The highest zone: Liassic slates, quartzites, and granites. Its width, 
from the former postal station at Lars to the point at which the Gudoshaursk 
Aragva empties into the Terek, is 16 m. Kazbek, elevation 5043 m.; Kuri 
(near Kazbek station, on the right bank of the Terek), elevation 4090 m. 
The Terek cuts across this zone by way of the Gorge of Daryal, which pierces 
the granites at elevations from 1140 to 1700 m. 

7. The southern zone of Liassic argillaceous shales. Here, as in the 
northern zone, longitudinal valleys are developed along the tributaries of 
the Terek. This zone extends as far south as Kobi. 

8. Includes the watershed ridge and reaches as far south as the con- 
fluence of the Belaya and the Gudomakarsk Aragva rivers. This is the south- 
ern zone of Upper Jurassic calcareous strata. Krestovy Pass, elevation 2381 m. 
(leading into the valley of the Belaya Aragva); Kvena-Mta Pass, elevation 
2377 m. (leading into the valley of the Gudomakarsk Aragva). The highest 
point of the watershed ridge is the volcanic cone of Great Khurisar, elevation 
3722 m.; next to it lies Little Khurisar, an extinct volcano with a crater, eleva- 
tion 3000 m. (Both lie to the west of the Georgian Military Highway.) The 
width of this zone is 12 to 16 km. Little Khurisar stopped erupting during 
the postglacial (post-Wurm) period. In general, eruptions in the Kazbek 
region began during the Akchagyl and ended during the post-Wurm period. 

9. Mountains of medium elevation on the southern slope between 
Pasanaur and Ananur. Lower and Upper Cretaceous. The width of this zone 
is about 24 km. The elevation of the watershed varies from 2600 m. in the 
north, to 1600 m. in the south. The Aragva at Pasanaur has an elevation of 
1060 m.; at Zhinvan (below Ananur), 740 m. 

10. Tertiary foothills with gentle relief. Ananur-Dushet zone. The width 
is about 8 km. Tectonically it is very complex in structure, a region of thrusts. 

11. Bazaletsk Plateau (elevation 940 m.), south of Dushet Composed of 
thick Pleistocene conglomerates, into which the Aragva has cut a gorge 280 m. 

*V. P. Rengarten, "Geologichesky ocherk raiona Voyenno-gnmnskoy dorogi" 
(Geological Sketch of the Georgian Military Highway), Trudy geol.-razvea. obyedin. 
(Proceedings of the Geological Survey Association), No. 148, 1932. 


In Zheleznovodsk raion, eighteen separate volcanic domes, partly 
covered with forest, rise from the flat, unforested steppe. The highest 
is Beshtau ("five mountains"), which reaches an elevation of 1440 m. 
Pyatigorsk is situated at the foot of Mount Mashuk (elevation 1200 m.). 
To the north of Beshtau rises Mount Zheleznaya (elevation 851 m.), at 
the foot of which lies Zheleznovodsk, famous for its iron springs which 
have a temperature of 15 to 55 C. The cores of these mountains are 
composed of igneous rock (trachytic-liparites). At the foot of the moun- 
tains the edges of the Tertiary strata are more or less uplifted, sometimes 
at angles of 40 to 50% instead of the 2 which is more common on the 
plain. The intrusions occurred during the Upper Pliocene period. 5 These 
mountains belong to the laccolith type. However, on Mashuk and Lysaya 
mountains outcrops of igneous rock are entirely absent. 

The Little Caucasus (as the mountain country of the Transcaucasus 
is called) is connected with the main range by means of the Suram or 
Meskhiisk massif, which, together with the Adzharo-Akhaltsykhsk or 
Imeretinsk range (elevation 2803 m.), serves as the water divide between 
the Bion and the Kura basins. Through Suram Pass (elevation 1197 m.) 
in the Meskhiisk range passes the tunnel (4 km. long) of the railroad 
which connects Batum and Poti with Tiflis and Baku. 

The mineral resources of the Greater Caucasus include coal (at 
Tkvibuli east of Kutais, and Tkvarcheli in Abkhaziya) and manganese. 
The very rich Chiaturi manganese bed lies in western Georgia, in the 
basin of the Kvirila River, a tributary of the Rion; the ore deposits are 
associated with Oligocene strata. The warm (47C.) sulphur springs 
in Tiflis are worth noting; they are regarded as the last traces of former 
volcanic activity. (In the neighborhood of Tiflis there are small lac- 
coliths.) 6 

8 A. P. Gerasimov, "Geologicheskoye stroyenie Mineralovodskovo raiona" (Geo- 
logical Structure of Mineralovodsk Raion), Trudy Geol-razv. inst. (Proceedings of 
the Geological Survey Institute), No. 30, 1935, p. 46. 

6 A. N. Zavaritsky, Trudy Geol fast. Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Geological 
Institute of the Academy of Sciences), V, 1936, pp. 79-84. 





On the northern slope of the range, the steppe, as pointed out earlier 
(p. 90), reaches south approximately as far as the line through Kras- 
nodar, Pyatigorsk, and Grozny. 7 

Forest Steppe 

Above the steppe lies the forest-steppe zone. Within the forest steppe 
of the western (Kuban) North Caucasus Foreland lie Krymskaya sta- 
tion, Maikop, and Podgornaya; farther east the forest steppe extends 
toward Kislovodsk. The following are some climatic data for this area: 

Table 16 







Maikop * 
Kislovodsk f 


-2.0 22.2 
-4.5 18.1 


*Lat.4436 / N. 

tLat.4354 / N. 

The maximum precipitation comes in June, the minimum in January. 
Clouds hang low over the western part of the Caucasus range in winter 
(lower than 800 m.)* In winter cloudiness and humidity are less and the 
number of days with precipitation and fog are fewer in Kislovodsk than 
in Zheleznovodsk (elevation 637 m.), Yessentuld (elevation 616 m.), 
and Pyatigorsk (elevation 519 m.), which lie at lower elevations. 

In the forest steppe of the western North Caucasus Foreland, meadow- 
steppe areas alternate with forest islands of oak (Quercus pedunculata 
[Q. robur], Q. sessilifiora [Q. petraea]), hornbeam, ash, smoothleaf elm 
(Ulmus campestris [C7. carpinifolia]), maple, pear, and apple. The un- 
dergrowth contains filbert, wild myrobalan plum (Prunus diuaricata 
[P. cerasifera divaricata]), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), and pontic 

7 More exactly, according to Bush (1933), the line is as follows: from the plavens 
of the Kuban along the right bank of this river as far as the mouth of the Laba 
River, thence through Labinskaya and Vladimirskaya, along the southern escarpment 
of the first foothill ridge somewhat south of Batalpashinsk, north of Dzhegonas, to 


azalea (Rhododendron flavum [R. luteum]). In the meadow-steppe sec- 
tions the soils are chernozems; under the forests they are chernozems, 
degraded chernozems, and gray forest clay loams. 

The forests of the Sta\TOpol Plateau also belong to the zone of the 
forest steppe. Here, at an elevation of about 600 rft., there are almost 
700 mm. of precipitation; the most comes in June, the least, in February. 
The temperature of the warmest month is 20 C. The central part of the 
plateau is occupied by mixed-herbaceous meadow steppe growing on 
rich and common chernozems. The horizon of effervescence here is very 
low at a depth of 2 m. Of the feather grasses, there are Stipa joannis and 
S. pukherrima. On the periphery of the plateau grow oak and ash forests 
with hornbeam: in the upper layer society there is oak, ash, and linden; 
in the second layer society there is Scotch elm, hornbeam, and Norway 
maple; the undergrowth contains euonymus, wayfaring tree viburnum, 
privet, hedge maple (Acer campestre), dogwood, and others. There is 
some aspen, silver poplar, and (very rarely) birch. However, the vines 
of the woodland European grape may be found here also. Under these 
forests there are degraded chernozems, and sometimes gray forest soils. 
On the northern slope there are hornbeam or hornbeam and beech forests 
on podzolic soils. The hornbeam forests contain some mazzard cherry. It is 
believed that the hornbeam forests have appeared in place of beech for- 
ests (Novopokrovsky, 1927). 

In the eastern North Caucasus Foreland the forest steppe occupies a 
narrow strip in the foothills. The vegetation on the Tersk and Sunzhensk 
ranges is also forest steppe. The forests here consist of oak, ash, smooth- 
leaf elm (Ulmus campestris [U. carpinifolia]) , and pear. Vines are rep- 
resented by woodland European grape. The shrub thickets consist of sloe 
(Pruntis spinosa), Russian almond (Amygdalus nana), Scotch rose (Rosa 
pimpineltifolia [R. spinosissima] ), Christ's-thorn paliurus (Paliurus spina- 
chrisii or P. aculeatus), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), and others. 
Christ's-thorn paliurus grows in almost pure thickets along the periphery 
of the thickets of other shrubs. The meadow-steppe sections contain the 
feather grasses Stipa capillata and S. pulcherrima. 

The forest steppe in the Transcaucasus occupies elevations between 
450 and 500 m., and 750 and 800 m. Here lie Gori (elevation 600 m.), 
Tiflis (elevation 404 m.), Telav (elevation 738 m.), Tsinondali (eleva- 
tion 602 m.), Napareuli (elevation 423 m.), Signakh (elevation 792 m.), 
and Nukha (elevation 748 m.). The climate is that variety of Mediter- 
ranean climate which Koeppen calls the "maize climate/' Lying on the 
periphery of the Mediterranean climate, it constitutes the transition to 


the climate of the steppe. The annual precipitation is from 500 mm. (in 
the east) to 800 mm. The maximum precipitation comes in May, the 
minimum in January* In Tiflis, which lies near the boundary of the 
steppe, the annual precipitation is 496 mm., the monthly maximum (in 
May) being 80 mm., the monthly minimum (in January), 15 mm. In the 
more elevated portions the precipitation is greater; thus, in Telav there 
are 815 mm. annually. The precipitation in spring and summer often 
comes in the form of heavy downpours (seli 9 noted particularly in Nukha 
raion), which sometimes cause severe damage in the foothills. In June 
and July there are many thunderstorms, often accompanied by hail. The 
summer is hot, the mean temperature being over 20 C. In Tiflis the mean 
temperature for July is 24.5 C.; in Napareuli, 23.8 C.; and in Tsinondali, 
23.4 C. Sheltered by the Caucasus range from the cold north winds, the 
forest steppe of the Transcaucasus has a very moderate winter. The mean 
January temperature in Tiflis is + 0.2 C.; in Napareuli, + 1.6 C. Snow 
falls rather often, but the snow cover does not last long only until the 
middle of February; sometimes there is no snow at all. Spring comes 
early, and work in the fields begins in the middle of February or at the 
beginning of March. In occasional years, some of the fruit trees (almond) 
and meadow flowers of Kakhetiya (in the Alazan valley) are in bloom 
already at the end of January, while apricot, peach, and pear trees bloom 
in February. Kakhetiya is noted for its wine production and gardens. 
Grapes are cultivated here up to an elevation of 900 m. (in Tiflis raion 
the best grapes grow up to 720 m.) . Cloudiness is least in August, greatest 
in February. In Tiflis foehns are frequent; there are 45 days a year here 
with foehn, the greatest number coming in April; in the valley of the 
Kura, mountain-valley breezes blow during the warm period of the year. 

The soils in the Alazan valley are calcareous alluvial soils, while higher 
up there are brown forest soils. In the Kura valley at Tiflis there are 
light-chestnut soils; higher up, brown forest soils and some degraded 

At present the forests have been cut down in the lower areas, and in 
their place are thickets of Christ's-thorn paliurus (Paliurus spina-chnsti) 
and other shrubs, and, in some places, steppe covered with East Indies 
bluestem (Andropogon ischaemum). Closer to the mountains grow Ibe- 
rian oak (Quercus iberica)^ hornbeam, and hedge maple. In the Alazan 
valley there are groves of hairy alder (Alnus barbata)-, these groves con- 

8 This oak of the Q. sessttiflora [Q. petraea] group is found in both the 'western 
and the eastern Transcaucasus. See V. P. Maleyev, "Obzor dubov Kavkaza" (Survey 
of the Oaks of the Caucasus), Boton. zhurn. S.S.S.R. (Botanical Journal of the 
U.S.S.R.), XX, 1935, Nos. 2, 3. 


tain some Caucasian wing nut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia). There are many 
vines here: ivy (Hedera pastuchovii), Grecian silk vine, and greenbrier. 
In the shrub thickets on the sites of cut-over forests, woodland European 
grape (Vitis silvestris [V. vinifera silve$tri$\) 9 travelerVjoy (Clematis 
vttalba), and blackberries are common. 

Mediterranean Belt 

The western Transcaucasus, from Novorossiisk to Dzhubga and some- 
what farther south (but not as far as Tuapse), has a Mediterranean cli- 
mate. The summer is hot and dry; the winter, in general, is moderate. 
The greatest precipitation comes in January, December, and November; 
the least, in August and May. In Novorossiisk the mean precipitation for 
January is 89 mm.; for August, 33 mm.; for the year, 688 mm. The mean 
August temperature is 24.0 C.; the mean January temperature, 2.1 C. 
Cloudiness is greatest in December and January, least in August. 

The mountains in this region rise to elevations of 800 to 900 m.; near 
Novorossiisk they are only 600 m. high. 

In Novorossiisk Bay in winter there often blows a cold and strong 
northeast wind, the bora, or the nordost, as it is called there. The bora 
arises when a barometric minimum lies over the sea while the pressure 
increases sharply over the land. In Novorossiisk this wind sometimes 
reaches the force of a hurricane. Sometimes when it is blowing the 
temperature drops below - 20 C., and the harbor, which is usually free 
from ice, freezes over. During the bora of December 17 to 20, 1899, all 
the buildings on the embankment were covered with an ice crust up to 
2 m. thick. In January the mean wind velocity during the bora reaches 
23 m. per second. The bora blows most frequently from November 
to March; in November it occurs an average of seven days. It usually 
lasts a day, often two or three days, but it has been known to last a 

The distribution and character of the vegetation of Novorossiisk raton 9 
resemble in general those of the shores of the Mediterranean, or, more 
exactly, of the shores of the northern part of the Balkan Peninsula. There 
are many relict Mediterranean elements associated with the rocky cliffs, 
the juniper forests, and the forests of Aleppo pine. The coastal hills, from 
the sea to an elevation of 150 to 200 m., are covered with stunted woods 

9 V. P. Maleyev, "Rastitelnost raiona Novorossiisk-Mikhaflovsky perevaT (Vege- 
tation of the Region from Novorossiisk to Mikhailovsky Pass), Zap. Nlkfa botan. soda 
(Report of the Nikitsky Botanical Garden), XIII, No. 2 1931 


and shrub thickets of xerophilous species which shed their leaves in win- 
ter. This type of vegetation in Mediterranean countries is called shiblyak. 
The shiblyak of Novorossiisk raion consists fundamentally of the dwarf 
pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens), with an admixture of Oriental 
hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), and, in the drier places, of the spiny 
Christ's-thorn paliurus (Paliunis spina-christi) a shrub which covers 
large areas, and appears in abundance on the sites of cut-over oak woods. 
Occasionally the Turk terebinth pistache (Pistacia mutica), native to 
the southern shore of the Crimea, is found in the shiblyak association. 
In the same zone, near the sea, there lie forests and more often coppices 
or individual trees of Aleppo pine (Pinus pityusa [P. halepensis pityusa] ). 
There are some individual specimens of arborescent prickly juniper 
(Juniperus oxycedrus). On the coastal cliffs there often grow the tall, 
erect stems of the characteristic endemic umbellifer, the meadow saxifrage 
(Seseli ponticum, related to the Crimean S. gumrniferum). In August it 
covers the cliffs and areas of talus with white patches of blooming plants. 
Another plant found here is the Crimean-Balkan tragacanth astragalus 
(Astragalus arnacantha). Colchian plants are represented at Novorossiisk 
and Anapa by tie greenbrier. There is also some woodland European 
grape. Novorossiisk raion is noted for its vine growing and wine pro- 

Above the shiblyak. zone there grow juniper forests of the arborescent 
junipers Juniperus excelsa and J. foetidissima; a third species, /. oxycedrus, 
occurs as an admixture. These forests occupy the zone between 150 and 
300 m. At present, as Maleyev points out, here (and in the Crimea) the 
junipers (and Aleppo pine) are being displaced gradually by deciduous 

Above the j'uniper zone there grow forests of durmast oak, hornbeam, 
smoothleaf elm, Scotch elm, linden (Tilia caucasica [T. dasystyla] 9 T. cor- 
data), ash, mazzard cherry, and in some places individual oriental beech 
trees (Fagus oiientalis), which extend to the north almost as far as 
Anapa. Near Dzhubga there is chestnut. In the wetter sections of these 
forests there are vines greenbrier, Grecian silk vine, traveler's-joy, and 

Beginning at an altitude of 400 to 450 m., the mountains are unfor- 
ested, covered with mountain-steppe and mountain-meadow vegetation. 
At elevations of about 500 m., feather-grass and fescue mixed-herbaceous 
stands appear. The explanation for such an abrupt drop in the boundary 
of forest vegetation lies in the strong winds. 

The flora of Novorossiisk raion contains some elements in common 



with that of the Crimea. The exchange of plants took place not across 
the Tainan Peninsula, where such elements are absent, but, it is believed, 
by way of the "Pontic land mass," which occupied a considerable part of 
the Black Sea basin until the end of the Tertiary period (Wulff, 1929; 
Maleyev, 1931). 

Forest Zone 

In the northern Caucasus the forest zone lies above the forest steppe; 
in the western Transcaucasus it lies above the Mediterranean belt in the 
north, and above the subtropical belt in the south. From west to east 
the amount of precipitation decreases as a rule, and in the forests the 
number of hydrophytic and thermophilic species, in which the mountain 
forests of Colchis are so rich, diminishes. We will begin our description 
with the western Transcaucasus. 

Western Transcaucasus 

The western Transcaucasus includes the entire slope of the Caucasus 
mountains which faces the Black Sea. Two parts of the western Trans- 
caucasus the Colchian Lowland and Novorossiisk raton have been de- 
scribed already. We shall turn now to the region of mountain forests 
of the Colchian type, which lie to the south of Dzhubga. 

In Tuapse raion the mountains rise to an elevation of 1500 m.; in the 
latitude of Sochi, to 3000 m.; at Sukhum, to 4000 m.; at Batum, to 2000 m. 

The climate of the lower, foothill zone (to the south of Dzhubga 
and as far as Batum) is the same as that of the Colchian Lowland: humid, 
with abundant precipitation, a hot summer, and a relatively warm win- 
ter. In summer in Sochi the temperature during the day reaches 24 to 
28 C., while at night it seldom falls below 20 C. The wannest place in 
the western Transcaucasus is Gagry, which has the same mean annual 
temperature (15.1 C.) as Nice (15.0 C.). But in Gagry the summer is 
hotter and the winter colder than in Nice. Mean monthly temperatures 
in Gagry (lat 4S19'N, absolute elevation 22 m.) for the period 1903- 
1915 are given in the following table. 

Table 17 
TEMPERA-TUBE IN GAGET, 1903-1915 (ix C.) 




























The winter here, as we can see, is warm, permitting plants to vegetate 
the year round. Nevertheless, there are some frosts on the coast every 
year. In Sochi the mean number of days per year when the thermometer 
drops below zero is 16. Snow usually lies no more than 3 to 5 days in 
Sochi, but during the severe winter of 1910-1911 there were 25 days 
with snowfall, and the snow cover lay on the ground for 37 days; it reached 
a thickness of 80 cm. As a result of temperature inversion, the zone 
which is least subject to frost in Sochi raion lies at an elevation of about 
100 m.; lower down (and, of course, higher up) the incidence of frosts 
is greater. 

The average dates at which different wild and cultivated plants bloom 
in Sukhum (lat. 43 N) are good indices of the normal character of the 
winter. In the vicinity of Sukhum, the Caucasian hellebore (Helleborus 
caucasicus), violet, and speedwell bloom in December; the European 
filbert (Corylus avellana), in January; the apricot, at the end of February; 
the almond, at the beginning of March; the peach, about the middle of 
March; the azalea, plum, mazzard cherry, pear, and cheny, at the begin- 
ning of April. The first strawberries ripen about April 22. 

The rainfall is heavy, more than 1000 mm. per year. Sochi has 1410 mm.; 
Sukhum, 1371 mm.; Batum, 2465 mm. 10 Precipitation is greatest in win- 
ter or autumn, least in May, and in some places in June or August; but 
there is no dry period; the precipitation is distributed more or less evenly 
throughout the year. Thus, at Sukhum, even in May, the driest month, 
the precipitation is about 100 mm., that is, more than the average in 
Moscow for the rainiest month; in Batum or Chakva the mean pre- 
cipitation in August exceeds 200 mm. (an altogether tropical amount). 
With so much rain, a high summer temperature, and a mild winter, the 
vegetation naturally has a subtropical appearance. A whole series of 
cultivated subtropical plants bloom in winter in the region from Sochi 
to Sukhum (not to mention the Batum coast). These plants include the 
Japanese camellia, Australian acacia, and loquat [Eriobotrya japonica]. 
But even the indigenous native plants, as we have seen, bloom throughout 
the winter. 

On the Black Sea coast the summer rains fall predominantly at night 
or in the morning, and are not of very long duration. The number of 
rainy days for the three months of July, August, and September, and the 
amount of precipitation per rainy day, are as follows: 

ateHdy po agro-Uimaticheskomu raionirovaniyu subtropikov S.S.S.H. (Mate- 
rials on the Agro-Climatic Regional Subdivision of die Subtopics of the U.S.S.R.), 
Leningrad, 1936, izd. Yedinqy gidro-meteor. sluzhby (publication of the Hydro- 
Meteorological Service), p. 274. 



Table 13 





Number of rainy days, July through Sep- 





Precipitation per rainy day (in mni.) 





The finest season of the year on the coast is autumn, particularly 
after the middle of September. The weather turns cooler, and the atmos- 
pheric humidity decreases; at the same time there is abundant sunshine. 
However, in autumn there are heavier showers than in summer. The 
autumn in the western Transcaucasus is very warm; October in Batum 
is warmer than April by 5.5 C. October in Gagry is almost as warm as 
July in Moscow. The forest begins to turn yellow at the end of October, 
and loses its leaves by the middle of November. 

The winds have been mentioned already in the description of the Col- 
chian Lowland. The eastern (winter) monsoon often assumes the char- 
acter of a foehn. Thus, in Batum, such a foehn raised the temperature 
on the evening of February 28, 1915, to 24 C., while the humidity 
dropped to 16 per cent. In Gagry there have been occasions during 
the foehn when the relative humidity at night has dropped to below 10 per 

The southern plants which are cultivated here give a good indication 
of the climate. Among the ornamental plants, the palms are striking. The 
Chinese coir palm (Trachycarpus exceka or CJiajnaerops excelsa) is 
abundant; it withstands frost very well, and for this reason is found even 
in Dzhubga, which lies north of Tuapse. There are also the date, Wash- 
ington, fan, and other palms, the sago cycas (Cycas revoluta), magnolia, 
Chinese wistaria (Wistaria chinensis), Lenkoran acacia, oleander, camel- 
lia, many Japanese conifers (among them Cryptomeria) , Japanese ba- 
nana, agave, yucca, and many others. The southern plants of economic 
significance include the following which are native to the climate of 
Japan: the Satsuma orange (Citrus unshiu [C. nobilis unshiu]), which 
is found as far north as Sochi raion, but is of economic importance only 
from Gagry south; oranges; lemons; the Japanese kaki persimmon (Dios- 
pyrus kaki)> the fruits of which are eaten; date-plum persimmon (Dios- 
pyrus Joins), which grows here in the wild form; loquat (Eriobotrya ja- 
ponica), of the Rosaceae; flowering quince (Cydonia japonica [Chae- 
nomeles]); common camellia (Camettia japonica); camphor tree (Cin 
namomum camphora)-, bamboo, some species of which in the U.S.S.R 


reach a height of 15 m. and a thickness of 15 to 18 cm.; and, finally, tea. 
In Sukhum and Batum one may see gigantic specimens of eucalyptus. 
The cultivated plants which are not subtropical include the garden plum 
(which is grown at Sochi), tobacco, corn, peaches, grapes, and other 
fruits grown in Abkhaziya. 

Of the characteristic Colchian plants, the chestnut grows as far north 
as Dzhubga, while the European hop hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) 
and the laurel cherry extend as far as the mountains at Tuapse. In the 
western Transcaucasus the northern boundary of holly, box, and Cau- 
casian wing nut is somewhat south of Tuapse. 

The soils in the foothills are red earths, which border the Colchian Low- 
land on the northeast and southeast. To the north they extend as far as the 
latitude of Ochemchiri; to the south, somewhat south of Batum. At 
Batum these soils were formed on thick weathered andesitic tuffs. The 
red earths are rich in hydrates of ferric oxide and aluminum oxide, poor 
in silicic acids and bases. While they are poor soils, they are exactly the 
soils required by tea. Higher up, the red soils are replaced first by brown 
soils, 11 and then by gray forest soils. 

Vegetation. A peculiar feature of the forests of the western Trans- 
Caucasus is the presence of a series of evergreen deciduous trees and 
shrubs, which we have mentioned already in the description of the Col- 
chian Lowland. No less characteristic is the profusion of vines, herba- 
ceous as well as woody. Greenbrier, travelers-Joy, Grecian silk vine, 
grape, Colchis and English ivy, sweet honeysuckle (Lonicera capri- 
folium), and blackberries are the woody vines found here; yam (Diosco- 
rea caucasica) , glorybind (Calystegla sylvatica [Convolvulus silvatieus]') , 
and Tamus communis (Dioscoreaceae) are the herbaceous vines, 

On the seacoast, the often swampy lowlands at the mouths of some 
of the rivers are covered with a vegetation of the Colchian type. Thus, 
the mouth of the Mzymta River is bordered on the south by a water- 
logged area, a part of which has been cleared of forest, drained, and 
turned into cornfields; an alder forest (Alnus barbata), with an admix- 
ture of Caucasian wing nut, ash, hedge maple, and mulberry, covers the 
unreclaimed swamp. The trees are twined with greenbrier, Grecian sflk 
vine, ivy, and blackberry. In the drier portions, where the soil is sandy, 
the swamp is dominated by thickets of common box (Buxus sempervi- 
rens), among which are scattered enormous individual specimens of 
yew and oriental beech. There is some arborescent royal fem (Osmunda 

11 Concerning these soils, see below, under the description of the Crimea (pp. 250- 


regalis}. On the calcareous coastal slopes there is Aleppo (Pitsunda) 
pine (Pinus pityusa [P. halepensis pityusa]), which appears in the Cau- 
casus from Anapa to Pitsunda (and is found also in the Crimea, in Asia 
Minor, in Syria, and near Constantinople); it is accompanied by the 
Crimean rockrose (Cisttts tauricits [C. villosus tauricus}). 

Up to this point we have talked about the coast Now we will discuss 
the succession of belts as we ascend into the mountains. 

In the virgin forests the predominant species are oak, beech, and 
chestnut. To the south, in Adzhariya, they are beech and chestnut 

In Sochi raion and in Abkhaziya, the foothills up to an elevation of 
600 to 1000 m. are covered with an oak forest of typically Colchian ap- 
pearance, with a mass of vines. The vines here, with the exception of ivy, 
are associated only with the outskirts of the forest or with the clearings. 

In Abkhaziya forests of Imeritian oak (Qitercus imeretina) with an 
undergrowth of azalea grow on the lower terraces. The higher terraces, 
up to an elevation of 200 to 240 m., are covered with forests of Iberian 
oak (Q. iberica), with an admixture of hornbeam and beech, and some- 
times with an undergrowth of pontic rhododendron. At elevations from 
240 to 650 m. grow oak forests with an undergrowth of oriental horn- 

In addition to oak, hornbeam, beech, and oriental hornbeam, other 
trees which grow here include the oak Quercus hartwissiana, elms, ash, 
linden, zelkova, hornbeam, chestnut, maples, Grecian laurel (Laurus 
nobilis), box, date-plum persimmon (Diospyrus lotus), and a great many 
shrubs. In some places there are found the remains of Circassian and 
Abkhazian gardens, abandoned by their owners during the 1860's, when 
the migration into Turkey took place. These gardens contain wild myro- 
balan plum (Prunus divaricata \P. cerasifera divaricata]), plum, maz- 
zard cherry, fig, thick-shell Persian walnut, apple, pear, and mulberry. 
These escaped fruit trees include many excellent strains. Along the river 
valleys there are forests of typically Colchian appearance, with a mass 
of vines; they contain some box and English yew (Taxus baccata), both 
almost exterminated (Fig. 53). (These trees have been preserved best in 
Abkhaziya, where they are found growing from sea level up. Box grows 
here predominantly on calcareous soils in the hornbeam and beech- 
hornbeam forests; it ascends into the mountains as high as 900 to 1000 m. 
Yew is found in the mixed and beech forests along the deep, moist river 
gorges and on the northern slopes, up to an elevation of 1500 m.) In 
spots there is European hop hornbeam (Ostnja carpinifolia) (a tree 
closely related to the hornbeam) and also zelkova. In the southern parts 


an undergrowth of evergreen species is well developed: pontic rhododen- 
dron (Rhododendron ponticum), common laurel cherry (Laurocerasus 
officinalis [Prunus laurocerasus]), butcher's-broom (Ruscus hypophyl- 
lum, R. ponticus), common box (Buxus sempervirens), and phillyrea 
(Phillyrea vilmoriniana [P. decora]). There are many epiphytes growing 
on the trees; these include the fern Polypodium serration, and also some 
flowering plants. Lichens grow on the leaves of the box. The lower 
horizons of the oak zone, approximately up to an elevation of 400 to 
500 m., are best suited for fruit growing of the southern type. 

In Abkhaziya the virgin foothill forests consist predominantly of 
Iberian oak (Quercus iberica). On the shaded and moist northern slopes, 
and also as the forests rise into the mountains, oak is replaced by horn- 
beam-beech and chestnut-beech forests. 12 

In Adzhariya, elevations from sea level to 800 to 1200 m. are covered 
with chestnut-beech forests. 

In Abkhaziya, above 600 to 1000 m., and approximately as high as 
1200 m., there is continuous beech forest, in which the only vines 
commonly found are Colchis and English ivy (Hedera colchica and 
H. helix). The most widespread type of beech forest here contains no 
herbaceous cover; the undergrowth is absent also, or consists of indi- 
vidual bushes of holly, azalea, and Caucasian whortleberry [Vactinium 
arctostaphylos]. But in addition there are some beech forests with a 
ground cover of ostrich fern (Struthiopteris struthiopteris [S. filicastrum] ) 
and butterbur (Petasiles hybridus}, or of blackberry (Rubus pontfaus) 
and wheat grass (Agropijron caninum); or with an undergrowth of pon- 
tic rhododendron, or azalea, or laurel cherry, with an admixture of 
butcher's-broom (Ruscus hypophyllum) 9 holly, Caucasian whortleberry, 
and European cranberry-bush viburnum. Beech forests with an under- 
growth of laurel cherry often reach as far as the upper boundary of the 
forest in Abkhaziya. Such a beech forest, with an undergrowth of laurel 
cherry and individual specimens of holly, butcher's-broom, azalea, and 
Caucasian whortleberry, may be found at an elevation of 1800 to 1900 m., 
that is, considerably above the normal boundary of beech forest. Still 
higher up lie thickets of laurel cherry with an admixture of Caucasian 
rhododendron, but there is no beech. The types of beech forest which 

12 V. P. Maleyev, "Flora i rastitelnost Abkhazii" (Flora and Vegetation of Abkha- 
ziya), Abkhaztya, geobotan. i lesovodsfo. ocherk (Abkhaziya, A Geobotanical and 
Forestry Sketch), izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), Lenin- 
grad, 1936, p. 23. Above Gagry, the slopes which face the sea are covered with a 
forest of Iberian oak, which extends here only up to 1000 to 1200 m.; on the shady 
slopes it is replaced by a beech forest (pp. 26, 31). 


have been described, those with an evergreen undergrowth, do not occupy 
large areas. The beech is sometimes accompanied by a small quantity 
of chestnut, which rises here to an elevation of 1200 m. 13 

In some places, however, the beech descends to sea level. In general, 
as Albov (1896) observed, in the subtropical part of the western Trans- 
caucasus many of the herbaceous, shrub, and even tree species are dis- 
tributed from sea level as far up as the alpine zone. Such species include 
the pontic rhododendron, azalea, holly, Caucasian whortleberry, laurel 
cherry, and filbert; in some places they grow as high as 2000 m. Beech in 
the form of shrubs ascends to 2100 m.; chestnut is found often at an 
elevation of 1800 m.; oak, at 1900 m. In Guriya, Albov found ivy twin- 
ing about spruce trees. Albov explains this phenomenon by the great 
humidity of the climate, which diminishes the effect of temperature dif- 
ferences at different elevations. 

In the Colchian part of South Ossetia, beech forests predominate; 
there are also some forests of beech with spruce and fir. In these for- 
ests an evergreen undergrowth of the Colchian type is developed. There 
is some box. In places there are thickets of chestnut with an undergrowth 
of either laurel cherry or azalea. 

In Abkhaziya there lies a zone of fir from 1200 to 1900 m. which, unlike 
the beech zone, does not form a continuous strip. Here, in addition to 
Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana) , there are beech, maples, horn- 
beam, and (in the undergrowth) dense thickets of evergreen shrubs: 
laurel cherry, holly, pontic rhododendron, and a mass of Caucasian 
whortleberry (Vaccinium arctostaphylos). The trees grow in a thin 
stand and reach gigantic dimensions, as much as 1.5 to 2 m. in diam- 
eter (Fig. 54). 

The fir in places is accompanied by oriental spruce (Picea orientalis) . u 

Between the trees in some places there are wide glades, overgrown with 
gigantic subalpine vegetation, often tall enough to conceal a rider on a horse; 
milky bellflowers (Campanula lactiflora) with stems bearing as many as a 
hundred and more flowers, sumptuous Caucasian lilies, gigantic umbellifers 
(Heracleum pubescens) with inflorescences as big as a platter and with stems a 
flersfeofc * thick, and the like, astonish the traveler who has never seen any- 
thing of the kind before (Albov, 1896). 

13 V. A. Povamitsyn, "Tipy lesov AbkhaziT (Types of Forest in Abkhaziya), 
Abkhaziya (Abkhaziya), izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), 
1936, p. 125ff. 

14 Both these trees the Nordmann fir and the oriental spruce are found in the 
mountains of Asia Minor. In Adzhariya, spruce forests may be found at elevations of 
about 200 m., while fir-spruce forests begin at 500 m. 

* One cershok = 1.75 inches, or %j of an of shin (28 inches). TR. 


These glades of tall herbaceous vegetation, particularly characteristic 
for the succeeding, subalpine zone, begin to appear at an elevation of 
1200 to 1300 m. On the dry slopes in some places there is Scotch pine 
(Pinus sylvestris hamata); it extends up to the boundary of the forest, 
and down to 200 to 300 m. above sea level. 

At 1700 to 2100 m. lies the subalpine zone. Here there are groves of 
pubescent birch (Eetula pubescens), with an admixture of redbud 
maple (Acer trautvetteri) and an undergrowth of dwarf oriental beech, 
Caucasian rhododendron, pontic rhododendron, azalea, laurel cherry, 
holly, Caucasian whortleberry, Caucasian honeysuckle, mountain ash, 
and others. In this zone there is found also the relict Medvedev's birch 
(Betula medwediewii), as well as the Mingrelian birch (B. megrelica), 
pontic oak (Quercus pontica), and Caucasian buckthorn (Khamnus 
imeretina). In some places Caucasian rhododendron (Rhododendron 
caucasicum) occupies large areas; this evergreen shrub, which covers 
the earth with a dense carpet, suppresses all herbaceous vegetation; it 
is associated primarily with the shadier and wetter northern and west- 
ern slopes, and rises in some places to elevations of 2300 m. Large areas 
in the subalpine zone are occupied by the tall herbaceous vegetation 
which has been described already. Some authorities are of the opinion 
that these thickets of gigantic dicotyledons are largely of a secondary 
character, as they usually occupy sites which at one time were under 
forest. Others regard the thickets of tall herbaceous plants as relicts of 
ancient Tertiary hydrophytic vegetation. 15 

The subalpine zone is used for pasture. 

The fauna of the western Transcaucasus does not include such char- 
acteristic elements as does the flora. In the forests there are: bear (Ursus 
arctos subsp.), distinguished from the typical brown bear by its smaller 
size; lynx (FeTis lynx orientalis [Lynx orientalis]); wild cat (Felis sttves- 
tris); Caucasian red deer (Cervus elaphus mard); and roebuck (Capreo- 
lus pygargus and C. capreolus). At one time there was some Caucasian 
bison (Bos bonasus caucasicus) at Krasnaya Polyana. The jackal (Canis 
aureus [Thos aureus] ) is found from the delta of the Kuban to Batum. 
There is Transylvanian wild boar (Sus scrofa attila) throughout the 
western Transcaucasus. Of the reptiles, the red viper ( Vipera kazndkovi) 
is characteristic. The amphibians, in addition to the river frog (Rana 
ridibunda), include a series of endemic frogs and toads (Rana macro- 

15 A. A. Kolakovsky, "Rastitelnost Bzybskovo izvestnyakovovo khrebta" (Vegeta- 
tion of the Bzyb Limestone Range), Trudy Inst. abkhaz. kttltury (Proceedings of 
the Institute of Abkhazian Culture), XI, Sukfoim, 1937, p. 22. 


cnernte, Pelodytes caucasicus}^ the characteristic Caucasian salamander 
(Salamandra caucasica), and the Caucasian striped newt (Triturus vit- 
tatus ophryticus). 

The North Caucasus Foreland 

In the North Caucasus Foreland precipitation in the upper part of the 
forest zone is 800 to 1200 mm. per year and more; in the lower part, it is 
less 800 to 500 mm. The maximum precipitation comes in May and 
June. There is much snowfall in the western part of the Caucasus range; 
near Klukhor Pass the depth of the snow cover reaches 2.5 m. and 

The forests in the western part of the North Caucasus Foreland, ap- 
proximately as far east as Teberda raion, still contain a considerable ad- 
mixture of Colchian elements. Precipitation is greatest in the central part 
of the western North Caucasus Foreland, with which we are concerned 
now, particularly in the region of the upper Belaya and Little and Great 
Laba rivers, where the famous Caucasian preserve is situated. Here, 
in the zone of broad-leaved forests, the annual precipitation reaches 
1500 mm.; accordingly, Colchian elements are relatively numerous; they 
include not only the oriental spruce and Nordmann fir, but also box, 
yew, European hop hornbeam, laurel cherry, holly, English ivy, pontic 
rhododendron, and Caucasian whortleberry/ as well as Caucasian buck- 
thorn, Colchis bladdernut (Staphylea colchica), Colchis ivy, butcher's- 
broom (Ruscus hypophyllum), and others. In one place there is chest- 
nut. The foothills and low mountains from 800 m. to 1400 m. are covered 
with deciduous forests of oak, Caucasian beech, and hornbeam, with an 
admixture of ash, maple, elm, linden, apple, pear, wild myrobalan plum, 
and others. Beech forests are associated with the northern slopes, oak 
forests with the southern. Oak groves with an undergrowth of pontic 
azalea (Rhododendron flavum [R. luteum]) are common. 

Above the broad-leaved forests, in the belt between 1400 and 1900 m., 
lie coniferous forests of oriental spruce (Picea orientates) and Nordmann 
fir (Abies nordmanniana) . Fir forests with an undergrowth of pontic 
rhododendron and holly are common. Ivy is found here also. 

The fir-spruce forests of Maikop raion contain the remarkable umbel- 
lifer Osmorhiza brevistylis [O. claytoni]. Other species of this genus are 
found in the Kjiznetsk Ala-Tau and on the Salair range, in Manchuria, 
on Sakhalin, in Japan, and in the eastern states of North America. 

In the higher parts of the belt of coniferous forests, on the southern 
slopes, there are pine forests of hamate Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris 


hamata). The forest zone ends 16 in groves of pubescent birch with an 
undergrowth of Caucasian rhododendron; or in pine groves with Andorra 
creeping juniper (Juniperus depressa)-, or in shrub beech with an under- 
growth of Caucasian rhododendron or laurel cherry. Near the upper 
boundary of the forests usually there are found park-land woods of 
redbud maple (Acer trautvetteri) amid the tall alpine herbage. On 
the boundary between the forest and the subalpine meadows there 
are shrub thickets of Caucasian rhododendron, or laurel cherry, or 
jumper. The Caucasian bison was characteristic at one time for the 
forests of this part of the North Caucasus Foreland; by this time it has 
been exterminated The other animals include the Caucasian red deer 
(Cervus elaphus maral), roebuck, leopard, wild cat (Felis silvestris), 
marten, ermine, and bear. 

To the east of Teberda the climate of the western North Caucasus 
Foreland becomes drier, and the coniferous forests of fir and spruce gradu- 
ally disappear, although individual specimens of spruce are found as 
far as northern Ossetia, while fir and yew are found as far as Balkariya. 
Here beech forests predominate; after felling they are replaced by horn- 
beam forests with oak. In the beech forests in some places there are 
Colchian plants: European hop hornbeam, holly, Caucasian whortle- 
berry, and English ivy. 

The longitudinal valleys between the Skalisty and Peredovoy ranges and 
between the Peredovoy and the Glavny ( Main) ranges, particularly in the 
vicinity of Elbrus, are especially dry. Here on the northern slopes there 
are pine groves of Pinus sylvestrte Jiamata (Fig. 55), while on the southern 
slopes there are mountain xerophytes: thickets of European barberry 
(Herberts vulgaiis), sweetbrier rose, and sage (Salvia canescens, which 
covers large areas) (Fig. 58), and also Thymus, spiny astragalus (As- 
tragalus marschattianus), various composite plants, and cushions of savin 
juniper (Juniperus sabina) . 

The upper boundary of the forest here (between Elbrus and the 
Georgian Military Highway), just as farther west, consists of birch 
groves, but in addition to pubescent birch, there is found also another, 
relict form, Radde's birch (Betula raddeana). Thickets of Caucasian rho- 
dodendron are widespread. 

East of the Georgian Military Highway, in the Chechen area, the char- 
acter of the forest zone is about the same as in the central part of the North 

"A. L Leskov, "Verkhny predel lesov v goralch zapadnovo Kavlcaza" (The Upper 
Boundary of Forests in the Mountains of the Western Caucasus), Botan, zhtun. 
S.S.S.R. (Botanical Journal of the U.S.S.R.), XVII, 1932, pp. 227-260. 


Caucasus Foreland. In the foothills at one time there were oak forests. 
Above them grow beech forests, with lindens, Scotch elms, maples, horn- 
beam, and ash. Occasionally the beech forests contain yew. The upper 
boundary of the forest consists of groves of pubescent birch (Fig. 56); 
the undergrowth contains azalea. At an elevation of 1600 m. there is 
redbud maple (Acer trawtvetteri) . The southern slopes bear the mountain 
xerophytes which were described earlier. In Tushetiya on the northern 
slopes there are pine forests. 

In the forest zone of the North Caucasus Foreland, the animals include 
the wild cat ( Fells silvestris ) , Transylvanian wild boar ( Sus scrofa attila) 9 
Caucasian red deer (Cervus elaphus moral), roebuck, and forest dor- 
mouse (Dyromys nitedula). The mountain forests of the Kuban basin 
were inhabited until recently by Caucasian bison. The frog Rana macro- 
cnemis ascends as far as the subalpine meadows. There are some tree 
frogs (Hyla arbor ea). The tree squirrel Sciurus vulgaris is absent in the 
forests of the Caucasus. The taiga birds which nest in the fir-spruce for- 
ests of the North Caucasus Foreland, as well as in other parts of the 
Caucasus, include the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), the spruce 
crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), and the bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). 

Eastern Transcaucasus 

We have spoken already of the western Transcaucasus (p. 214fL). Now 
we will describe the forests of the eastern Transcaucasus. 

In the South Ossetian autonomous oblast, in the basin of the Liakhva 
River (a tributary of the Kura), there are forests of beech, spruce-fir, 
and (on the southern slopes) Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris hamata). 
Here there is no pontic rhododendron or holly in the undergrowth, but 
there is Caucasian buckthorn, Caucasian whortleberry, and laurel cherry. 
In the basin of the Little Liakhva, coppices of eastern mountain oak 
(Quercus macranthera) have been discovered. There is some yew. The 
upper boundary of the forest contains birch groves with Caucasian 

East of South Ossetia and west of the meridian of Tiflis, holly and 
Colchis ivy are still found But spruce-fir forests are absent. 

The Trialetsk range, which is not a part of the Glavny (Main) Cauca- 
sus range, still contains many Colchian elements, particularly on its 
northern slope. Thus, at Borzhom, in the spruce-fir forests, there is an 
undergrowth of laurel cherry, holly, butaher's-broom (Ruscus hypophyl- 
lum), politic rhododendron, Caucasian cherry, and bladderaut (Sta- 
phylea)*, there is some chestnut; the vines include English and Colchis 



ivy and Tamus communis (Dioscoreaceae), a perennial plant native to 
the southern shore of the Crimea. 

In Kakhetiya and farther east on the southern slope of the Caucasus 
range, at elevations of 700 to 1800 m., there grow beech and beech-horn- 
beam forests. The oaks are represented by the Iberian oak (Quercus 
iberica) and the mountain oak (Q. macranthera)-, of the maples, the 
Persian velvet maple, Acer insigne [A. velutinum glabrescens], is wide- 
spread. In the Lagodekhi Gorge there is chestnut; in the Belokansk Gorge, 
laurel cherry. Fifty km. from Telav there is a forest of beech and yew. 
The undergrowth contains Colchis bladdernut (Staphylea colchica) and 
Caucasian whortleberry. The subalpine birch groves contain thickets of 
Caucasian rhododendron, and sometimes azalea. 

TJie Subalpine Zone 

The subalpine zone in some places begins at 1400 m., in others only 
at 2400 m. Along the Georgian Military Highway it occupies elevations 
between 1400 m. and 2400 m.; in the Rion basin, between 1700 and 
2000m. - 

The following stations, which lie on the Glavny (Main) Caucasus 
range, along the Georgian Military Highway, may give some idea of the 
climate of this zone. 

Table 19 








Krestovy Pass 





The warmest month here, as is generally the case in high mountains, 
is not July, but August; however, frosts occur even in August Because 
the cold air drains downward, Gudaur, although 220 m. higher in eleva- 
tion, has a January temperature 1 C. warmer than Kobi. Winter on the 
Glavny Caucasus is warmer than winter on a plateau of the same eleva- 
tion. Thus, in Kars (Turkey), at 1742 m*, the mean January temperature 
is 12J3 C.; that is, colder than at Krestovy Pass, although Kars lies 
farther south and lower* There is much precipitation in the western half 


of the Central Caucasus, more than 1000 to 1500 mm.; farther east, the 
precipitation is less, and the annual total may drop to 500 mm. Maxi- 
mum precipitation occurs in the early summer or the late spring. 

We have spoken already to some extent of the vegetation of the sub- 
alpine zone (p. 221). In this zone forest and alpine plants intermingle. 
The zone begins everywhere with birch groves, which usually con- 
tain thickets of Caucasian rhododendron (Rhododendron caucasicum), 
studded with large flowers at the end of May and the beginning of June. 
This rhododendron appears in some places (in the western Transcauca- 
sus) at an elevation of 1800 m., and in others rises to an elevation of 
3000 m. Of the birches, Medvedev's birch (Betula medwedietoii) is asso- 
ciated particularly with the subalpine zone of the western Transcauca- 
sus, and Radde's birch (B. raddeana) with the eastern North Caucasus 
Foreland. But other birches, of die pubescent group, are found here in 
addition. In this horizon redbud maple (Acer trautvetteri) and stunted 
jumpers are also very common. 

A peculiar feature of the subalpine zone is the meadow of tall herba- 
ceous plants so-called vysokotravie (Fig. 57). These include gigantic 
umbellifers, up to 3 m. high; monkshood (Aconitwn orientale); colum- 
bine (Aquilegia olympica [A. vulgaris olympica]); larkspur (Delphin- 
ium); false hellebore (Veratrum lobelianum); valerian (Valeriana alli- 
ariaefolia); inula (Inula magnified); pink knotweed (Polygonum car- 
neum); Caucasian buttercup (Ranunculus caucasicus); CepJialaria 
tatarica (Dipsacaceae); Caucasian scabious (Scabiosa caucasica); the 
composites Telekia speciosa [Buphthahnwn] and Scnecio; and others. 
According to Medvedev (1915), the tallness of the herbage is explained 
by the late thawing of the snows; the plants develop at relatively high 
temperatures on moist soil. This layer society of tall herbage was men- 
tioned above, in the section on the forest zone. Higher up lie the sub- 
alpine meadows, distinguished from the alpine meadows by their rela- 
tively tall stand (up to 1-m.)- These meadows are composed funda- 
mentally of grasses, with an admixture of various dicotyledons. 

Bear and wild boar may be found on the subalpine meadows. 

The Alpine Zone 

* Above the subalpine zone lies the alpine zone, which occupies elevations 
from 2200 m. to 3000 m, and higher. The vegetation here consists of 
stunted alpine herbaceous plants. The average height of the stand is 
10 to 30 cm. The chief plants which compose the sod are various sedges, 
among them cobresia (Gobresia); grasses are of secondary importance. 


On the meadows which have been manured by livestock, alpine blue 
grass (Poa alpina) and alpine timothy (Phleum alpinum) grow in pro- 
fusion. Prominent among tie alpine herbaceous plants are the short bell- 
flower with its large flowers, gentian, primula, forget-me-not, violet 
(Viola oreades), corydalis (Corydalis conorrhfaa), Caucasian dryad 
(Dryas caucasica), and others. Many endemic plants (for example, the 
Caucasian larkspur (Delphinium caucasicum [D. spetiosum]), Owerin's 
astragalus (Astragalus owerini), and others) are found among the flora 
of the alpine zone of the Glavny Caucasus. 

There are few bogs and lakes in the high-mountain region of the 
Caucasus. In the Central Caucasus (in Balkariya and Ossetia), on the 
southern slope as well as on the northern, there are bogs with sedges 
predominating, often with a thin cover of sphagnum mosses. These bogs 
are of recent origin (N. Bush). 

In the alpine meadows and rhododendron thickets, the Caucasian black 
grouse (Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi) is very characteristic. The snow pheas- 
ant (Tetraogallus caucasicus) prefers the region above the rhododendron 
thickets. The tur, or Caucasian ibex, is associated particularly with the 
alpine zone (in the west, Capra dinniki [C. severtzowi dinniTd], C. severt- 
zouA 9 C. caucasica; in the east, C. cylindricornis [C. caucasica cylindri- 
cornis]), although it descends into the forest zone as well. The Cauca- 
sian chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra caucasica), which is related very 
closely to the chamois of the mountains of Europe and Asia Minor, is 
found here; for the winter it descends into the forest zone. The endemic 
burrowing vole (Prometheomys schaposchnikowi) , an inhabitant of the 
alpine and subalpine zone, is found near Krestovy Pass and as far west 
as Fisht and Oshten. Another high-mountain rodent is the alpine meadow 
mouse (Microtus woato), native to the Kopet-Dagh, the Alps, the Pyre- 
nees, and the Apennines (at Gudaur and Kazbek, M, nivalis gud). In 
the subalpine meadows of the Central Caucasus there is found the small 
suslik (Citellus pygmaeus musicus), native, in different forms, also to 
the steppe and the semidesert 

Having described the Glavny Caucasus range, we pass on to other 
regions of the Caucasus. 



The name Daghestan ("mountain country") in the physical geographic 
sense is given to the region between the Caucasus range on the west 
and the Caspian Sea on the east. The northern boundary of Daghestan 
is the Andiisk range, which lies on the watershed between the Terek 
and the Andiisk Koi-Su (one of the feeders of the Sulak). The western 
extreme of the Andiisk range lies in the Liklos-Mta massif, which is 
covered with everlasting snows and glaciers. Beyond the Sulak the east- 
ern continuation of the Andiisk range is called the Gimrinsk (elevation 
2000 m. ) ; the Andiisk range is separated from the Gimrinsk by the narrow 
and deep (500 m.) Sulak canyon. On the south, Daghestan is bounded 
roughly by a line extending from Mount Bazar-Dyuzi (elevation 4484 m. ) 
in the Glavny Caucasus range to the lower course of the Samur River. 

Daghestan may be divided into the following zones: (1) the Caspian 
Lowland, (2) the foothills, (3) mountainous interior Daghestan, and 
(4) high-mountain Daghestan. 

The Caspian Lowland of Daghestan extends as far south as the delta 
of the Samur River, and then merges into the Kuba Lowland, Within 
Daghestan the lowland reaches a width of 25 km. only along the lower 
course of the Samur; most of it is narrower, while in some places the 
mountains reach to the very shore. The lowland is composed of Quater- 
nary Caspian deposits. Immediately beyond the coastal dune strip lies 
a belt of semidesert soils solonized, poorly developed sierozems, light- 
chestnut soils, and solonetz soils. 

But to the south, in the Samur delta, in some places there are broad- 
leaved forests with a profusion of vines. Along the rivers there is some 
alder (Alnus barbata) . The forests in the southern part of the lowland 
contain hornbeam, oak, ash, maple, thick-shell Persian walnut, and a 
great deal of filbert. The vines here include greenbrier, Grecian silk vine, 
travelerVjoy (Clematis vitalba), ivy, grape, and blackberry (Rubus 

The northern part of the Caspian Lowland contains vegetation of the 
semidesert type: polyn (of the Artemisia maritima group), camel's thorn 

17 B. F. Dobrynin, Geografya Dagestanskoy A.S.S.R. (Geography of the Daghestan 
A.S.S.R.), 1926, with maps, Dagest. gos. izd-vo. (Daghestan State Publication). 
B. F. Dobiynin, Landshaftnie (yestestvennte) raiony i rasttoelnost Dagestana (Land- 
scape [Natural] Regions and Vegetation of Daghestan), Moscow, 1925 (Memuary 
Geogr. otd. obshch. lyub. yest [Memoirs of the Geographical Section of the Amateur 
Naturalists' Society], No. 1). 


(AUtagi camelorum [A. pseudalhagi}) , and halophytes. There are many 
solonchaks. The reed thickets in the lowland are inhabited by numerous 
wild boar, and there are some jungle cats, jackals, hyenas, and pheasants. 
The foothills rise to an elevation of 1000 to 1200 m. They consist of folded 
Tertiary strata (in the south, Mesozoic). In the north, the climate is of 
the forest type; in the south, Mediterranean. Precipitation in the south 
is greatest in autumn and winter. Chestnut soils are peculiar to the lower 
sections of the foothills; the upper sections have dark-chestnut soils and 
chernozems (which sometimes reach a considerable thickness), 

On the dry slopes of the lower sections of the Daghestan foothills, 
there are numerous thickets of xerophytic shrubs which shed their leaves 
in winter; Dobrynin (1925) calls this formation shiblyak, pointing out 
its similarity to the corresponding formation in the eastern Mediterranean 
and the Crimea. In the shiblyak of Daghestan, the spiny xerophytic shrub 
Christ's-thorn paliurus (Paliurus spina-christi) predominates, forming, 
up to elevations of 400 to 500 m., extensive and dense thickets; next in 
abundance is Pallas's buckthorn [Hharnnus pallasi?]. These thickets also 
contain shrub pubescent oak, small-leaved hornbeam, dogwood, pear, 
barberry, juniper, sweetbrier rose, spiraea, and others. Often the climbing 
blackberry (Rubus discolor) tangles the shrubs of the shiblyak with its 
shoots. In some places the shiblyak extends into mountainous and even 
high-mountain Daghestan. 

On dry rocky slopes with poorly developed soils there are xerophytes; 
these spiny herbaceous plants and undershrubs grow in a formation 
which Dobrynin calls the jrigana formation a term also borrowed from 
the eastern Mediterranean. Other authors use the term mountain or up- 
land xerophytes, or mountain-steppe vegetation. 

The following plants are characteristic for the jrigana of Daghestan: 
capers (Capparis herbacea), viperVbugloss (Echium vtolaceum, E. itali- 
cum) 9 thistle (Cirsium), the sage Salvia aethiopis, Xeranthemum y 
Thymus, Centaurea 9 and others. There are few grasses here. Most of 
the representatives of the frigana are Mediterranean plants. In some 
places on the southern slopes there are sections covered with feather 
grasses (Stipa pulcherrima) and other representatives of steppe vege- 
tation (the dropwort, Filipendula hexapetala, and others). 

In the higher foothills, at an elevation of 800 to 1000 m., dense forests 
predominate; but these contain no vines of greenbrier, Grecian silk vine, 
or ivy. They consist of Iberian oak, oriental beech, hornbeam, elms, 
maples, and checker-tree mountain ash (Sorbus torminalis) . In the south, 
in the upper sections of the beech zone, the xerophytic mountain oak 


(Quercus macranthera) may be found. The forest glades contain a lux- 
urious meadow vegetation: sage (Scdvia glutinosa), monkshood (Aconi- 
tum orientate), and others. 

The vines in the beech forests include traveler's-joy (Clematis vitalba), 
sweet honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium), and Tamus communis. 

Above 1000 m. the forests grow thin, and above 1200 m. they disappear 
entirely; this region is the beginning of mountain Daghestan. The Iberian 
oak ascends highest of all trees into the mountains; it forms shrub thickets 
at an elevation of 1200 m. In some places above the boundary of the 
broad-leaved forest there appear thickets of Caucasian rhododendron. 

Mountain Daghestan includes the basins of the four Koi-Su rivers, the 
mountain part of the Sulak, and the headwaters of the Samur. Here the 
elevations reach 2000 to 3000 m. 

Characteristic of the interior parts of Daghestan are high synclinal 
plateaus, composed of Jurassic limestones, which in many places are cut 
by canyonlike valleys (Fig. 59). The average elevation of the plateaus 
is about 1900 m., while the level of the rivers is at about 700 m. elevation. 
The Gunib Plateau (between the Avarsk Koi-Su and the Kara-Koi-Su 
rivers), which reaches an elevation of 2364 m., may serve as an example 
of these high plateaus. The summer is warm; the winter is dry, has little 
snowfall, and is not cold. Gunib, at an elevation of 1583 m., has a mean 
July temperature of 17 C., a mean January temperature of 2 C. 
Cloudiness is less in winter than in summer, as is generally true on high 
mountains. In Gunib the mean cloudiness in summer is 45 per cent; in 
winter, 34 per cent; cloudiness is greatest in May (55 per cent). In the 
lowlands of Daghestan, however (for example, in Derbent), clqudiness 
is greatest in winter, and least in summer. Furthermore, cloudiness is 
greater in the lowlands than in the mountains. Although Gunib lies 
700 m. higher than Kislovodsk, the winter in Gunib is warmer and con- 
siderably sunnier than in Kislovodsk; January in Gunib' has only one 
cloudy day. For this reason Gunib is an excellent winter health resort, 18 
Precipitation in mountain Daghestan reaches 400 to 800 mm.; it is 
greatest in summer and spring, least in winter. In winter there are 3 to 
5 days a month with precipitation; in summer, 12 to 15 days, or more. 
The snow cover is negligible; in Gunib in January, when the snow is 
thickest, it amounts to an average of 4 to 5 cm. In mountain Daghestan 
calm weather prevails; in Gunib the mean annual wind velocity is only 
1 m. per second. Cyclones from the Atlantic Ocean apparently never 

18 N. A. Korosrtelev, Klimat Dagestana (The Climate of Daghestan), Moscow, 
1930, S.-Idb. fed. (Agricultural Publication ), p. 83. 


penetrate into Daghestan. In the southern part of mountain Daghestan 
the predominant surface formations are dark, friable argillaceous shales 
of Jurassic age. 

The vegetation of mountain Daghestan has a xerophytic character. 
There are few forests here. Only on the northern slopes, at an elevation 
of 1400 to 2300 m., are there pine forests, which are replaced after fell- 
ing by birch groves. In addition to pine, these forests contain oak, horn- 
beam, linden, ash, aspen, mountain ash, speckled alder, and others. On 
the Gunib Plateau (1500 to 2000 m.) birch (Betitla pubescens, B. rad- 
deana) predominates. There are some forests of almost pure hornbeam; 
for example, Tsudakharsky forest, at an elevation of 1200 to 1300 m. 

At the upper boundary of the forests (2000 to 2400 m.), the first birch 
groves appear; they consist of pubescent birch with an admixture of 
Radde's birch. The latter is distinguished sharply from the white birches 
by the shape and large size of its leaves and female catkins, and also by 
its general appearance* It is related closely to the East Siberian Erman's 
birch, and also to the western Transcaucasus Medvedev's birch. The bark 
of Radde's birch is pinkish in color, and on the older trees it is exten- 
sively peeled. This birch prefers the steep, rocky precipices, where it 
forms an undergrowth among the ordinary birch. The herbaceous cover 
in the subalpine birch groves is tall. 

The southern slopes and the plateaus are entirely unforested. The 
vegetation consists of spiny astragalus (Astragalus marschallianus), 
spiny sainfoin (Onobrychis cornuta), shrubs of Christ's-thorn paliurus, 
barberry, sweetbrier rose, and juniper (Juniperus isophyllos); there is 
much sage (Salvia canescens) growing on the limestones; also Tewxium, 
Capparis herbacea, and others. Thistle (Cirsium sinwtum), which forms 
sprawling spiny bushes, is widespread; in some places it is used for fuel 
The animals in the forests along the upper course of the Avarsk Koi-Su 
in mountain Daghestan include deer, bear, roebuck, and mountain 
ptarmigan. On the Khunzakh Plateau (elevation 1500 m.) the hamster 
(Mesocricetus raddei) damages the grain crops. 

Highmountain Daghestan is part of the Glavny (Main) Caucasus 
range, which has been described already. But the Daghestan slope of 
the range has a drier climate than is found in the Glavny Caucasus range 
as a whole, and pine forests predominate in the forest zone here. 



The Armenian Plateau lies between the Trialetsk range on the north, 
the Agri-Dagh. (more exactly, Lake Van, in Turkey) on the south, the 
Arsiansk on the west, and the Karabakh on the east. The Trialetsk range 
stretches from west to east, from Borzhom to Tiflis; it forms the eastern 
continuation of the Adzhar-Akhaltsykh range. On the watershed of the 
Black and the Caspian seas lies the Arsiansk range (elevation 3121 m.). 
The Armenian Plateau has an average elevation of 1500 m., but its eastern 
part, the Karabakh Plateau, is much higher (2500 m. and inore). The 
Armenian Plateau is composed of young (Quaternary) volcanic rocks 
of andesite-basalt composition, and contains a series of extinct volcanoes: 
the Samsar-Abul group in the region of Lake Toporovan; the enormous 
Alagez volcanic massif (4087 m.); Great Ararat (5156 m.), or Masis in 
Armenian, which adjoins the Agri-Dagh range and lies within Turkey; 
and others. Great Ararat was still erupting during the Quaternary period; 
its slopes are covered with streams of hardened lava; the snow line lies at 
an elevation of 4250 m.; many short glaciers descend from the summit. 
There are several lakes on the Armenian Plateau. The largest is Lake 
Sevan, or Gokcha, 19 which lies at an elevation of 1916 m. (Fig. 60 ); 20 
its depth reaches 99 m. 21 Individual peaks among the mountains which 
surround the lake rise to elevations of over 3600 m. At present students 
are inclined to attribute the formation of the Sevan basin to subsidences. 
The Zanga Biver flows out of the lake, and empties into the Araks. The 
level of Sevan is subject to fluctuations, comparable with the fluctuations 
in the level of the Aral Sea. The highest level was reached in 1912. 

The ranges of the Armenian Plateau contain rich beds of copper ore 
(for example, the Allaverdy). There is a bed of magnetite on the slope 
of the Shakh-Dagh range near Dashkesan village. 

The mountain-steppe region of the eastern Transcaucasus includes the 
Armenian Plateau, as well as the Yerevan basin. There are elevations 
from 1400 to 2000 m. The climate of the plateau is like that of the steppe 

19 Recently this lake and its basin have been explored thoroughly. See Materfafy 
po issledovanvyu ozera Sevan i yevo basseina (Materials on the Exploration of Lake 
Sevan and Its Basin), izd. Sevansk. gidrometeor. byuro (publication of the Sevan 
Hydrometeorological Bureau), Leningrad, 1931. (Seventeen issues have appeared.) 

20 B. D. Zaikov, "Gidrologichesky ocherk basseina ozera Sevan** ( Hydrological 
Sketch of the Lake Sevan Basin), ibid., 1933, p. 3. 

21 1. A. Ereyev, "Gidrograficheskie raboty na ozere Sevan'* (Hydrographic Work 
on Lake Sevan), ibid., 1933, p. 60, map. 


zone in that it is distinctly continental. However, the summers are cool 
the mean temperature of the wannest month ranges from 15 to 19 C., 
and frosts occur. The winters are cold; the mean January tempera- 
ture ranges from - 8 to - 15 C. The low temperatures are caused 
by the persistence of a high pressure area over the plateau during the 
winter and by the heavy cold air which descends onto the plateau from 
the surrounding mountains; the deep snow cover is also a factor in 
keeping the temperatures low. In summer the disposition of isobars on 
the Armenian Plateau is cyclonic. The daily temperature range, as on 
plateaus everywhere, is great; it is greatest in September: 17 G. In 
summer north and northeast winds prevail; from October till May, south 
and southwest winds. The annual precipitation in the north is from 500 
to 700 mm.; in the south (which adjoins the dry Yerevan basin), 300 to 
500 mm. Precipitation is greatest in spring and part of the summer, least 
in winter. Evaporation is great, and by the end of the summer the vege- 
tation begins to suffer from drought. Thundershowers and hailstorms are 
frequent. The soil cover consists of typical and chestnut chernozems, 
which are formed on highly calcareous products of the weathering of 
igneous rocks. In some places (the Loriisk steppe, and others) there are 
thick clayey chernozems (with a humus content as high as 16 per cent), 
on which the vegetation is feather grass, or feather grass with scabious. 
The entire plateau is an agricultural region where wheat, barley, and 
other spring grains are cultivated. 

In general the vegetation on the plateau is of the steppe type, with 
grasses predominating. The feather grasses include capillary feather grass 
(Stipa capillata} and pinnate feather grasses (S. lessingiana, S. pulcher- 
rima > S. stenophylla). In addition there are fescue (Festuca sulcata) and 
a number of steppe dicotyledons: catchfly, astragali, and Nepeta. In some 
places on the plateau there are forests of Armenian pine (Pinus armena), 
closely related to the common pine. These forests are rich in steppe 
plants feather grasses, dropwort, and others. 

On the mountains which lie within the Armenian Plateau and along 
its borders, the vegetation has a xerophytic character. There are park- 
like forests of xerophytic mountain oak (Quercus nutcranthera), such 
as those on the southern slope of Alagez, between 1800 and 2800 m. 
elevation. In these thin, light forests, the herbaceous cover also consists 
predominantly of xerophytic and steppe plants feather grasses, East 
Indies bluestem (Andropogon ischaemum), yellow bedstraw (Gcdium 
verum), dropwort (Fttip&ndula hexapetda), and others. These forests 
Bush (1935) calls the Vooded steppe." At an elevation of 2300 m, the 


forest is replaced by creeping juniper (Juniperus depressa) and moun- 
tain xerophytes (tragacanth astragali). Mountain xerophytes are found 
on the southern slope of Alagez as high as 2700 m. 

In some places in the mountains of Armenia there are juniper forests 
(usually of Juniperus polycarpos}-, they appear also in the Araks valley. 
Rhododendrons are absent in the subalpine meadows of Armenia; tall 
herbaceous stands, so characteristic for the lower layers of the subalpine 
zone in the Glavny Caucasus range, are absent also. 

The following animals are characteristic of the steppes of the Arme- 
nian Plateau: the Asia Minor suslik (Citellus xanthoprymnus); the Asia 
Minor mountain jerboa (Allactaga williamsi), which is found in the 
Transcaucasus in general; the mountain mole rat (Spdlax monticola); 
hamsters (Mesocricetus brandti [M. auratus brandti], Cricetulus migra- 
torius); and the fox, Vitlpes vulpes kurdistanica. Among the birds, the 
pheasant and francolin are absent; but in the mountains there are Cau- 
casian black grouse (Lyrurus mldkosiewiczi] and snow pheasant (Tetra- 
ogaHus caspitts); ptarmigan and willow grouse are numerous; the sand 
grouse (Pterodes arenarius} is characteristic for the upland steppe. Lake 
Sevan is inhabited by the Gokcha trout (Salmo ischchan). 

The semideserts and deserts along the middle course of the Araks in 
Armenia have an even drier climate. Here die precipitation is 150 to 
300 mm.; the maximum comes in spring. The driest locality is Aralykh 
( elevation 790 m. ) , which lies within Turkey, at the foot of Mount Ararat; 
here the average precipitation recorded for the years 1849-1853 was only 
158 mm. 

Yerevan (elevation 996 m.) has an annual total of 322 mm.; precipita- 
tion is greatest in May, least in August. The summer is hot; in Yerevan 
the mean temperature in July is 25.0 C,; in January, 5.8 C. There is 
little cloudiness; the mean annual figure here is 45 per cent (least in 
August 20 per cent, most in January 69 per cent). Where there is irri- 
gation, wheat, rice, cotton, grapes, peaches, and so forth, can be raised 
successfully. The soils at the bottom are of the chernozem type. 

The vegetation is that of the desert: spiny astragali, prickly thrift, 
camel's thorn (Alhagi camelorum [A. pseudalhagi]), the buckwheat 
shrub Atraphaxis spinosa, the Syrian bean caper (Zygophyllum fabago), 
and Peganum harmala (also of the Zygophylkceae). On the sands at 
the foot of Mount Ararat, in Turkey, tiiere is CoHigorawn. On these sands 
tke fauna also is of a Central Asiatic type: the sniall jerboa (Allactaga 
elater), Persian gerbil (Mertones persicus), gray hamster (Cricetulus 
migratorius), and two hedgehogs (Hemieckinus calligoni, Erinaceus 


transcaucasicus [E. rumanicus transcaucasicus]); there is some hyena 
(Hyaena hyaena), and at one time there was goitered gazelle (GazeUa 
subgutturosa) . Among the characteristic lizards are the toadhead 
(Phrynocephalus helioscopus) and the long-legged gold skink (Eumeces 

The high steppes along the middle course of the Kura, between Tiflis 
and Yevlakh, have an elevation of 700 to 800 m. in the north, but they 
drop in elevation to the south. They are composed largely of folded 
Tertiary deposits. These steppes have a climate transitional between 
that of the Mediterranean and that of the steppe. The Shirak (between 
the Alazan and the lora rivers), Karayazy, and other steppes are part 
of this region. Karayazy (lat. 4134 N, elevation 305 m.) may serve to 
exemplify the climate: January, 0.5 C.; July, 25.3 C.; annual precipita- 
tion, 388 mm.; maximum, in May 65 mm., minimum, in January 12 mm. 
In general the precipitation ranges from 400 to 500 mm. The soils are 
light-chestnut clay loams, which merge into chestnut soils near the 

On the light-chestnut soils the vegetation M is of the semidesert type. 
In spring there are many dicotyledons and ephemeral grasses, which fade 
by the middle of the summer. In summer the polyn Artemisia hanseniana 
predominates in some places, the halophyte kargan (Salsola verrucosd) 
in others. Sometimes (for example, in the Mflsk steppe) polyn and 
kargan are found growing together. Polyn appears in the alluvial valleys 
of the Kura and the Araks, as well as on the mountain slopes. The soils 
under polyn and kargan are extremely fertile; cotton is cultivated readily 
on them. Higher up, on chestnut soils, steppes predominate; on these 
steppes the perennial East Indies bluestem (Andropogon ischaemum) 
is characteristic. Soils on which the bluestem has grown are suitable for 
cultivation of grains. The valleys of the Kura, lora, and Alazan are bor- 
dered in the dry sections by thickets of Turk terebinth pistache (Pistacia 
mutica), which never grow in a close stand; here among the scattered 
individual trees grow kargan and polyn. 

Below these steppes lies the Kura-Araks desert, which includes the 
lower courses of the Kura (below Yevlakh) and the Araks, and which 
is composed of the alluvial deposits of these rivers. 

The climate of this desert, a part of which lies below sea level, is char- 

22 A. A. Grossheim, "Ocherk rastitelnosti Kuro-Arakrinskoy nizmennosti" (A 
Sketch of the Vegetation of the Kura-Araks Lowland), Mat, k obshchey skheme 
tepohovaniya vodnykh resursov Kuro-Arafainskooo basseina (Materials for the Gen- 
eral Plan for the Exploitation of the Water Resources of the Kura-Araks Basin), No. 
4, Tiflis, 1932, pp. 57-125. 


acterized by mild winters; the January temperature is about 2 C. There 
is almost no snow cover, and on the Mugan steppe, vegetation begins to 
turn green in January. The mildness of the winter makes it possible to 
keep stock in pasture all winter long. The summer is very hot; the mean 
July temperature in Salyany is over 27 C., and in Kyurdamir over 
28 C. The autumn is sunny and warm. In the Shirvan steppe, from May 
until October there is an area of thermal maximum, delineated by closed 
isotherms. The atmospheric precipitation is less than 300 mm. The 
summer is dry; the maximum precipitation comes in spring. The hot 
summers favor the cultivation of cotton, grapes, and sesame. 

The soils 23 are of a desert type: sierozems, often solonized, and chest- 
nut-brown soils, also solonized; the presence of solonetz soils is unusual 
for the desert. There are many solonchaks. The chief vegetative period 
comes in spring and early summer. In the lower course of the Kura the 
spring vegetation, which develops completely by April, consists of small 
annuals; it is replaced temporarily by a grass cover; in the Shirvan steppe 
this herbaceous cover is short-lived. In May perennials become pre- 
dominant; among them pdlijn prevails, sometimes constituting the entire 
cover. The small polyn bushes do not form a continuous cover; there 
are spaces of bare soil between them. On the moist solonchaks, thickets 
of the halophyte sarsazan (Halocnemum strobilaceum) are characteristic; 
usually as the sarsazan bush becomes covered with solonchak dust, it 
gives rise to a mound, on which this chenopod continues to grow. The 
mound may reach several meters in height, and a peculiar hillocky solon- 
chak results. Large areas are covered by almost pure thickets, 1.5 to 2 m. 
high, of the halophyte halostachys (Halostachys caspica), which grows 
on dry as well as on wet solonchaks. 

Along the lower course of the Araks, and also south of Kyurdamir 
station, there is Hindu lotus (Nelumbo nucijera [Nelumbium nelumbo}}. 

The animals of the lower Kura include the goitered gazelle (Gazella 
subgutturosa), jackal, hyena, and, along the rivers, jungle cat (Felis 
chaus); in the swamps, among the reeds there is wild boar; die Asia Minor 
jerboa (Attactaga williamsi), the small jerboa (A. elater), and the hare 
(Lepus europaeus cyrensis) are characteristic. 24 The birds include the 

23 S. A. Zakharov, "Pochvy nizmennosti Kuiy-Araksa" (Soils of the Kura-Araks 
Lowland), Mat. k obshchey skkeme ispolzovaniya vodnykh reswsov Kuro-Ardksin- 
skovo basseina (Materials for the General Plan for the Exploitation of the Water 
Besources of the Kura-Aralcs Basin), NQ. 4, Tiflis, 1932, pp. 1-^56. 

24 K. A. Satunin, "O zoogeograficheskOeh olsrugakh Kavkaza" (Concerning the 
Zoogeographical Districts of the Caucasus), Izv. Ravkazskovo muzeya (Beport of the 
Caucasus Museum), VII, 1912, with a map. 


flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus); the glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinettus), 
of the ibis family; two bee-eaters (Merops apiaster and M. persicus); the 
francolin (Francolinus orientalis] , 25 of the ptarmigan subfamily; the 
pheasant (Phasianus colchicus); and the bustard. There are many snakes, 
lizards, and tortoises. The domestic animals include the buffalo and the 

The Apsheron Peninsula 26 is famous for its oil beds. By some students 
it is considered the direct continuation of the folds of the Glavny Cau- 
casus range. Others (Rengarten, 1930) deny this connection, holding that 
the peninsula is a part of the fold system of the Transcaucasus. 

In the northwest of the peninsula the elevations reach 340 to 350 m. 
The eastern part is low, and the highest points recorded here do not 
exceed + 38 m. in absolute elevation. Prominent in the structure of the 
peninsula are mud volcanoes which often lie in a line along the axes 
of the anticlinal folds; the largest of these volcanoes are Boz-Dagh 
(elevation 290 m.) and Atashkya (elevation 274 m.). The peninsula is 
composed of strongly dislocated Tertiary deposits, beginning with the 
Eocene, and also Quaternary deposits. The oil deposits occur chiefly in 
the Middle Pliocene sandy-clayey "productive** horizon, which lies below 
the Akchagyl layer and above the Pontic layer. The thickness of this 
strongly dislocated bed reaches 1300 m. The principal oil fields are the 
Balakhany, Sabunchi, Ramany, Bibi-eibat, Surakhany, and Binagady. 

The Tertiary deposits of the peninsula are intricately dislocated. At 
present students are inclined to ascribe the Baku deposits, also strongly 
dislocated, to the Lower post-Pliocene. 

Post-Tertiary formations consist of ancient Caspian deposits: (1) the 
lower strata (which contain the mollusk Didacna crassa), only slightly 
dislocated, and rising to elevations from 20 to 160 m. above the level 
of the Caspian, and (2) the upper strata (which contain D. trigonoides), 
hardly dislocated at all, and lying at elevations from 9 to 35 m. Still 
younger terraces (which contain Cardium edule) border all the shores 
of the peninsula; as a rule, they do not rise higher than 5 m. above the 
level of the Caspian (in exceptional cases, almost up to 10 m.), 

25 This Mediterranean bird of a genus distributed predominantly in tropical 
and South Africa is extinct in Europe. It is found in western Asia, and in the Soviet 
Union in the lower course of the Atrek, as well as in the valleys of the Kura and the 

26 "Obzor prirody Apsheronskovo poluostrova" (Survey of the Natural Environ- 
ment of the Apsheron Peninsula), written by a group of specialists; see Trudy 
Azerbaidzh. abL Zdkavkaz. flida Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Azerbaidzhan 
Section of the Transcaucasus Branch of the Academy of Sciences), VI, Baku, 1934, 
p. 256, maps, bibliography. 


The Apsheron Peninsula has a desert climate of a unique type. It has 
mild winters (as does the Kura-Araks desert), attributable to the mod- 
erating influence of the southern Caspian. In Baku (absolute elevation 
+ 2 m.) the mean January temperature is + 3.5 C. As compared with 
parts of the Kura Lowland which are farther from the sea, lie summer 
is relatively cool; the mean July temperature is 25.7 C. In Baku there 
are 181 mm. of precipitation per year; the maximum comes in autumn 
(November, 28 mm.), and the minimum in summer (July, 5 mm.). 
The snow cover lasts an average of ten days a year. There is little cloud- 
iness; in Baku February is the cloudiest month (78 per cent), August, 
the least cloudy (26 per cent). The peninsula has strong winds: in Baku 
the mean wind velocity is 6.0 m. per second; the north wind (nord) 
prevails, often reaching the strength of a tempest; the south wind is the 
next most prevalent. In Baku dry fogs are numerous (there are an aver- 
age of 145 days a year with dry fog); they are caused by the dust which 
fills the atmosphere. Ordinary ("wet") fogs occur most often in winter 
and spring (Mikhailevsky, 1934). 

The vegetation is unique; it has a more northern appearance than 
might be expected here from the climate. "One gains the impression 
that local vegetation is typical of a higher vertical zone which spreads 
down to sea level here, thus invading a country which lies below the 
normal vertical limit of this zone" (Grossheim, 1934). Grossheim ex- 
plains this condition by the fact that tie peninsula is like an island; 
marine climate impinges upon desert climate. The Apsheron plant asso- 
ciation approximates that of the next vertical zone of the Caucasus, by 
virtue of the profuse development of feather grasses (Stipa szowitziana) 
and the presence of a number of plants native to the foothill regions of 
the Transcaucasus; these include several legumes (Astragalus humilis, 
Onobrychis vaginalis) and other plants. The polyns are poorly devel- 
oped, perhaps because man has destroyed this type of vegetation. Nor 
are the halophytes so widespread here as one might expect. Where the 
vegetation has not been disturbed by man, ephemera such as blue grass 
(Poa bulbosa) and Colpodium humile predominate. Toward the end of 
May the blue grass fades; it comes to life again in October and Novem- 
ber after tibe first autumn rains, and continues to grow all winter long 
until spring. On the slopes the blue grass is replaced by the goat grass 
Aegilops, closely related to wheat, and also by oats (Avena). In addi- 
tion there are vast sandy areas. A large part of the peninsula is occupied 
by dry-land (unirrigated) winter grain crops. 

The soils of the peninsula are also unique. One would expect to find 


sierozems here, but according to soil scientists, the soils of the peninsula 
belong to the brown and chestnut-brown types. 


South of the lower Araks, and separated from it by the Mugan steppe, 
lies mountain Talysh, reaching 2582 m. in elevation. The Talysh range 
appears to be a continuation of the Elburz, on the southern shore of the 
Caspian in Iran. 

There are yellow soils in the foothills, and brown forest soils higher up. 

In Talysh there are no conifers except yew and juniper, and there is no 
rhododendron. The forests of the foothills (up to an elevation of 600 
to 700 m.) resemble the forests of the lowland, which have been described 
above (pp. 199-200). Here, too, the Persian parrotia is the basic species, 
and hornbeam is common. The chestnut-leaf oak (which occurs here in the 
typical form) becomes more numerous as the altitude increases; it gradu- 
ally replaces the parrotia. Small stands of date-plum persimmon (Dios- 
pyrus lotus) grow in the shady places. The Lenkoran or silk-tree albiz- 
zia .(Albizzia julibrissin) is very characteristic for the forests south of 
Lenkoran; it does not grow above 400 to 500 m. This magnificent orna- 
mental tree is cultivated in great numbers in the Crimea and in the west- 
ern Transcaucasus. There is some zelkova (Zelkova carpinifolia). The 
undergrowth contains much medlar (Mespilus germanica). In the for- 
est, vines are not uncommon, particularly greenbrier and blackberry, 
although they are fewer here than in the lowland. 

Along the stream valleys in the foothills there are stands of Caucasian 
alder (Alnus subcordata)-, it is accompanied everywhere by wing nut 
(Pterocarya carpinifolia). The presence in these forests of the endemic 
Caspian honey locust (Gleditschia caspica) is characteristic; in winter 
its large pods yield fodder for livestock. In some places the common fig 
(Ficus carica) grows in great abundance. In the remote gorges of the 
foothills one may find the majestic Persian velvet maple (Acer insigne 
[A. velutinum glabrescens]) . It does not form continuous thickets, but 
grows as individual trees, which occasionally are colossal in size. It is 
readily grown as an ornamental tree, for example, in the streets of Len- 
koran. In this zone (and in the central zone), under a canopy of Per- 
sian parrotia and hornbeam, thickets of box are found. There is a well 
developed evergreen undergrowth of butchers-broom (Ruscus hyrcanus). 

In the central mountain zone (600 to 1200 m.) there are no parrotia 


(which does not grow above 600 to 700 m.), butcher's-broom, or vines 
(with the exception of the ivy Hedera pastuchovii) . Instead of the par- 
rotia, on the northern slopes there appears oriental beech, which reaches 
colossal dimensions. The chestnut-leaf oak (Quercus castaneaefolia) is 
a mighty and shapely tree. The undergrowth contains holly, and occa- 
sionally English yew (Taxus baccata). 

The forests of the upper mountain zone, at elevations from 1200 to 
1800 m., have a different appearance. They consist chiefly of the xero- 
phytic mountain oak (Quercus macrantliera) and the small Hyrcanian 
hornbeam (Carpinus schuschaensis); beech, hornbeam, and chestnut- 
leaf oak are less important. The evergreen undergrowth in some places 
consists of holly. There is much medlar* Much of the forest here has been 
cleared and turned into wheat fields. 

There is no alpine vegetation in Talysh. In the west, particularly in 
the Dibrar basin, there are mountain xerophytes. At elevations of 1300 
to 1800 m. dense cushions (1.5 m. in diameter) of shrublike prickly 
thrift (Acantholimon hohenackeri) are characteristic; there are also some 
spiny tragacanth astragali (Astragalus aureus and others) and sweet- 
brier rose- On the gentle slopes the soil is covered with a rather dense 
sod of fescue and other grasses, especially at elevations between 1800 
and 2500 m. (Grossheim, 1926). 

The animals in the mountain forests of Talysh include deer, roebuck, 
lynx (Felix lynx onentalis [Lynx orientalis] ), leopard, and bear. 

XI Mountain Crimea 

THE boundary between the steppe and mountainous 
I parts of the Crimea may be drawn somewhat north 
of Sevastopol, Bakhchisaray, Simferopol, Karasubazar, and Feodosia. 

Relief 1 

The mountains of the Crimea consist of three parallel ridges in the 
west, and two in the east The southernmost of these, which is also the 
highest, is the coastal ridge; it bears the name Yaila. (Yaild in Tatar means 
"summer pasture.") 

The Yaila range extends from Cape Fiolent and Balaklava in the west, 
to Mount Agarmysh near Stary Krym in the east. The southern slope 
is steep, in some places (especially in the west) precipitous; the north- 
ern slope is gentle. The summit is not a crest, but a rolling plain, partly 
covered by meadows, partly rocky (Fig. 61). The range is not very wide, 
not more than 3 to 4 km.; only the Karabi-Yaila Plateau is wider, about 
7 km. On the summit of the Yaila (which is composed of limestones), 
there are marked funnels, depressions, furrows, caves (in some places 
containing stalactites), deep cavelike abysses (sometimes more than 
100 m. deep), underground rivers, and other karst formations, caused 
by the decomposition and leaching of the limestones, not as a result of 
sinks, as is commonly believed. 

In the west, near Balaklava, the Yaila descends into the sea in vertical 
precipices over 300 m. high. Balaklava Bay cuts deep into the Yaila 
ridge, evidence that the sea has encroached upon the land; the bays 
at Sevastopol are further evidence of marine invasion (Dobiynin, 1922). 
Near Cape Sarych, the southern tip of the Crimea, lies Forosone of the 
wannest places in the Crimea, with a mean January temperature of about 
+ 5 C. Behind Foros the limestones of the Yaila are cut by an enormous 

1 See the excellent map of the southern Crimea, 1:200,000, Leningrad, 1936, pub- 
lished by L I. Babkov. 



fault, the so-called Baidar "gate" (elevation 498 m.). Through this de- 
pression a paved highway leads from Sevastopol to Yalta. East of the 
Baidar gate and as far as Ai-Petri (elevation 1233 m.), the Yaila recedes 
1 to 4 fan. from the shore, dropping toward the south in precipices 300 
to 600 m. high. East of the Baidar gate, the Yaila rises gradually in ele- 
vation, reaching 1000 m. above Simeiz, over 1200 m. above Alupka, and 
1300 m. above Yalta. The highest point of the Yaila, Roman-Kosh (eleva- 
tion 1543 m.), lies in the Babugan-Yaila, northeast of Yalta. In the east, 
approximately in the region of Alushta, deep depressions divide the Yaila 
into a series of individual plateaus; these plateaus include Chatyr-Dagh 
(elevation 1525 m.)> Demerdzhi-Yaila, and Karabi-Yaila. The Salgir has 
its source on the slopes of Chatyr-Dagh, and empties into the Sivash 
arm of the Sea of Azov. Beyond Alushta the range recedes from the sea 
6 to 8 km. and loses the character of a plateau. At Sudak the mountains 
again approach the sea. 

The surface of the Yaila is composed of light, compact, sometimes 
marblelike Upper Jurassic limestones, which form abrupt precipices fac- 
ing the sea. The lower part of the southern slope (that is, the south coast) 
consists of black, argillaceous, watertight schists, which belong to the 
Upper Triassic and to the Lower and Middle Jurassic. The fissures in the 
Jurassic limestones of the Yaila result in landslides. Above Alupka there 
is an enormous crumbled block of limestone about 300 m. high. On the 
southern shore there are many rough piles of detritus composed of 
broken fragments of limestone (so-called "chaoses"). All the strata of 
the Yaila are strongly dislocated. Occasionally there are dome-shaped 
outcrops of igneous rocks which constitute laccoliths. One of these, for 
example, is Ayu-Dagh (at Gurzuf), which is composed of diorite. The 
igneous rocks, because of their compactness, resist weathering, and con- 
sequently are preserved along the shore in the form of capes (Fiolent, 
Ayu-Dagh, Kastel, and others). The extrusion of these rocks took place 
during the Jurassic or (in a few cases) during the Lower Cretaceous 
period. The Crimea contains one long-extinct volcano. This is Kara-Dagh 
(elevation 574 m.), which lies west of Feodosia. There is reason to be- 
lieve that it was active during the Jurassic period. At a later date the 
rocks of which Kara-Dagh is composed were folded, and, finally, a large 
part of the volcano was submerged below the surface of the Black Sea. 

The second ridge, north of the Yaila, the so-called Melovaya, is con- 
siderably lower. Its elevation is 450 to 595 m. It is separated from the 
Yaila by a depression 15 to 20 km. wide, and extends roughly from Inker- 
man to Feodosia. On the northern, gentle slope lies Simferopol. The 


ridge is composed chiefly of Cretaceous deposits, in part of Eocene num- 
mulitic limestones. The latter form the upper part o the precipices and 
the northern slope of the second ridge and are 50 to 60 m. thick. In 
some places, for example, at Bakhchisaray, they form picturesque crags. 
The dip of the layers in the second ridge is toward the north and north- 
west This ridge, like the third, is actually the southern edge of a series 
of strata which slope gently to the north. Thus, these ridges are not 
"mountains/* but monoclinal ridges formed by erosion. 

The third, or northern, ridge is still lower, only 150 to 250 m. in abso- 
lute elevation. It is separated from the preceding ridge by a depression 
S to 5 km. wide, along which passes the railroad from Simferopol to 
Belbek. This ridge, composed of Upper Tertiary limestones, which slope 
gently to the north, extends from the mouth of the Belbek (or even from 
Cape Fiolent) to the town of Stary Krym. 

The dissection of the Crimean mountains into three ridges is due, 
as we have said, to erosion. The southern slope of the Yaila ridge con- 
sists of a series of longitudinal faults. In the relief of the Crimean 
mountains, there is a striking contrast between the long gentle north- 
ern slopes and the abrupt southern slopes. Correspondingly, in the central 
part the principal valleys of the northern slopes are long, while those of the 
southern slopes are short. The streams of the northern slope of the Yaila 
cut across both the second and third ridges, instead of following the 
longitudinal depressions between the ridges. Apparently these valleys 
were cut in the original surface of the slope before the second and third 
ridges were formed in their present state (N. Sokolov, 1929), The sharp 
turn which the Salgir makes to the northeast, in the direction of the Sea 
of Azov, is very curious. The dry valley which runs toward Yevpatoriya 
is oriented in the original direction of the river to the northwest. Ap- 
parently at one time tie Salgir emptied into the Black Sea; subsequently 
it became a tributary of the river which flows in the direction of the 
Sivash (N. Sokolov). 

The most intensive folding in the Crimean mountains took place dur- 
ing the Mesozoic period; it began at the end of the Lower Jurassic and 
the beginning of die Middle Jurassic. 2 By the end of the Upper Jurassic 
the Crimean mountains had been formed. During the Upper Cretaceous 
period the entire Crimea, both mountain and steppe, underwent a marked 
submergence, at times so extreme that perhaps only the highest points 

2 A. S. Moiseyev, "Gidrogeologichesky ocherk glavnoy gryady Krymskikh gor" 
(Hydrogeological Sketch of the Main Ridge of the Crimean Mountains), Trudy 
GZoon. geol-rassoed. upr. (Proceedings of the Central Geological Survey Board), No. 
30, 1931, p. 14. 


of the mountains extended above the water. At the end of the Cretaceous, 
uplifts began again and became considerably stronger during the Lower 
Miocene. This last epoch was the period of the most powerful Tertiary 
dislocations in the mountains of the Crimea, During the Lower Miocene 
period the principal faults, dislocations, and thrusts developed. Accord- 
ing to Muratov, none of these faults which mark displacements of the 
older formations affect any deposits younger than the Oligocene (that 
is, the Mediterranean deposits); therefore there is no basis for ascribing 
a younger age to these faults. During the Quaternary period slight up- 
lifts took place in the eastern Crimea; the elevation of the marine ter- 
races in the region from Sudak to Feodosia is evidence of these uplifts; 
however, the form of the coast line at Sevastopol indicates that some 
subsidence took place along this shore during the Quaternary period. 3 

Dobrynin (1922) regards the Crimean mountains as a single arched 
anticline, the axis of which extends from WSW to ENE, Its southern 
border is broken by the fault mentioned above, while the dome is split 
by a system of longitudinal and meridional faults and thrusts which 
occurred, as we have seen, during the Lower Miocene period. 

Since the Lower Pliocene (Upper Pontic) period, the Crimea has 
been tied closely to the mainland which adjoins it on the north. At 
the end of the Pliocene a connection was formed between the Crimea 
and the northern Caucasus (probably along the line from Feodosia to 
Anapa), while at the beginning of the Quaternary period they were 
separated again (Andrusov). 

During the Tertiary period mountain Crimea was connected with the 

On the south coast in June and September, 1927, there were rather 
severe earthquakes, the epicenter of which lay in the sea near Yalta. 
According to Arkhangelsky, the sea bottom off the south shore of the 
Crimea is undergoing a gradual subsidence, accompanied from time to 
time by dislocations which result in earthquakes. 


Climatologically, mountain Crimea may be divided into three parts: 
(1) the south coast, which extends from Foros to Alushta, and which 
has a Mediterranean climate; (2) the Yaila, and (3) the rest of mountain 
Crimea, the climate of which may be called steppe or forest-steppe. 

S M. V. Muratov, "Osnovnie cherty tektoiuki Krymskovo poluostrova" (Basic 
Features of the Tectonics of the Crimean Peninsula), Byutt. Mask, obshch. ispyt. prir. 
(Bulletin of the Moscow Society for Natural Research), otcL geoL (Geological 
Section), XV, 1937, pp. 215-239, map, bibliography. 


(1) The south coast of the Crimea lies on the northern outskirts of the 
region of Mediterranean climate. In the typical Mediterranean climate 
(for example, along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea) trade winds 
dry, northeast winds prevail in summer. In winter the trade winds 
do not reach the Mediterranean, and moisture-bearing cyclonic storms 
and west winds prevail instead. On the south shore of the Crimea the sea- 
sonal distribution of winds is no longer typically Mediterranean. In sum- 
mer the pressure is greater over the Black Sea than over the continent; 
for this reason southwest winds prevail in the Crimea at this time of the 
year. In winter the opposite is true; the pressure is greater over the conti- 
nent than over the sea. During this period of the year a spur of the 
Asiatic high-pressure area extends westward along the northern boundary 
of the steppes; as a result, northeast winds usually blow over the Crimea 
in winter. However, in some years the spur of the Inner Asiatic high- 
pressure area does not appear, with the result that the West European 
and Central Mediterranean high-pressure area dominates; during such 
winters, west and southwest winds prevail in the Crimea, and it is rela- 
tively warm. 

In any case, on the south coast the seasonal distribution of precipita- 
tion is more or less Mediterranean in character. The most precipitation 
falls in winter, the least in August. However, the spring here, as in the con- 
tinental part of the Crimea, is dry (the secondary minimum occurs in 
May), and there is a secondary maximum of precipitation in June and 
July, a sort of reflection of the summer maximum which is characteris- 
tic of the hinterland of the Crimea. With a hot summer and strong evapo- 
ration, there is not enough rainfall on the south coast in summer for 
agriculture, and the problem of irrigation arises. Sometimes in summer 
there are long droughts. On the other hand, during the rainy season 
there are occasionally heavy downpours; thus, in Yalta on December 7, 
1892, 154 mm. of precipitation fell during the course of 24 hours. 

Sheltered by the Yaila massif from the cold north winds, the south 
coast has a very mild winter, as is indicated by the fact that the vege- 
tative period continues without interruption the year around. "The last 
of the autumn flowers are followed without interruption by spring flow- 
ers/* In December and January the Crimean snowdrop (Gdanthus pU- 
catus), evergreen euphorbia (Euphorbia biglandulosa), and (of the 
woody plants) filbert (Corylus avettana) begin to bloom in profusion 
everywhere. Even during snowy winters, in the thawed patches and on 
the southern slopes, snowdrops, violets ( Viola odorata), and crocus (Cro- 



cus susfanus) may be seen in bloom. Many of the herbaceous plants 
begin their secondary blooming in October and November. 

The number of days in the year with a mean diurnal temperature above 
15 C. is about 150 on the south coast; in the latitude of Moscow there 
are half as many; on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, a third as many; 
and on the shores of the White Sea, almost none. The wannest part of 
the Crimea lies between Foros and Ayu-Dagh. 

Indicative of the character of the climate in these places are the fol- 
lowing data for Yalta (lat 4430' N, absolute elevation 4m.): 

Table 20 






























Mean tempera- 

ture (C.) 





























Absolute mini- 

mum tem- 

perature (C.) 















f per cent of 














sky covered) 

As we can see from this table, there are frosts even on the south coast 
January in Yalta (1899-1910) averages 14 days with frost; February, 8 
days; in Foros (absolute elevation 26 m.), the figures are, respectively, 
7 and 10. The annual number of days with frost in Yalta is 43, in Foros, 
30. Foros has the warmest winter in the Crimea: December, 7.4 C., 
January, 4.8 C., February, 4.3 C.; the annual mean, 13.3 C. Magarach 
(absolute elevation 70 m.) 3 near Yalta, has a wanner summer than Foros, 
but a colder winter. The average number of days without thaw on the 
south coast is 7. But there are some winters in Yalta when the mean 
January temperature is as high as + 8.9 C. (1915). No frosts lower than 
14.5 C. have been observed in Yalta. The summer and autumn have 
many hours of insolation. 

The finest season in the Crimea is autumn September and October. 
September in Yalta is warmer than July in Moscow, and October is much 
warmer than May in Moscow, Furthermore, in Yalta the autumn is calm 
and there is much sunshine; even in October the mean diurnal duration 
of sunshine in Yalta is 6 hours. Summer on the south coast is hot, but 300 


meters above the sea it is about three degrees cooler. The diurnal 
temperature range is small, a condition which is especially important 
for lung patients. The temperature of the sea at Yalta reaches a maximum 
in September (mean, 21.8 C.) and a minimum in February (8.2 C.). 
In Sevastopol the summer is warmer but the winter is somewhat colder 
than in Yalta. There is bathing in the Crimea up to the end of Septem- 
ber. On the south coast (particularly in summer), there are breezes 
during the day from the sea, at night from the land. Foehns warm and 
dry winds which descend from the Yaila range are frequent. For exam- 
ple, in the Nikitsky Botanical Garden on April 17, 1928, the temperature 
rose 10 C. within half an hour, while the relative humidity fell 40 per 
cent The relative humidity on the south coast is considerable; in 
Magarach the maximum occurs in December (75 per cent), the mini- 
mum in August (57 per cent). There is much sunshine on the south 
coast, as pointed out above; in Gurzuf (according to observations over a 
periods of five years), in July the sun shines 69 per cent of the number of 
hours possible. 

(2) The Yaila has a peculiar climate, transitional between the Mediter- 
ranean and the climate of deciduous forests of the middle latitudes. At 
an elevation of 1500 m. the mean July temperature is about 13/3 C. The 
rainfall is rather heavy; the average is 500 to 1000 mm., but during some 
years it exceeds 1500 mm. The maximum usually comes in winter, but 
on the eastern Yaila, for example, on Karabi-Yaila (elevation 974 m.), 
it comes in summer. The minimum precipitation usually comes in 
August, and the secondary minimum, which is almost as low as the Au- 
gust minimum, comes in spring; but on the eastern Yaila ridge the 
minimum comes in February. In short, the western Yaila has the same 
type of seasonal distribution of precipitation as the south coast, while 
the eastern Yafla (Demerdzhi, Karabi, Dolgorukovskaya) has a climate 
of the same type as the Crimean steppes. The mean monthly temperature 
and precipitation for Ai-Petri, 1180 m. above Yalta and slightly to the west, 
are given in Table 21, on page 248. 

As we can see, the number of days with precipitation on the Yaila is 
considerable; one out of three days in summer, and two out of three 
in winter, have precipitation. There are about 60 days a year with snow. 
The snow cover on the Yaila melts slowly in spring and summer and 
feeds a great number of springs which irrigate the south coast. Some- 
times there are exceptionally heavy showers on the Yaila. Thus, once in 
November on Ai-Petri, 161 mm. of rain fell during the course of 24 hours. 
Fogs are frequent; more than 100 days a yea** are foggy. In autumn, winter, 



Table 31 














Temperature * 















Precipitation t 















Number of days 

with precipi- 

tation J 














Duration, of in* 

solation (per 

cent of possi- 

ble number 

of hours) 














* 1895-1915, adjusted to 1881-1915. 1 1901-1921. 

f 1901-1920. 1902. 

and at the beginning of spring, during the anticyclone period which pre- 
vails over the entire Crimea, it is sometimes wanner on the Yaila than 
on the northern and even the southern slope; the sky is clear, and the 
humidity is very low (this happens during the so-called "foehns"). Thus, 
on October 18, 1906, at 9:00 P.M., the following observations were made: 

Table 22 



(pec cent) 

(direction and 
velocity in m. 
per second) 


Ai-Petri (1180 m.) 
Yalta (4 m.) 






When the center of an anticyclone lies directly over Yalta, the f oehn may 
blow simutaneously on both the northern and southern slopes (E. Shcher- 

At Ai-Petri, as on the western Yaila in general, northwest and south- 
east winds prevail in winter and summer. On the Yaila the wind every- 
where reaches considerable force, but nowhere so great as at Ai-Petri, 
where the mean annual velocity is 6.2 m. per second. (At Yalta it is 
only 2.1 m. per second.) The number of days with gale winds (that is, 
when the wind velocity exceeds 15 m. per second) at Ai-Petri is tre- 
mendous 81.5 (at Yalta, only 8.5). Instances are on record of enormous 
wind velocities at Ai-Petai-up to 42 m. per second-* 

* A. V. Penyugalov, "KJimat Kryma* (The Climate of the Crimea), Trudy syezda 
po teuchentyu proteoodit. sil Kryma (Proceedings of the Congress for the Study of 
the Productive Forces of the Crimea), H Simferopol, 1930, p. 91. 


(3) On the south coast eastward from Alushta and on the northern 
slope of the Crimean mountains down to about 500 m. elevation, the 
prevailing climate may be called the climate of deciduous forests, while 
at lower elevations on the slope there is a steppe or forest-steppe cli- 
mate. Precipitation ranges from 300 mm. to 500 mm., with the maximum 
coming in June and July and the minimum in spring or at the end of 
the winter; there is a secondary minimum in autumn and a secondary 
maximum at the beginning of autumn or during the first part of winter. 

The Crimean game preserve, which lies on the northern slope of 
Babugan-Yaila, in the upper course of the Alma River, at an elevation 
of approximately 670 m., is surrounded by beech forests. Here 786 mm. 
of precipitation fall annually, with the maximum in July (82 mm.) and 
the minimum in February (48 mm.). Stary Krym, at an elevation of 500 
m., has 466 mm. of precipitation annually, the maximum coining in June 
(67 mm.) and the minimum in October (18 mm.). The mean February 
temperature is 0.8 C.; the mean July temperature, 21.9 C. At Feodo- 
sia, and particularly at Sudak, there is even less precipitation; at Sudak, 
only 296 mm. annually. 


The surface of the Yaila is almost without water. The Jurassic lime- 
stones, which compose the plateau, quickly absorb the rainfall and soak 
up the moisture from melting snows and the moisture which forms on 
the limestone beds from condensation of atmospheric water vapor. The 
thick beds of impervious argillaceous shales which underlie the lime- 
stones prevent further penetration, hence the precipitation which falls 
on the Yaila karst is preserved in caverns in the limestone and the Jurassic 
sandstones and conglomerates which in some places underlie the lime- 
stones. The water which accumulates here emerges onto the surface in 
the form of numerous (over 2000) springs, which feed the brooks and 
rivers of mountain Crimea with excellent water. These waters also soften 
the argillaceous shales, and cause creep of the clayey masses; this process 
results in landslides which cause great damage on the south coast of the 
Crimea (especially at Yalta and Alupka). The melting of snows and 
the occurrence of showers often bring about floods in the basins of the 
mountain streams. A basic factor in the water regime of the Crimea 
is the considerable fluctuation in the stream flow; in summer it is slight, 
while in winter it is relatively great. 



On both the southern and the northern slopes of the Crimean moun- 
tains, soils of the brown forest type predominate. 5 These soils are de- 
veloped under deciduous forests in the warm temperate regions of west- 
ern Europe, the Crimea, and the Caucasus. They resemble podzolic 
soils in that soluble salts are leached out of their upper horizons; but 
they differ in that ferric oxides, alumina, and phosphates are not re- 
moved from these horizons at all, or only in moderate quantity. The 
brown forest soils contain little humus, because organic substances are 
decomposed more thoroughly than in the podzols and chernozems. Under 
the beech forests in the central zone on the slopes of the Yaila these 
soils have the following profile: They are generally yellow brown. Only 
the uppermost horizon ( Aj), directly under the leaf mat and about 3 cm. 
thick, is colored grayish by the humus. Lower down there lies a bright 
yellow horizon (A 2 ), which has a lumpy structure and which changes 
gradually into a more compact reddish-brown horizon (B). The A l 
and A 2 horizons, which are leached, correspond to the eluvial horizon 
of the northern, podzolic soils, from which they are distinguished by 
their lumpy structure and yellow-brown coloring, which is due to the 
presence of hydrate of iron oxide. Podzolization is found only on the 
northern slopes, on the clayey products of weathered limestones. It is 
worth noting, according to Prasolov, that on whatever rock the brown 
forest soils occur, they are always lacking in carbonates and are gener- 
ally leached. However, under vineyard cultivation these soils usually 
become mixed with limestone rubble and become calcareous. 

The brown forest soils ascend as far as the boundary of the forest; 
they descend as far as sea level. But in the lower zone, that is, up to an 
elevation of 300 to 400 m., they are poorly developed and acquire certain 
characteristics of a type transitional to red-soil weathering. Above 900 m., 
on the boundary between the brown forest soils of the slopes and the 
chernozemlike and mountain-meadow soils of the Yaila, lies a narrow 
strip of transitional soils with a dark humus horizon, which, according to 

5 L. I. Prasolov, **Burozyomy Kryma i Kavkaza" (Brown Soils of the Crimea and 
the Caucasus), Priroda (Nature), 1929, No. 5; I. N. Antipov-Karatayev, "Pochvy 
Nikitskovo sada" (Soils of the Nikitsky Garden), Soobshch. otd. pochvoved. Cos. 
fast. opyt. agron. (Report of the Soil Science Section of the State Institute for Ex- 
perimental Agriculture), 1929, No. 4; I. N. Antipov-Karatayev and L. I. Prasolov, 
"Pochvy Krymskovo Cos. lesnovo zapovednika i prilegayushchikh oblastey^ ( Soils of 
the Crimean State Forest Preserve and Adjoining Regions), Trudy Pochv. inst. 
Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Soils Institute of the Academy of Sciences), VII 


Prasolov, resemble some of the soils of the northern forest steppe. This 
strip, which extends for a width of only 100 to 150 m., lies above the zone 
of beech forests. The soils on the lower Chatyr-Dagh Plateau are related 
rather closely to the soils of this transitional strip. 

On the lower Chatyr-Dagh Plateau, which is occupied by mountain steppe 
(analogous to Karabi-Yaik), there are mountain chernozemsboth on lime- 
stones and particularly on other rocks (conglomerates, shales). Still higher, on 
the upper Chatyr-Dagh Plateau, chernozemlike mountain-meadow soils are de- 
veloped (Prasolov). 

In general, mountain chernozems and chernozemlike mountain-meadow 
soils predominate on the unforested areas of the Yaila (Prasolov). This 
circumstance indicates that these areas of the Yaila have never been for- 

As Prasolov points out, on the northern slope of the Yaila the brown 
forest soils grade into chernozems, which lie both below and above them 
(at the lower elevation lie the leached chernozems of the forest steppe). 
On the southern slope, however, the brown forest soils extend downward 
almost to sea level; they grade into chernozems only along their upper 
boundary. On the northern slope, above the leached chernozems and up 
to an elevation of 800 to 900 m., the slopes which face S, SW, and W are 
covered with dark-gray humus brown forest soils, transitional to cher- 
nozems; on the gentle northern slopes there are normal, more or less 
podzolized, brown forest soils. The latter are of a type transitional to the 
subtropical red soils. 

In the eastern part of mountain Crimea (at Karasubazar, for exam- 
ple), under beech and oak forests there are brown forest soils which, 
in the dense beech forests, have a brighter, yellow coloring. On the 
southern slopes, nearer the sea, there are darker brown forest sofls, and 
also soils closely related to the chernozems and even to the chestnut 
soils (for example, at Kara-Dagh and Sudak). 


The flora on the south coast of the Crimea is very rich. While about 
3500 species are known in the entire area of the European part of the 
U.S.S.R., about 1400 species grow in the narrow confines of the Crimean 
southern coast. Among these, only thirteen species are native to the 
Crimea alone, that is, endemic (Wulff, 1927); these include the so-called 
Crimean "edelweiss" (Cerastium biebersteinii Caryophyllacea.e), pecu- 
liar to the Yaila. However, there are many native subspecies in the Crimea. 


A variety of imported plants and trees are grown on the lower slopes 
of the mountains. 6 Many Mediterranean, Japanese, and Chinese plants 
have become well acclimatized here. Among them are: the Italian cy- 
press (Cupressus sempervirens); laurel; laurel cherry; magnolia; Chi- 
nese wistaria (Wistaria chinensis); myrtle; Chinese coir palm (Cha^ 
maerops excelsa [Trachycarpus excelsa]), which withstands frosts of 
14 C. in the Nikitsky Botanical Garden, and grows readily in the 
village of Nikita; silk-tree albizzia, or mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin); 
oleander; cork oak; plane tree; Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) , which 
has escaped; golden-chain laburnum (Laburnum vulgare [L. anagy- 
roides]), also escaped; English holly (Ilex aquifolium); common box 
(Bwcus sempervirens)', Italian stone pine; strawberry madrone (Arbutus 
unedo)-, and others. The Mediterranean dwarf pine cannot survive the 
winter unless it is sheltered; it blooms in May and June. The fruit trees 
grown here include the olive, almond, chestnut, fig, common pistache 
(Pistacia vera), pomegranate, thick-shell Persian walnut, medlar, per- 
simmon, and peach. There are many vineyards and tobacco plantations 
(Fig. 62). 

The vegetation of the south coast 7 has Mediterranean features. The 
presence of evergreen woody plants is characteristic for the Mediter- 
ranean region, with its mild winters. This feature, however, is expressed 
very poorly in the Crimea, as we shall see, due to the fact that the south 
coast lies on the northernmost outskirts of the Mediterranean region. On 
the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, particularly in the west, there grow 
peculiar shrub thickets (so-called maquis) of evergreen species myrtle, 
laurel, rockrose, buckthorn, oak, and others. This type of vegetation is 
not found in the Crimea. Although there are some evergreen woody 
plants in the Crimea, they do not grow in maqwsJike formations, but 
are found in associations of different types. 

The evergreen plants of the Crimea include the following: butcher's- 
broom (Ruscus aculeatus), an undershrub of the lily family, whose stems 
are flattened into leaflike shape; madrone (Arbutus andrachne) , of the 

6 G. V, Voinov, "Parkovaya rastitelnost Kryma" (Park-Land Vegetation of the 
Crimea), 2fy>. Nikit. botan. soda (Report of the Nikitsky Botanical Garden), XIIL 
No. 1, Yalta, 1930, pp. 1-68. 

7 Of the most recent literature, see S. S. Stankov, "Osnovnie cherty v raspredelenii 
rastitelnosti Yuzhnovo Kiyma (Sevastopol-Feodosiya)*' (Basic Features of the Dis- 
tribution of Vegetation in the Sou&ern Crimea [Sevastopol to Feodosia]), Botan. 
zhvrn. S.S.SJL (Botanical Journal of the U,S.S,R.), XVIII, 193$, pp. 66-91 (bibliog- 
raphy). See also the excellent book by the same author, 1Fuzhny<bereg Kryma (The 
South Shore of the Crimea), Botanicheslde ekskursii (Botanical Excursions). Nizhny- 
Novgorod, 1926, p. 149. 


heath family; the low shrub rockrose (Cistus tauricus [C. villosus tauri- 
cus]); and, finally, English ivy (Hedera helix). ButcherVbroom and rock- 
rose usually grow in the form of undergrowth in the light forests of 
arborescent juniper and oak. Individual madrone plants settle along the 
rocky precipices, while ivy prefers to twine about the trunks of the large 
trees; it is found also on the northern slope of the Crimean mountains. 
But not one of these plants in the Crimea forms maquis thickets, so char- 
acteristic for Mediterranean countries. "Butcher's-broom and rockrose," 
says Stankov (1926), "in some places (Gurzuf and others) still grow 
in rather large continuous stands, but always as an undergrowth in the 
forests, and never in the open; the madrone, however, is found seldom, 
while ivy cannot be regarded as a shrub species at all." It must be noted 
that during very cold winters, the rockrose in the Crimea sheds its 

The Mediterranean vegetation on the south coast of the Crimea does 
not extend very far up the mountains, only up to 300 to 320 m., and 
usually not so high. It grows along the coast, its range beginning at 
Cape Aiya and extending somewhat east of Alushta. The madrone does 
not reach even as far as Alushta. East of Alushta the amount of precipi- 
tation decreases, and the vegetation gradually assumes a steppe, xero- 
phytic appearance. Here are found polyn (Artemisia maritime, taurica), 
harmel peganum (Peganum Jiarmala), thick-leaved nitraria (Nitraria 
schoberi), a buckwheat shrub (Atraphaxis spinosa), and many species 
of feather grass, among them capillary feather grass, which is found in 
large numbers. The vegetation in the region between Sudak and Feodosia 
has a distinct steppe character. 

On the south coast the following four vertical zones of vegetation may 
be distinguished: 

(1) Open, xerophytic juniper-oak forests are characteristic for the 
lowest belt, up to elevations of 250 to 300 m. The arborescent jumper 
(Juniperus excelsa), the tall trees of which have a brown-red bark that 
peels in ribbonlike strips, constitutes the basic species of this zone (Fig. 
63). But the arborescent juniper has been undergoing destruction for a 
long time. The pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens) grows here in the 
form of an insignificant-looking, crooked, low tree. Finally, the third 
element in this forest, the Turk terebinth pistache (Pistacia mutica), is 
a tree which grows to a height of 18 m. and has a dense rounded crown; 
it is found from Sevastopol to Kara-Dagh, and also at Bakhchisaray; it 
always grows on open dry slopes with a rocky, calcareous subsoil. This 
tree yields turpentine, which, however, is not extracted in the Crimea. 


The fruit is not used for food. In the Nikitsky Botanical Garden there is a 
Turk terebinth pistache close to a thousand years old. 

In these juniper forests the second layer society and the undergrowth 
also contain ash, smoke tree [Cotinus coggygria], wild jasmine (Jas- 
minium fntficans), oriental hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), Crimean 
pine, another arborescent juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus rufescens), rock- 
rose, butcher's-broom, Christ's-thorn paliurus (Paliurus spina-christi) , 
madrone, sumac, and a tree of the elm family the hackberry (Celtis 
glabrata); the climbing plants include traveler's-joy, ivy, and sweetbrier 
rose. The juniper forest between Yalta and Gurzuf (near the Nikitsky 
Botanical Garden) has been well preserved. 

In this belt also there are found shrub thickets of sumac (Rhus cori- 
aria), common smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria), shrub pubescent oak, 
and oriental hornbeam, or combinations of these species. 

In some places, in isolated localities, as far east as Sudak, there is found 
a Crimean form of the Aleppo pine (Pinus pityusa stankewitschi [P. hale- 
pensis pityusa stankewitschi] Fig. 64). 

(2) Above this first zone, beginning at about 250 m., on the south 
coast (for example, at Yalta), Crimean pine (Pinus nigra pallasiana 
[P. nigra caramanica]) 8 predominates (Fig. 65); sometimes this tree 
descends as far as sea level, while at Ai-Petri it reaches into the Yaila 
region. It extends as far east as Otuzi raion, and is found also at Sevasto- 
pol and Bakhchisaray and occasionally on the northern slope (in the 
forest preserve). This pine is distinguished by its gray-black trunk, long 
needles, and large cones. In some places it grows in pure stands (Fig. 65) . 
This is a typical Mediterranean mountain species, found in closely re- 
lated forms from the Pyrenees to the Crimea and in some measure as far 
as the Novorossiisk coast of the Caucasus. 9 Without a doubt this pine 
(as an admixture with other species) was at one time widespread also 
in the lower zone of the Crimea, but it has been destroyed since then. 
When the Crimean pine grows on calcareous rocks, it forms an easily 
recognizable horizontal crown. At an elevation of 300 to 450 m. the pine 
forests have a continuous undergrowth of rockrose. The second layer 
society usually contains pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens). In some 
places the Crimean pine has been destroyed even in its own proper zone 
of distribution (above 200 to 250 m.), and in its place grow durmast oak 

8 Usually it is known as Pinus laricio pallasiana [P. nigra poiretiana], 

9 The Crimean pine (P. nigra vaUasiana [P. nigra caramanica} ) grows in Novoros- 
siisk raion (at Arkhipo-Qsipovka;, and in Asia Minor and Greece, as well as in the 


(Q. sessiliftora [Q. petraea]), European hornbeam (Carpinus befalus), 
dogwood, and other trees. 

(3) Still higher lies a belt of beech forests with an admixture of pine 
(Crimean and Scotch), maple (Acer hyrcanum), hornbeam, and euony- 
mus (Euonymus latifolius). The characteristic species of this zone are 
Scotch pine and beech. Crimean pine does not predominate here. The 
Scotch pine belongs to the Caucasian form (Pinus sylvestris hamata), 
while the beech represents a form intermediate between the European 
(Fagus sylvatica) and the Caucasian (F. orientalis} In the upper parts 
of the beech belt there are individual ancient yew trees (Taxus bac- 
cata). The beech forests extend into the Yaila region (1000 m. and 
higher) and end abruptly at the edge of the unforested plateau. On 
the boundary between the beech forests of the slopes and the moun- 
tain meadows of the Yaila there lie thickets of creeping juniper (Juniperus 

(4) The summit of the Yaila is almost unforested. Only occasionally, 
under the shelter of crags, are there found thickets of beech, maple 
(Acer campestre and others), ash, mountain ash, hornbeam, and others, 
as well as individual Scotch pines ll and yew. However, in some parts of 
the Yaila there are beech forests; for example, near the summit of Ai- 
Petri, at an elevation of 1240 m.; on the summit of Karabi-Yaila (at 
1255 m.); on the southeast part of Demerdzhi-Yaila (at 1280 m.); and on 
the lower plateau of Chatyr-Dagh (at 1280 m.)- The beech is accom- 
panied by an admixture of hornbeam, maples, ash, and mountain ash. 
A characteristic feature of the Yaila forests is the complete absence of 
young trees; these have been destroyed by livestock. There is almost 
no undergrowth, except for individual bushes of filbert and hawthorn. 
The slope connecting the upper and lower plateaus of Chatyr-Dagh is 
covered almost continuously with thickets of creeping jumper (Juniperus 
depressa), among which there grows another creeping juniper, the savin 
juniper (Juniperus sabina). These thickets are found also on the lower 

On the drier sections of the Yaila, meadow-steppe vegetation predomi- 
nates. Grasses are the most numerous: fescue (Festuca sulcata), koeleria 

10 E. V. Wulff ("Kavkazsky buk, yevo rasprostranenie i sistematicheskoye polo- 
zhenie" [The Oriental Beech, Its Distribution and Systematic Position], Baton, zhutn. 
S.S.S.R. [Botanical Journal of the U.S.S.RJ, XX, 1985, p. 534) holds that both the 
European and the Caucasian beech are found in the Crimea, as well as transitional 
or hybrid forms between these two. 

11 Wulff (1925, p. 94; full title appears in the following footnote) says that on 
Babugan-Yaila at an elevation of 1450 m, in 1914 he saw two Scotch pines, the trunks 
of which measured two arms'-lengths in circumference. 


(Koeleria gracilis), and brome (Bromus). This vegetation may be recog- 
nized from a distance by its dull, gray-green color. In the moister depres- 
sions in the relief, rich, bright-green meadows and, to some extent, 
subalpine vegetation prevail (Babugan, Chatyr-Dagh); dicotyledons 
predominate: ladyVmanfle (Alchemitta), kura clover (Trifolium ambi- 
guum), and dropwort (Filipendula hexapetala) ; the Crimean "edelweiss" 
(C&rastium biebersteinii Caiyophyllaceae) and the sedge Carex humilis 
(which is characteristic for the steppes of the forest-steppe zone see 
above, pp. 84-86) are numerous; on the Yaila, Carex humilis settles in the 
sunny rocky places. The pubescent rock jasmine (Androsace villosa), 
draba (Draba cuspidata), and Altay violet (Viola altaica, which grows 
in two varieties, which bear Iflac-colored and yellow flowers, respectively) 
are among the characteristic alpine plants of the Yaila. As Wulff rightly 
points out, these few alpine plants are relicts of a former colder climate. 
It would be a mistake to classify the Yaila with the alpine belt because 
of the presence of these plants. On the Yaila, chernozemlike mountain- 
meadow soils predominate; sometimes they contain much humus ( as high 
as 18 per cent). The numerous herds of sheep which have grazed on the 
Yaila for many hundreds of years have disturbed greatly the natural 
character of the vegetation here. 

A vast literature exists concerning the absence of forests on the Yaila, 
Some students believe that the Yaila was covered by forests at one 
time, and that man cut down the forests. Wulff (1925), who holds this 
view, develops the following argument: 12 One may speak only of the 
scarcity, rather than of the absence of forests on the Yaila, because, as we 
have noted above, forests are found up to an elevation of 1280 m. on the 
Yaila plateau, and even up to elevations of 1400 m., if the thickets of 
light-loving creeping juniper on the slope from the upper to the lower 
plateau of Chatyr-Dagh may be regarded as evidence of forests which 
formerly existed in these parts. On the slopes of Chatyr-Dagh the bound- 
ary of the forest in some places extends even higher, up to 1500 m. 
Amid the herbaceous vegetation of the Yaila there are species character- 
istic of the beech forests of the Crimea. The transition from the beech 
forests of the slopes of the Yaila to the unforested summit is abrupt; 
the shrub forms of beech which in western Europe are characteristic of 
the natural upper boundary of beech are absent For these reasons Wulff 
believes that the upper boundary of beech in the Crimea has been de- 
termined by human agency. 

12 E. V. Wulff, RaMtno* vostodhnyWi YoiZ Kryma (Vegetation of the Eastern 
Yaiks of the Crimea), Moscow, 1925, ted. "Nov. devnya^(tnibllc8tion of "The 
New Village"). J * 

Fig. 49. Beech forest with undergrowth of Rhododendron pontkum near the Black 
Sea coast south of Gagry in the Colchian Lowland. (Vegetofionsbi/der, Vol. 11; 
part 6/7; plate 31) 

Fig. 50. The Glavny (Main) range of the Caucasus, from the glaciers of Mt. Elbrus. 

Fig. 51. Crossing the Glavny (Main) range of the Caucasus at 10,500 feet. 

Fig. 52. A mountain meadow in the Svanetiya range/ Kabardino-Balkarian 
A.S.S.R. (Sovfoto) 

Fig. 53. A yew forest in the mountains of the Caucasus. (Sovfoto) 

Fig. 54. Nordmann fir (Abies 
noraVnann/ana) in the mountain 
forest above Gagry. In foreground 
tall meadow herbage. (Vegefcfions- 
b//der. Vol. 11; part 6. 7; plate 37) 

Fig. 55. Pine forest (Pirws sy/verfris) 
on the northern slope of the Caucasus 
near Klukhor-Kazarma. Elevation 2100 
m. (Vegetationsbilder. Vol. 11; part 6/7; 
plate 35) 

Fig. 56. Grove of birch (fiefu/o pubes- 
cens) at the timber line above Kazbek 
station on the Georgian Military High- 
way. In the foreground shrubs of false 
hellebore (Verafrum a/bum) and thistle 
(Cirsium obva/Jafum). (Vegefaf/onsb/J- 
der. Vol. 11; part 6,7; plate 40) 

Fig. 57. A subalpine tall-herbaceous 
meadow in Kabardino-Balkaria. (Vege- 
tationsbilder. Vol. 20; part 3/4; plate 

Fig. 58. Alpine rock vegetation in the mountains of Kabardino-Balkaria: (a) Cam- 
pa/jo/o anoma/a and Gypsophila fenutfo/ia; (b) Astragalus aureiw; (c) So/via 
ccMiesceus. (Vegetotfonsbi/a'er. Vol. 20; part 3/4; plate 20) 

Fig. 60. Lake Sevan on the Armenian Plateau. (Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsilclopedia. 
Vol. 30: 459) 

Fig. 61. The flat summit of the Yaila, the main range of the Crimean mountains. 
(VegefatfonstiWer. Vol. 17; part 1; plate 4) 


However, on the northern slope of Babugan-Yaila, at an elevation 
of 1250 to 1350 m., Poplavskaya (1925) discovered a peculiar, crooked, 
"subalpine" form of beech evidence that this is the upper boundary of 
its distribution. 13 In the western Transcaucasus, north of Abkhaziya, 
beech is found from the seacoast to an elevation of 1400 m., where it 
is replaced by fir; in the form of a shrub, however, beech extends into 
the subalpine meadows, up to an elevation of 2100 m. It would be pos- 
sible for fir or spruce to grow on the Yaila also, but they are not found 
here. Scotch pine may have had a wide distribution on the Yaila at one 
time. But the Yaila cannot have been covered with continuous forest, 
because, as we have pointed out, on the unforested areas of the Yaila 
the soils are mountain chernozems and chernozemlike mountain-meadow 
soils, which do not develop under forest. 

The upper northern slope of the Yaila is covered by beech and horn- 
beam forests (Fig. 66), in which there are stands of Scotch and Crimean 
pine. The thoroughly investigated forests of the Crimean game preserve 
(which lies on the northern slope of Babugan-Yaila) occupy a belt be- 
tween 550 and 1250 to 1350 m. above sea level. Beech grows here pre- 
dominantly in pure stands; sometimes there is a small admixture of horn- 
beam, ash, linden, Scotch elm, and individual yew trees. There are many 
beeches, centuries old, which measure several arms'-lengths in circumfer- 
ence. The pure beech forest contains no undergrowth; during the first half 
of May there blooms here a plant which is characteristic of the Crimean 
beech forest the five-leaved toothwort (Dentaria quinquefolia) . In the 
vicinity of the game preserve an aborescent juniper (Juniperus foetidis- 
sima) grows in small quantity; this species is almost nonexistent on the 
south coast. 

But most remarkable of all is the presence in the preserve of the Euro- 
pean white birch (Bettda verrucosa), 1 * which is not consistent with the 
general appearance of the flora of the Crimean mountains. 15 It grows here 
on the northern, steep slopes, at an elevation of 1000 to 1200 m., forming 
the second layer society in the Scotch pine stands. Individual aspens 
(Populus tremula) are found here also occasionally. The herbaceous 

18 According to Wulff, the appearance of the beech here in the form of a bush 
is due to the grazing of stock. 

14 G. I. Poplavskaya, 4 *O bereze v Krymu" (The Birch in the Crimea), Zhurn. 
Eussk. bofan. obshch. (Journal of the Russian Botanical Society), XIII, 1928, pp. 65- 

15 This circumstance astonished the observant Pushkin. In a letter to Delwig from 
Mikhailovsk in December, 1824, the great poet writes: "We rode across the mountains 
(at Kikeneiz), and the first object which astonished me was the birch, northern, 
birch. My heart contracted; I began to yearn for my beloved north, although I was 
still in the Taurida, still among poplars and grapevines." 


plants in these pine forests, which also contain birch, include a series 
of northern forest plants, such as the side-bells pyrola (Pyrola secunda), 
creeping rattlesnake plantain (Goody era repens), and stone bramble 
(Rubus saxatilis); but there are also some plants peculiar to the Yaila, 
such as the above-mentioned Crimean "edelweiss/* the Altay violet, and 
the sedge Carey, humilis. The birch appears to be a relict of the same cold 
period to which the Yaila subalpine plants which we have mentioned 
belong. At Bakhchisaray, in the Paleolithic site which apparently belongs 
to the epoch of the last glaciation, birch charcoal is found in large quan- 

Below the beech zone the terrain drops sharply in elevation, begin" 
ning approximately at the boundary between the Jurassic and the Creta- 
ceous deposits. On the northern slope there lie forests of oak (Quercus 
of the sessiliflora [petraea] group) and oriental hornbeam (Carpinus 
orientalis), among which grow filbert, aspen, pear, maple, ash, euony- 
mus, and others. In the west, beginning from about Bakhchisaray, there 
is Crimean pine. 

Below the zone of oak forests lies forest steppe, which extends to the 
north somewhat beyond a line from Simferopol to Karasubazar; that is, 
up to the third ridge. Here there grow, chiefly, oak, pear, smoothleaf elm 
(Ulmus campestris or 17. joliacea [17. carpinifolia]), and shrubs; these 
small woods are called dubki. At one time they were well developed in 
the neighborhood of Simferopol, where their remains are still preserved. 16 
Here dubki lie along the southern slope of the third ridge and the north- 
ern slope of the second ridge. The soils under the dubki are poor cal- 
careous chernozems which have been subjected to slight degradation, 
or forest soils, also calcareous, due to the calcareous character of the 
parent materials. The vegetation consists of the more southern oaks 
(Quercus pubescens, Q. sessttiflora [Q. petraea]) and the English oak 
(Q. pedunculata [Q. robur]) 9 hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), sloe 
(Prunus spinosa), pear (Pyrus communis, P. elaeagnifolia) , checker- 
tree mountain ash (P. tormindis [Sorbus torminalis]), filbert, smooth- 
leaf elm, common smoke tree (Khu$ cotinus [Cotinus coggygria]), dog- 
wood, and sweetbrier rose. The herbaceous vegetation of the dubki 
belongs partly to the forest steppe, partly to the steppe, In spring the fern- 
leaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) and spring adonis (Adonis vernalis] 
predominate; they form an almost continuous cover in the glades. 

18 T. Tsyrina, "Livenskie dvbkf (The Liven Dubki), Zap. Krym. obshch. vest. 
(Report of the Crimean Nature Society), VHI (1925), Simferopol, 1926. S, A. 
Dzevanovsky, "Osininskie dubkl" (The Osminsk Dubki), ibid. (22 Jon. northeast of 


Sevastopol raion also has a forest-steppe character. The soils of this 
region constitute a transition from forest soils with a dark humus hori- 
zon to chestnut soils. In Sevastopol raion there are found, in addition, 
red-brown clays overlying limestones (for example, at Khersonese), on 
which are formed soils of the steppe chestnut type (Prasolov). 


The fauna of mountain Crimea, and particularly of the south coast, 
contains many unique features, and, like the vegetation, includes a series 
of Mediterranean forms. There are no endemic mammalian forms 
(neither species, nor subspecies) in the Crimea, but the absence of a series 
of forest forms, like the squirrel, bear, wild cat, dormouse, and wild boar, 
is conspicuous. During the Paleolithic period, however, the bear and 
the wild boar inhabited the Crimea- In the Crimean preserve there are 
red deer (Cervus elaphus)ihe same form as in the Carpathians and 
roebuck (Capreolus capreolus). The hypothesis has been advanced that 
the deer may have been introduced here by man; however, remains 
of the deer (and also of the roebuck) have been discovered by Byalynit- 
sky-Birulya in the Crimean Paleolithic beds. In the mountains there are 
wolf (now almost exterminated), fox, badger, Crimean weasel (Mustela 
nivalis nikokkii), and beech marten (Mustela foina [Martes foina]). 
The hare [Lepus europaeus] inhabits both the mountains and the 
steppe. 18 The Crimea is poor in birds. The absence of black grouse, rock 
partridge, and most woodpeckers is striking. Mkny common species of 
birds occur in the Crimea in special Crimean forms; such, for example, 
are the jay (Garrultis glandarius iphigenia)very characteristic for the 
mountain forest goldfinch, rock bunting, azure tit, and others. The 
presence in mountain Crimea of several forest birds should be noted; 
these include the crossbill (Loxia curvirostra caucasica) and the siskin 
(Spinus spinus). There are some bird subspecies which are found also in 
the Caucasus. The Crimean starling (Sturnus wAgaris purpurascens), 
native to the northern foothills and steppes, is found also in Asia Minor. 
The lizards on the south coast include the endemic Crimean sand gecko 
(Gymnodactylus danilewskii), closely related to the Balkan G. kotschyi, 
and also several Mediterranean forms (among them the mountain lizard 
Lacerta saxicola). The Crimean lizard (L. taurica) is found on the Bal- 
kan Peninsula, as well as in the Crimea. The green lizard (L. viridis) 

17 It is found also in the Crimean steppe, as well as in the adjoining steppes of the 

18 In the caves at Simferopol, in the Quaternary deposits, bones of the hare Lepus 
timidus have been found. 


and the slowworm (Anguis fragilis) are absent in the Crimea. The large 
apod lizard, or glass snake, Ophisawrus apus, is also found on the south 
coast. In the mountains, the leopard snake (Elaphe situla) and the smooth 
snake (Coronella austriaca) are common. The large but entirely harm- 
less yellow-bellied European whip snake (Coluber jugularis caspius) 
is found both in the mountains and on the steppe. The amphibians in- 
clude the crested newt, tree frog (Hyla arborea), river frog (Rana ridi- 
bunda), and green toad. But the grass frog (R. temporaria) and moor 
frog (JR. arvalis), toad [Bombinator], and small common newt are absent 
here. There are few fresh-water fish; these include river trout, minnows 
[Phoxinus phoxinus and Leudscus cephalus], and the cyprinid barbel. 

Among the invertebrates of the Crimea there are many unique forms. 
The streams (for example, the Uchan-Su) are inhabited by a fresh-water 
crab (Telphusa fluviatilis [Potamon (potamon) edulis]). Under the 
rocks may be found the large dark-green centipede (Scolopendra cingu- 
lata); there are some chilopods (Scutigera coleoptrata), solpugids, and 
the Crimean scorpion (Euscorpius tauricus), which is found from Sevas- 
topol to Sudak and is common under the rocks; in the forests are found 
the oriental cockroach (Stylopyga orientalis spontanea [Blatta orien- 
talis]) and some endemic cockroaches (Aphlebia adusta, and others). 
The praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) and the empusa (Empusa tricor- 
nis) may be mentioned also. The vineyards are ravaged by grasshoppers 
Crimean apterous locusts (Isophya taurica). Embioptera (Embia 
taurica) are peculiar; they are small insects which have spinning-glands 
on their front legs. The cicada (Cicada plebeia, a Mediterranean form 
characteristic of the south coast); the mimetic butterfly, Libythaea celtis; 
the satyrid butterfly, Satyrus euxinus, endemic in Ai-Petri; and the blue- 
violet carabid beetle, Procerus scabrosus tauricus (related to the P. sea- 
brosus of the Balkans and Asia Minor, and often found in gardens), are 
among the other insects. The longicorn beetle, Rosalia alpina, appears 
occasionally in the beech forests. Of the land mollusks of mountain 
Crimea, many are endemic; the closest relatives of the Crimean mollusks 
are found among Mediterranean forms, particularly those of Asia Minor. 19 

In caves, in the Quaternary deposits 20 which belong to the Paleolithic 

19 1, Puzanov, "Materialy k poznaniyu nazemnykh mollyuskov Kryma" (Materials 
Concerning the Land Mollusks of the Crimea), Byutt. Mosk. obshch. ispyt. prir. 
(Bulletin of the Moscow Society for Natural Research), otd. biol. (Biological Sec- 
tion), 1928. 

20 A. A. Byalynitsky-Birulya, Priroda (Nature), 1928, No. 11. Byutt. Kom. po 
izuchen. chetvertichnovo perioda (Bulletin of the Committee for the Study of the 
Quaternary Period), No. 1, 1929, table on p. 34. 

period, a numerous extinct mammalian fauna has been found: woolly 
rhinoceros (Rhinoceros tichorhintis); mammoth (Eleptias primigenius) 9 
cave hyena (Hyaena spelaea); cave bear (Ursus spelaeus); brown bear 
(17. arctos); lion (Felisleo); wild cat (F. silvestris); lynx (F. lynx [Lynx 
lynx]); wolf; dog; arctic fox (Alopex lagopus); corsac fox (Vulpes 
corsak); common fox (V. vulpes); reindeer; saiga antelope (Saiga saiga 
[S. tatarica]); wild boar; ox (Bos sp.); gigantic deer; red deer; a large 
sheep which resembles the mountain sheep [Ovis ammon], in a cave on 
a summit of the Yaila; a small sheep which resembles the mountain sheep 
[O. vignei], in the same place, and also in Simferopol and Sevastopol 
raions; a goat (Capra), found in a cave on a summit of the Yaila; 21 
beaver; wild ass (Equtis hemionusP); horse; hamster (Cricetus cricetus); 
jerboa (Allactaga jaculus [A. major]); suslik (Citellus rufescens?); and 
others. From an examination of this fauna, Byalynitsky-Birulya (1929) 
reached the conclusion that during the Paleolithic period the Crimea was 
connected with the continent by a wide strip of dry land. The combination 
of forest and steppe forms is worth noting. Thus, in the layer which 
belongs to the Lower Aurignacian epoch, there are found the remains of 
arctic fox, reindeer, and beaver, side by side with the remains of suslik, 
jerboa, corsac fox, saiga antelope, and horse. Here also are found the 
remains of red deer, ox, wild boar, hyena, and others. Of the birds in 
the Paleolithic strata of the Crimea, A. Ya. Tugarinov found the willow 
ptarmigan, black grouse, and chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) . 

The origin of the flora and fauna of the Crimea. The flora and fauna 
of mountain Crimea are characterized by the following features: (1) the 
absence of the usual series of forest forms, (2) the presence of species 
foreign to the Black Sea steppes and native to the Balkan Peninsula and 
Asia Minor, (3) the presence of a series of endemic species (that is, 
species native only to mountain Crimea), and (4) the presence of Medi- 
terranean forms. 

In order to explain these features, we must recall the geological history 
of mountain Crimea. The Crimean mountains were dry land even during 
the Cretaceous period. During the Lower Tertiary period, the land mass 
grew considerably larger. There is reason to believe that during the 
Upper Tertiary period, and perhaps even during the Quaternary, the 
Crimea constituted a land mass connected with Asia Minor and the 
Balkan Peninsula, and probably with the northern part of the western 
Transcaucasus along the line from Feodosia to Anapa. This land mass 

21 V. Gromova, DoTdady Akad. nauk (Reports of the Academy of Sciences), 
1935, IV, No, 1-2. 


was inhabited by a Mediterranean fauna and covered with a Mediter- 
ranean flora. 22 On the other hand, during the Quaternary period, as we 
have seen, this land mass was connected with tie present region of the 
Black Sea steppes. In this manner, during the glacial period, northern 
fonns were able to penetrate into the Crimea from the north. 

^Concerning the origin of the flora of the Crimea, see E. V. Wulff, in Zap. 
Krym. obshch. yest. (Report of the Crimean Nature Society), IX (1926). 

XII The Ural Range 


THE Ural range is divided provisionally as follows: 
(1) The North Ural range, from Konstantinov 
Kamen (elevation 450 m., lat 6829'N) to Mount Isherim (elevation 
980 m., lat. 6104'N), which lies south of the upper course of the 
Pechora. The highest point of the North Urals (and also of the entire 
Ural range) is Mount Narodnaya, in lat. 65 N, which rises 1885 m. 
in elevation. 1 Formerly Mount Telpos-Iz was considered the highest 
point; this peak, which reaches an elevation of only 1685 m., lies 
farther south, in the upper course of the Shchugor River (a tributary 
of the Pechora), in lat. 6355' N. To the south of Mount Sablya (eleva- 
tion 1650 m., south of lat. 65 N), the range consists of two chains, of 
which the eastern serves as the divide. In the North Urals, remains of the 
old peneplain are well represented at elevations of about 800 m. and 
about 1000 m. 2 During recent years, on Mount Sablya ( Fig. 67) and Mount 
Narodnaya, and in some other places, small glaciers have been found. The 
largest of these, Hoffman's Glacier, on Mount Sablya, is only 1 km. long. 
Some authorities consider that the Ural glaciers are remains of the 
Quaternary ice sheet However, according to S. V. Kalesnik, 3 they are 
contemporary formations- Except for Hoffman's Glacier, all of the gla- 
ciers consist of nev& ice, and persist because of the orographic conditions 
the presence of deep cirque basins. Traces of ancient glaciation are, 
however, very distinct in the North Urals; they may be found approxi- 

1 A. N. Aleshkov, "Ural" (The Urals), Trudy lednlk. eksp. (Proceedings of the 
Glacial Expedition), IV, 1935, p. 13. 

2 V. A. Varsonofyeva, "Geomoifologicheskie nablyudeniya na Sev. Urale" (Geo- 
morphological Observations in the North Urals), Jfetx Geogr. obshch. (Report of the 
Geographical Society), Vol. 64, 1932. 

3 S. V. Kalesnik, Gornie lednikovie ratony S.S.S.R. (Glacial Mountain Regions 
of the U.S.S.R.), Leningrad, 1937, Gidromet. izd-vo. (Hydrometric Publication), 
pp. 1S-14. 



mately as far south as lat. 60 N. During the glacial period the ice sheet 
descended from the Urals both to the west into the Pechora basin, and 
to the east into the Ob basin. 

The Pai-Khoy ridge extends southeast from Yugorsky Strait, in the direc- 
tion of the Ural range; it is composed of crystalline schists and sedimen- 
tary strata from the Silurian to the Artinsk, but predominantly Devonian. 
While its mean elevation is about 300 m., individual peaks reach an eleva- 
tion of 450 m. Vaigach Island (composed of Devonian deposits) and 
Novaya Zemlya are a continuation of the Pai-Khoy ridge to the northwest, 
beyond Yugorsky Strait. Although the Pai-Khoy is separated from the 
northern end of the Urals by 50 km. of tundra, geologically it is an integral 
part of this range. 

(2) The Central Ural range extends from Mount Isherim (lat. 
6104'N) to Mount Yurma (lat. 5525'N; that is, north of the parallel 
of Zlatoust), and reaches an elevation of 1045 m. In the southern part 
of the North Urals, the range divides into several chains. The water-divide 
ridge of the Central Urals is called Poyasovoy Kamen; on this ridge lies 
the highest point of the Central Urals, Konzhakovsk Kamen (elevation 
1595 m.). In the southern part of the Central Urals the passes are very 
low; the railroad from Perm to Sverdlovsk crosses the Urals at an eleva- 
tion of only 410 m.; near Sverdlovsk the Urals drop still lower, to 300 m. 
Here, opposite the Ufa Plateau, the arc of the Urals is convex to the east. 
Farther south, the Urals rise in elevation again. 

(3) The South Ural range extends from Mount Yurma to the middle 
course of the Ural River, where it lies roughly along lat. 52 N. The 
highest point of the South Urals is Yaman-Tau, which reaches an eleva- 
tion of 1646 m. The water-divide range of the South Urals is called the 
Ural-Tau; it lies to the east, and reaches only 950 m. in elevation, while 
the Yurma chain and its prolongations, the Taganay (elevation 1220 m.) 
and Urenga (elevation 1275 m.), which lie farther west, are higher in 
elevation. Remains of an old peneplain are found in the South as well 
as in the Central and North Urals. South of the Belaya River the Urals 
lose the characteristics of a range and become a high plain ( 640 to 420 m. ), 
composed of dislocated Devonian and some Carboniferous strata dis- 
sected by deep valleys. The water-divide chain of the Urals is lower in 
elevation than the chains which adjoin it to the west and east In the 
Central Urals the water-divide chain is transected by the Chusovaya River, 
which has its source on the eastern slope. 

The Ural range does not rise as high as the snow line except at the 
few points mentioned above. In some years, however, the snow does not 


melt in the sheltered valleys of the Yaman-Tau and Iremel (elevation 

There is a great difference between the western and eastern slopes 
of the Urals. While the western slope, which has foothills, is gentle, the 
eastern slope drops abruptly to the West Siberian Lowland. 

A so-called "rolling" (uvalistaya) strip, composed chiefly of igneous 
rocks (porphyrites and others) and fragments of strongly dislocated 
Paleozoic deposits, adjoins the eastern slope of the Ural range approxi- 
mately south of lat. 62 N. The eastern edge of this strip lies at an absolute 
elevation of 180 to 190 m.; east of this line the West Siberian Lowknd 
begins. The uvalistaya strip has a sharply rolling relief; the hills do not 
lie in straight ridges, but are scattered at random. A good view of this 
type of relief may be had from Kachlcanar peak (elevation 881 m.). 
Absolute elevations here vary between 210 and 250 m., and only a few 
isolated peaks slightly exceed 400 m. 

The valleys of many of the rivers on the western slope of the South 
Ural range follow a very characteristic pattern: the Inzer (a tributary 
of the Belaya), the Belaya (a tributary of the Kama), the Sakmara (a 
tributary of the Ural), the Ural all flow at first in longitudinal valleys 
from north to south, and then turn sharply to the west, to cut across 
the ranges. Chernyshev held that in the case of these rivers erosion 
took place simultaneously with mountain-forming processes; the rivers 
are older than the mountains, and as the mountains have been uplifted, 
the rivers have cut deeper and deeper into them. But now students take 
into account the fact th$Lt at the points where the rivers turn to the 
west, there is a drop in the axes of the folds; the folds are broken into 
a series of beadlike sections, and the rivers flow along the depressions 
between these sections. 

The eastern slope of the Central Ural range abounds in lakes. They 
are particularly numerous between Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk; these 
lakes include Itkul, Irtyash, Uvildy ( depth, 28 m.), Argazi, and Turgoyak 
(depth, 34m.). 

The Urals are composed of Paleozoic, predominantly marine, deposits, 
from the Cambrian to the Permian. 4 The region of the central axis is 
built of various metamorphic rocks, related partly to the pre-Cambrian, 
partly to the Lower Paleozoic period. The Ural-Tau water-divide range is 
composed of these rocks. On the east the Urals are bordered by marine 
Tertiary deposits (Eocene and Oligocene), under which may be traced 
the Ural folds which were abraded during the transgressions of Mesozoic 

* Geological map of the Urals, 1:1,000,000, Leningrad, 1931. 


and Tertiary seas. On the west the Urals are bordered by Permian- 
Carboniferous and Permian deposits. 

The Ural range is asymmetrical. In its structure six north-south belts 
may be distinguished. From west to east, these belts are composed of: 
(1) sedimentary Paleozoic strata (Permian, Carboniferous, and De- 
vonian) and quartzites (possibly of Silurian age); (2) crystalline schists, 
which were mentioned above; (3) thick intrusive basic rocks a zone of 
gabbro, underlain by platinum-bearing sections of dunite; this strip is 
characteristic of the northern half of the Urals; the South Urals contain 
no gabbro zone, and here, of the deep-lying basic rocks, serpentines pre- 
dominate; (4) igneous rocks and their tuffs, and also schists, which date 
from Upper Silurian to Lower Carboniferous; (5) granites and gneisses 
on the eastern slope; (6) metamorphic Paleozoic deposits, transected by 
igneous rocks (diabases, porphyrites, and porphyries), and partly cov- 
ered by the horizontal Upper Cretaceous and Lower Tertiary sediments 
of the West Siberian Lowland. 

The most intensive folding took place in the Urals at the end of the 
Carboniferous period (Nalivkin, 1933). The formation of the Urals basi- 
cally came to an end at the close of the Paleozoic, and all the periods 
which followed have been periods of denudation. According to Nalivkin, 
at the end of the Tertiary period and during the Quaternary, the Urals, 
which had become a peneplain, were uplifted. No traces of alpine folding 
appear in the Urals. Thrusts, which took place during the Mesozoic 
period, are very important in the structure (Arkhangelsky, 1934). 

Like other ancient mountains, the Urals abound in mineral resources. 
These include iron ores (magnetite and limonite), copper, vein and 
aDuvial gold, platinum, aluminum (bauxite), chromite, nickel and man- 
ganese ores, precious stones, rock salt and deposits of other salts, coal, 
and asbestos. 


Because of the vast north-south extent of the Ural range (over 2500 
km.), its climates are extremely varied. On the north the range extends 
almost to the coast of the Arctic Ocean and is covered with tundra; on 
the south, along the middle course of the Ural River, the steppe extends 
into the range. The Urals have a noticeable effect upon the climates of 
the slopes which adjoin them to. the west and to the east Siwce 
moisture-bearing west winds prevail in the Urals, precipitation is much 
more abundant on the western than on the eastern slope, particularly in 
autumn and winter; -as a result, the depth of the snow cover in the-West 


Urals Foreland is much greater than in the Trans-Urals. Precipitation is 
150 mm. greater on the western than on the eastern side of the central 
part of the range. In the central part of the range the annual precipitation 
is 600 mm., or even more (Biser, in lat 58& N, at an elevation of 471 m., 
has 683 mm.)- North of lat 61 N, the amount of precipitation decreases; 
a similar decrease appears also south of Zlatoust (55 N). Relative hu- 
midity and cloudiness are greater to the west of the range than to the 
east of it. 

At the Ivanovsk mine (elevation 856 m., in lat. 55 N), temperature 
inversion is observed in winter; that is, the temperature increases with 
elevation; from December to March it is warmer (or no colder) here 
than in Zlatoust, which lies 400 m. lower. The mean July temperature at 
the Ivanovsk mine, however, is 14.7 C., while in Zlatoust it is 16.0 C. 
In general, temperature inversion is very common in the South Urals, 
and, as we shall see, it has an effect on the distribution of vegetation. 

Vegetation 5 

The North Urals. The northern extreme of the Urals is covered with 
tundra, from the foot of the mountains to the summit. At the source of 
the Kara in lat. 68 N, Hoffman found feeble small larch trees growing. 
In lat. 67 N, the upper limit of the forest on the eastern slope lies at 
300 m. It is interesting that in the region of the Sob River (opposite 
Salegard, formerly Obdorsk), the base of the Urals and the foothills are 
only lightly forested, while in the central range, according to Gorodkov, 
the forests are well developed; Siberian larch, which grows at the upper 
boundary of the forest, reaches 20 m. in height; Siberian spruce (Picea 
excelsa obovata [P. obovata]) and birch (Betula tortuosa) are common. 
The upper boundary of the forest is composed of thickets of scrub Man- 
churian alder (Alnus jruticosa) , which form a subalpine belt. In the Sob 
valley the elevation of more or less continuous larch forests on the 
southern slopes is 210 m., but stunted larches among the alder thickets 
occur as high as 310 m., while individual specimens of much deformed 
larch, together with alder bushes, are found along the southern slopes 
up to an elevation of 400 m. Thus, on the North Ural range the zones 
of vegetation are reversed; there is tundra below, and forest higher up 
apparently a result of the temperature inversion. 

Above the subalpine belt in the arctic Urals (in the Sob River basin), 
moss tundras predominate on the gentle slopes covered with silt, while 

5 B. N. Gorodkov, M. M. Din, I. M. Krasheninnikov in the publication, Priroda 
Urala (Natural Features of the Urals), Sverdlovsk, 1936. 


on the rocky and sandy areas there are lichen tundras (with reindeer 
moss and other lichens). 

On the flat passes and water divides near the Arctic Circle, forests dis- 
appear at 260 m.; tree vegetation is absent on the western slope of the 
Urals in these places, and in general the spring reawakening of plant life 
is delayed on this slope by about two weeks. 

In the northern part of the North Urals, larch predominates among 
the tree species. According to Sochava, the larch grows here on very 
diverse substrata and under widely divergent geographic conditions: on 
granites, on crystalline schists, and on gabbro; on sandy loams, on peaty 
soils, and so forth. It grows both in the river valleys and at the upper 
boundary of the forest But in the southern part of the North Urals the 
larch begins to gravitate toward the boundary of the forest 

In the region of the upper course of the Shchugor and Telpos ridge 
(lat 63~64 N), e four vertical zones may be distinguished in the vege- 
tation of the North Ural range. Beginning at the bottom, these are: 

(1) A zone of mossy coniferous forest, which extends up to an eleva- 
tion of 400 to 450 m. Here Siberian spruce predominates. In addition 
there is always fir, Siberian stone pine, and birch. Neither pine nor aspen 
occurs. Spruce-bilberry groves are most widespread; on rich and moist 
soils they are replaced by fir-bilberry groves. The spruce does not 
grow tall, usually 12 to 15 m., and the density of the stand in the spruce 
forests is not very great 

(2) At an elevation of 500 to 700 m. lies a meadow-forest zone. Open 
herbaceous coppices of birch (Betula tortuosa), with an admixture of 
fir, sometimes spruce, and in a few places Siberian larch, alternate with 
small glades. These coppices form the upper boundary of the forest In 
the more northern parts of the Urals this zone is represented by a strip 
of subalpine larch forests. 

(3) Above the meadow-forest zone lies a zone of dwarf arctic birch 
(Betula nana). The moss cover of the birch groves consists of either 
hypnum or sphagnum mosses, or of haircap moss (Polytrichum) . 

(4) Finally, still higher lie mountain tundras which contain moss, 
moss with lichen, and lichen growing among stones. Sometimes dryad 
(Dry as octopetald) grows here in great numbers. In some places there 
are alpine glades, on which European bistort (Polygonum bistorta), 

6 V. B. Sochava, "V istokakh rek Shchugora i Severnoy Sosvy" (In the Sources 
of the Shchugor and the Northern Sosva Rivers), I*a Geogr, obshch. (Report of the 
Geographical Society), LXV, No. 6, 1933, pp. 565-583. 

Isolated patches of ilpine 
and subalpine ' 

Fir^pruce taiga on the 
western slopes ift Ac 
northern pan of the 
central Urals 

Fir-spruce taiga on die 
western slopes in the 
southern part of the 
central Urals 

Fir-spruce taiga in the 
central sections of the 
southern Urals 

Fir-spruce taiga on the 
west-Siberian plain and 
in theTVcst Urals Ireland 

Pine and pine-larch forest 
on the eastern slopes of 
the central Urals 

Pine, pine-larch and birch 
forest on the eastern 
slopes of the central Urals 

Pine and pine-larch forest 
on the western slopes of 
the southern Urals 

Fir-spruce taiga in the 
?-Z| West Urals Foreland, with 
ZzJ an admixture of broad' 

leaved species 

Broad-leaved forest on 


slopes and in 

the West Urals foreland 

Forest steppe in the West 
Urals foreland 

Kungur, Krasnourunsk, 
and west-Siberian forest 

Mountain forest steppe on 
the eastern slopes of the 
southern Urals 

Feather-grass -mixed- 
herbaceous cnernocenx 

steppe on chestnut soils 

Steppe in the Mugodzhar 



MAP 10. Vegetation of the central and southern Urals and the West 
Urals Foreland (I. M. Krashemnnikov, 1936). 


false hellebore ( Veratrum lobelianum) 9 geranium (Geranium albifiorum), 
and grasses predominate. 

In lat. 62 N, according to N. I. Kuznetsov (1887), the boundary of the 
forest consists of birch. Here, and somewhat south (in the upper course 
of the Lozva), the alpine zone begins at 730 m. and occupies the water- 
divide heights in an almost uninterrupted belt. 

The Central Urals. On Konzhakovsk Kamen (south of lat. 60 N), 7 
the alpine zone begins at 950 to 1000 m. There are very few mountain 
forms among the flowering plants of this zone. Arctic forms predominate, 
such as alpine meadow rue (Thalictrum alpinum), snowy buttercup 
(Ranunculus nivalis), and arctic diapensia (Diapensia lapponica). The 
dryad is common here also; however, it extends below the upper bound- 
ary of the forest as well. The upper boundary of the subalpine zone 
consists of stunted groves of spruce and fir. Below these stunted groves 
lies a narrow strip of birch groves (Betula tortuosa)*, the low birches, 
5 to 6 m. tall, form coppices which alternate with meadows; here and 
there are found patches of larch forest Still lower, at an elevation of 
about 800 m., lies a strip of stunted coniferous woods of spruce and fir, 
with an admixture of birch and occasionally of Siberian stone pine. 

In the Central Urals the alpine zone is represented by islands on the 
summits of the high mountains; the rest of the range, foothills, and low- 
land are covered with a fir-spruce forest, with spruce predominating, and 
with an acbiixture of birch, aspen, and pine (Fig. 68). On the dry 
water-divide plateaus and on the summits of the slopes there grow green- 
moss spruce groves, which locally are called parma. After fires and fell- 
ing, the coniferous forests are replaced by birch groves and aspen groves. 

Beginning in the latitude of Sverdlovsk (5650'N, elevation 292 m.), 
the Ural range constitutes an island of forest rising amid forest 

The South Urals.* As far south as lat. 52 N (that is, north of the lati- 
tude of Orenburg), the South Ural range is covered with forest, begin- 
ning at an elevation of 700 m. and rising up to 1600 m. South of lat 

r K. N. Igoshina, "Vysokogornaya rastitelnost Srednevo Urala" (The High-Moun- 
tain Vegetation of the Central Urals), Z/wm. Rtwh botan. obshcK (Journal of the 
Russian Botanical Society), XVI, 1931, pp, 3-62; 

L M. Krasheninnikov and M, M. Bin, Geobotanichesky ocherk gornoy chasti 
Sterltoarnakskovo kantona Bashttrskoy re$p (Geobotanical Sketch of the Mountainous 
Part of the Sterlitamak Canton of the Bashkir Republic), Leningrad, 1926 p. 56 
Bashk. kom zeml (Bashkir Agricultural Committee); L M. ffrasheninnikov, ft 
wtorti wmtyB fan&fafaw Yttsfcnoco ttroto (The History of the Development of 
the Landscapes of the South Urals), Leningrad, 1927, p. 28, with a diagram, izd. 
Bashk. kom. zeml. (publication of the Bashkir Agricultural Committee) 


52 N, however, forest steppe predominates on the South Urals. The 
highest peaks Iremel, Zigalga, Yaman-Tau are unforested. 

In the South Urals fir-spruce forests appear only in the northern part; 
farther south, pine-larch forests predominate. 

The vertical zonation of vegetation in the South Urals is as follows: 
The low foothills of the western slope are covered with broad-leaved 
forests, which grow on more or less degraded chernozems. Scotch-elm and 
linden forests predominate; sometimes the Scotch elm ( UJmus scabra or U, 
montana [C7. glabra] ) predominates; there is some maple; less frequently, 
Russian elm and oak; and occasionally, hirch and aspen. The following 
plants are characteristic for the herbaceous cover of these relatively 
moist forests: male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), sweet woodruff (Asperula 
odorata), European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum), Easter-bell star- 
wort (Stellaria holostea)> bishop's-goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), 
and others. The soils of the high foothills (up to 1100 m. in elevation) 
are predominantly of a podzolic type; as Krasheninnikov points out, the 
valleys here, as a result of temperature inversion, have a more con- 
tinental climate, and contain pine groves with birch, while the slopes, 
which have a milder climate, are covered with linden forests of the type 
described above. On the summits of the higher ranges (of the foothills) 
lie park-land pine and larch groves surrounded by glades. 

The highest principal ranges of the South Urals are covered with pine- 
larch forests or fir-spruce taiga, in. some places with an admixture of 
larch, pine, and birch, and a few specimens of broad-leaved species. 
There are occasional broad-leaved forests. 

A few of the highest points of the South Urals rise above the limits of 
forest vegetation. Such is Iremel (elevation 1600 m.); here the subalpine 
zone is represented by park-land spruce groves, in which the spruce 
grows in scattered coppices amid tall meadow herbage. 9 At the upper 
boundary of its distribution, the spruce grows in stunted groves; occa- 
sionally among the spruces there are clumps of fir. The table-flat summit 
of Iremel is covered with spotty mountain "tundra," developed on areas 
thickly covered with rock fragments; clayey patches, barren of vegeta- 
tion, occupy about a third of the surface. 

The Ural-Tau water-divide range, only 950 m. in elevation, is covered 
with pine-larch forests, in which individual specimens of broad-leaved 
species are found. 

9 L. Tyulina, 1% vysdkogornoy oblasti Yuzhnovo Urala, Ocherki po ftosatsiologii i 
fitogeografii (The High-Mountain Region of the Southern Urals, Sketches on Phyto- 
sociology and Phytogeography), izd. "Novaya Derevnya" (publication of "The New 
Village"), Moscow, 1929, pp. 345-359. 


Larch extends south beyond the Belaya River almost as far as the 
Sakmara River (lat. 52 N). 

The eastern slope of the Ural range, which faces Asia, is distinguished 
sharply from the western slope. On the eastern slope broad-leaved species 
are absent, and birch forest steppe, which is peculiar to western Siberia 
(see above, pp. 81-82), characterizes the landscape. 


The fauna of the Ural range is varied; tundra animals appear in the 
north, steppe animals in the south. In the taiga on the eastern slope of 
the Ural range, along the Lozva and beyond the Sosva, there is sable; 
it appears also on the western slope, in the upper course of the Shchugor. 
North of the Tagilsk Urals, the marten is of economic importance. A 
hundred years ago the red deer still ranged as far south as the upper 
reaches of the Sakmara River, that is, approximately as far as lat. 53 N. 
Today the reindeer ranges about to this same latitude; in winter it may 
be found occasionally in the pine groves. Other animals include the 
roebuck, elk, bear, squirrel, flying squirrel, chipmunk, capercaillie, black 
grouse, and hazel grouse. 10 

The roebuck is common in the South and Central Urals. In the Central 
Urals there is lynx, and in the northern part of the Central Urals, glutton. 
Bear and squirrel are numerous. Reindeer are raised only north of lat 
60 N in the Urals. 

The birds include the Ural capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus uralensis), 
which inhabits the forests of the South Urals; in the Central Urals it is 
replaced by the common capercaillie (T. urogallus). The presence in the 
South Urals of the willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) is worth noting; 
this bird, like the Ural capercaillie, is native also to the pine-grove islands 
of southwestern Siberia. Pallas (1769) found this bird in the Guberlinsk 

Characteristic of the birch groves of the subalpine zone are accentors 
the black-throated accentor (Prunella atrogularis) and the mountain 
accentor (P. montanella); the latter is native also to the Altay and the 
Tian Shan. In the same birch groves the willow ptarmigan (Lagopus 
lagopus) nests also. 

The following birds are native to the alpine zone: the North Ural 

10 S. V. Kirikov, "Ekologiya auny pozvonochnykh Preduralya i Zauralya na yikh 
yuzhnoy razgramchitelnoy linii", (Ecology of the Vertebrate Fauna of the West Urals 
Foreland and the Trans-Urals along Their Southern Line of Demarcation) Zool 
zhurn. (Zoological Journal), XIV, 1935; XV, 1936. 


tundra ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus komensis), the Lapland longspur 
(Calcarius lapponicus), and the golden plover (Pluvialis apricarius) 
all typical representatives of the tundra. 11 

In the spruce and Siberian-stone-pine forests of the North Urals, Si- 
berian passerines are common: the bluetail (Janihia cyanura [Tarsiger 
cyanurus], of the thrush family), Eversmann's warbler (PhyUoscopus 
borealis), and the black-throated thrush (Turdus atrogularis) . The caper- 
caillie also is native to these forests. 

The Siberian four-toed salamander (Hynobius keyserlingi) inhabits 
the vicinity of Sverdlovsk; it extends as far north as lat. 60 N. 

The following salmonids are characteristic among the fish of the Ural 
range: the grayling; brown trout (Hucho taimen), native to the basins 
of the Kama and the Ural, and also the Ob; the Siberian whitefish 
(Stenodus leucichthys) , which comes up from the Caspian Sea to the 
basin of the Ufa River (on the eastern slope, a closely related form, the 
nelma [S. leudchthys nelma], is represented); in the upper course of 
the Pechora, the true or Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is found; at one 
time numerous Caspian brown trout (S. trutta caspius) used to enter 
the Kama from the Caspian Sea, but today they are found only very 
seldom in the Ufa basin. A coregonid, the sig, breeds in Lake Turgoyak. 

It was formerly believed that the Ural range constituted a sharp zoo- 
geographical and phytogeographical boundary. More detailed investiga- 
tions have shown that this is not the case. Nevertheless, it must be noted 
that there is indeed a whole series of species which do not cross the 
Urals. Thus, a number of Siberian birds, which inhabit the North Urals, 
are distributed no farther west than the Ural range; these include, for 
example, the black-throated thrush (Turdus atrogularis), the pin-tailed 
snipe (Capella stenura), some accentors, and others. 13 Of the fish, the 
minnows [Leuciscus cephalus and Aspius aspius], roach, catfish, pike- 
perch, and many others are not found east of the Ural range. 

11 L. A. Portenko, Fauna ptits vnepolyarnoy chasti Severnovo Urala (Bird Fauna of 
&e Nonpolar Part of the North Urals), Leningrad, 1937, izd. Akad. nauk (publication 
of the Academy of Sciences). 

XIII The Altay 


THE mountain system of the Altay may be divided 
I provisionally into four main water-divide ranges: (1) 
the South Altay, (2) the Inner Altay, (3) the East Altay, and (4) the Mon- 
golian Altay. The last, which lies between the Black Irtysh and Kobdo 
rivers, falls within Mongolia. On the north the Altay is separated from 
the Biya steppe by a declivity several hundred meters in elevation. This 
boundary has a tectonic significance (see below). 

(1) The South, or Great Altay, the western end of which is called 
the Narym range, separates the waters of the Black Irtysh and Lake 
Zaisan from the Bukhtarma River system; it branches off from the Tabyn- 
Bogdo-Ola massif, which reaches an elevation of 4500 m. in Kiityn peak. 
The highest point of the South Altay, Mount Kirey, has an elevation of 
3790 m. The Ukok Plateau, which lies at an elevation of 2200 to 2300 m., 
adjoins the Tabyn-Bogdo-Ola massif. The elevation of the Narym range 
drops from 3200 to 3000 m. in the east, to 1500 to 1200 m. in the west 
On the southern slope lies Lake Marka-Kul, 27 m. deep; its elevation is 

(2) The Inner Altay. The highest ranges of the Inner Altay are the 
Katun belki (snow-capped mountains) and their direct continuation to 
the east, the Chuya belki; they are separated by the Argut River (a right 
tributary of the Katun). The mean elevation of the Katun belki is about 
3000 m.; they are covered throughout by everlasting snows (Fig, 69); 
almost in the middle of the range lies its highest point (and that of the 
entire Russian Altay), Mount Belukha, 4540 m. in elevation (Fig. 70). 
The transverse valley of the Katun River (Fig. 71) separates the western 
end of the Katun belki from the Kholzun range, which serves as the 
divide between the Bukhtarma and the Katun basin; the Kholzun range 
reaches elevations of 2200 to 2400 m. 




(3) The East Altay is composed of a system of ranges which lie on 
the water divide between the Ob and the Yenisey river systems. It begins 
in the south with the Sailyugem range, which lies on the boundary with 
China (Mongolia) and serves as the water divide between the river sys- 

MAP 11. Altay ranges. 

terns of the Ob (Argut, Chuya, Bashkaus, Chulyshman) and the Kobdo, 
The Sailyugem range, like the South Altay, originates in the Kiityn massif, 
and its highest elevation exceeds 3600 m. Shapshal (Chapchal) Pass, 
3177 m. in elevation, near the peak of the same name, may be regarded 
as the northern end of this range. 1 The Gorbu range, which lies along 
the eastern shore of picturesque and deep Lake Teletsk (elevation about 

*V. Obruchev (1915, p. 36) proposes that the name Sailyugem be retained for 
the southern part of the range, \wiich extends latitudinally, and that the range from 
Tashanty Pass to the plateau of Lake Dzhuvlu-Kul be called the Chikhachev range. 


450 m.; depth, 325 m. ) , 2 belongs to the Sailyugem system. On maps, moun- 
tains which reach 2438 m. in the south usually appear to the northeast 
of Lake Teletsk, along the left bank of the Abakan River. However, the 
most recent investigations of Bazhenov ( 1930) show that no independent 
range does exist here. Actually, situated along the upper course of 
the Abakan River, these mountains constitute a connection between the 
southern end of the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau, on the one hand, and the western 
end of the West Sayans, on the other. 

The Altay is composed of Cambrian rocks and metamorphic schists 
of the Cambrian-Silurian, Silurian, and Devonian periods. Marine Lower 
Carboniferous deposits are found only in the southwestern, or so-called 
Rudny (Ore) Altay, which borders upon the Irtysh. There are extensive 
intrusions of granite. Following the Lower Carboniferous in the Rudny 
Altay, and the Upper Devonian (and in some places the Middle De- 
vonian) in the remaining Altay, a continental period set in. 3 Meta- 
morphic schists, predominantly green and intensely dislocated, occupy 
tremendous areas in the Altay proper (that is, not in the Rudny Altay). 
The principal ranges of the Altay (the Katun, Chuya, and others) are 
composed of these rocks. The metamorphic series of the Altay apparently 
belongs to the Lower Silurian. 

The Altay is a mountain system in which folding took place during 
two different epochs: the Rudny Altay, and also the Kalbinsky range 
and the Tarbagatay, were formed by folding which took place during 
the Upper Paleozoic (Variscan) period, while the Altay proper was sub- 
jected to the most intense folding during the Lower Paleozoic (Cale- 
donian) period. Folding in the Rudny Altay ended presumably at the 
end of the Paleozoic and the beginning of the Mesozoic; the orientation of 
this folding is northwest. It was accompanied by two large faults which 
are also oriented northwest; these faults form the boundaries of the 
Rudny Altay. 

The long duration of the continental period which existed throughout 
the Altay following the Lower Carboniferous (and in many places from 

2 Concerning Lake Teletsk, see Issledovaniya oxer S.S.S.R. (Survey of the Lakes of 
the U.S.S.R.), izd. Gidrol. inst (publication of the Hydrological Institute), No. 3, 
1933, with a map of the lake, No. 7, 1934, 

5 V. P. Nekhoroshev, "Materialy dlya geologii Goraovo Altaya" (Materials on the 
Geology of Mountain Altay), Trudy Geol razved. Obyed. (Proceedings of the 
Geological Survey Society), No. 177, 1932, p. Ill, with a map. "GeoIogicheSy ocherk 
Altaya" (Geological Sketch of the Altay), Och&rki po geologii Stbiri (Sketches on 
the Geology of Siberia), izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), 
1932, p. 46, with a map, bibliography. 


an even earlier date), led to the peneplanation of the Altay, which did 
not exist as a mountain system during the Tertiary period. At the end o 
the Tertiary and the beginning of the Quaternary, extensive faulting took 
place, forming the Altay as it exists today (Nekhoroshev, 1932). This 
faulting broke the foundations of the ancient Altay once more, but this 
time in new directions. The Altay became a mountain country again, but 
now it was composed of ranges in the form of plateaus of varying eleva- 
tion. The disruptive tectonic lines which created the present Altay have, 
in general, an east-west orientation (on Lake Teletsk, also north-south). 
The tectonic line which forms the northern boundary of the Altay in the 
Ob steppe south of Biisk, is very distinct; this line, which appears in 
sharp relief, is marked by the presence of the Belokurikhinsk hot springs. 
Nekhoroshev is inclined to attribute the formation of this line, and also 
of Lake Teletsk, to disruptive dislocations which took place during the 
interglacial period. 

In the contemporary relief of the Altay, the predominance of more or 
less wide plateaus, sometimes half worn away by erosion, is characteristic. 
But the previously existing flat surfaces of the plateaus may be discerned 
even in the highest and narrowest surfaces, those most intensely dissected 
by erosion (such as the Katun and South-Chuya and North-Chuya belki). 
Many of these watershed plateaus are so flat that bogs appear on their 
surfaces. From such watersheds the streams drain at first with a barely 
perceptible gradient; then, as they draw farther away from the water 
divides, the flow becomes more rapid, and the rivers cut deep gorges; 
near the points where the streams empty into the main rivers, they flow 
along narrow gorges, or precipitate themselves over waterfalls. Sometimes 
the difference between the purely erosional valleys and the valleys which 
lie in grabens is very sharp. The latter are wide and sometimes have a 
rather dry climate (for example, the Kan "steppe/* the Chuya "steppe," 
and others). Most erosional valleys, on the other hand, are narrow, some- 
times having the appearance of gorges, such, for example, as the com- 
pletely impassable gorge of the lower Argut The Katun belki drop 
steeply to the valley of the middle Katun River. The ascent along the 
gorges of the lateral ranges leads to a high, rolling plateau, 1800 to 
2500 m. in elevation. The eastern part of this range (or the South-Chuya 
range), viewed from the north, from the Chuya steppe (elevation 
1700 m.), reveals even more sharply the characteristics of a plateau. We 
see before us a level or gently rolling plateau, dissected by several river 
valleys, and reaching 2400 to 2600 m. in elevation; peaks (liktu and 


others ), which lie in a straight line and reach 3000 to 4200 m. in elevation, 
rise above the plateau. Apparently, states Obruchev,* this was formerly a 
higher surface, such as is found in the Katun belki; it is now much worn 
down by erosion. 

Deep in the mountains lie the famous Rakhmanovsk hot springs. They 
are situated on the southern slope of the Katun belki, in the basin of the 
Bukhtarma, at an elevation of 1725 m. Their temperature is about 40 C. 
(Fig. 72). 

The snow line in the South Altay lies at an elevation of 2600 to 3000 m.; 
in the dry East Altay, at 3000 m. In the Katun and Chuya belki, on the 
southern side of the main chain, it lies at 2600 to 3000 m.; on the northern 
side, at 2400 to 2600 m. 

The most intense contemporary glaciation of the Central Altay is 
found in the Katun and Chuya belki. Six large glaciers descend from 
Belukha (Fig. 70); of these the Berelsk, 8.5 km. long, reaches down to 
an elevation of 1950 m. In the South Altay, according to Reznichenko, 
there are about a hundred glaciers, chiefly of the cirque type; the longest, 
Bas-Bukhtarminsk, from which the Bukhtarma River takes its source, is 
6 km. in length and descends to an elevation of 2450 m. The total area 
of glaciation in the Russian Altay is only 450 sq. km., a much smaller 
area than in the Tian Shan. But in the Tabyn-Bogdo-Ola massif, on the 
side which faces Mongolia, Sapozhnikov discovered extensive glaciation; 
one glacier, the Potanin, is 20 km. long. 

During die glacial period the glaciers reached their greatest develop- 
ment in the same places as they do today. The Altay was subjected to at 
least two glaciations, of which the first was the more intense. At that 
time the glaciers descended far down along the valleys, as far as the 
country at the foot of the Altay. The ancient Bukhtarma glacier reached 
150 km. in length, and descended to an elevation of 730 m. The Ukok 
Plateau at one time was covered by a continuous ice sheet 

In the Rudny Altay there are many polymetallic deposits, which con- 
tain zinc, lead, copper, silver, and gold. 


In the Altay dry south and southwest winds prevail in winter, moist 
northwest and west winds in summer. For this reason the maximum 
precipitation in the Altay comes in summer, in July and August. (In 
some places a secondary maximum is observed in the latter half of 

* V. A. Obnichev, "Altaiskie efyudy, IF (Studies on the Altay, II), Zemlevedenie 
(Agriculture), 1915, Bk. 3. 

THE ALT Ay 379 

autumn.) The greatest annual precipitation recorded at average eleva- 
tions in the Altay is about 1000 mm. G The western Altay has relatively 
abundant precipitation, more than 500 mm. per year at Zmeinogorsk, but 
its western outskirts are subject to the drying influence of the surround- 
ing steppes, and have less than 400 mm. at Loktevskoye. The fault basins 
of the central Altay, such as the Uimonsk (on the Katun) and Chuya 
steppes, are distinguished by extreme dryness. The southern Altay is also 
dry; Altaiskaya stanitsa, which lies at an elevation of 1000 m., receives 
only 378 mm. of precipitation per year; the Ukok Plateau (elevation 
2400 m.), only 280 mm. On the plateau there are found traces of ancient 
irrigation canals. 

The high steppe plateaus surrounded by mountains undergo very low 
temperatures in winter. Thus, in the Chuya steppe (at Kosh-Agach, eleva- 
tion 1700 m. ) temperatures as low as 48 C. are recorded, while the 
mean January temperature is 31 C. The snow cover here is very thin, 
reaching only 7 cm.; as a result, permanent ground frost appears even 
at a depth of 1 m. Winter temperature inversion is widespread in the 
Altay; at the Zyryanovsk mine in the Bukhtarma basin ( elevation 450 m., 
lat. 49&N) the mean February temperature is 22.3 C., while in 
Altaiskaya stanitsa, which lies 550 m. higher, February is almost 10 C. 
warmer ( 12.5 C.). One explanation for this condition is that the cold 
waves which invade from the north do not penetrate beyond the out- 
skirts of the mountains. The Altay in winter constitutes a kind of warm 
island between the cold regions of Siberia and Central Asia. Cloudiness 
in the Altay is greatest in autumn, least at the end of winter and the 
beginning of spring. 


As one ascends into the mountains from the lowlands between Barnaul 
and Semipalatinsk, the following soils appear in succession: chernozems, 
rich chernozems, gray forest soils, podzolic soils, and, finally, mountain- 
meadow soils. Ascending from the Zaisan basin, light-chestnut soils ap- 
pear first; somewhat higher, stony dark-chestnut soils; then mountain 
chernozems; still higher, podzolic soils; and, finally, mountain-meadow 
soils. On the north and northwest the Altay is bordered by degraded 
chernozems. In the southern Altay, south of lat. 44 N, there are 

5 There is evidence that in the mountains in the region of the Bidder mine, at an 
elevation of about 2000 m., the annual precipitation is greater than 2000 mm., while 
in the valley of the Ulba River (a tributary of the Irtysh at Ustkamennogorsk), at 
an elevation of 600 m., the annual precipitation is only 600 to 800 mm. 


chestnut soils in the lower zone (for example, at Onguday on the 
Ursula, a tributary of the Katun); often they are slightly solonized Along 
the Bukhtarma and the Naryn, chernozems and chernozemlike soils are 
developed. North of lat. 51 N, chernozemlike, or, more exactly, meadow- 
steppe soils, are widespread. Under the forests are found podzolic soils 
and degraded clay loams. At the upper limit of vegetation lies mountain 
tundra tundra which contains lichen, moss, or lichen among stones, and 
which is studded profusely with dryad. 


"In the Altay," states Sapozhnikov, 6 "we find typical steppes, often 
rising to a considerable elevation; expanses of taiga, peculiar to a more 
northern section of Siberia; light larch forest; and, finally, vast alpine 
meadows, similar to the meadows of the Caucasus and Switzerland, with 
a slight suggestion of tundra." As distinguished from the Caucasus and 
the Tian Shan, broad-leaved species are absent in the Altay. Linden is 
found only in the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau. 

In the Altay the following vertical zones may be distinguished: 

Steppes adjoin the Altay to the northwest, west, and south. They are 
perfectly suitable for agriculture, which extends up into the mountains 
somewhat above 1000 m. Along the borders of the mountains the steppe 
reaches up to elevations of 350 to 600 m., where it is replaced by forest. 
Prominent in the steppes of the foothills, in addition to grasses, are shrubs: 
spiraea, honeysuckle, sweetbrier rose, pea shrub [Caragana sp.], and 
Russian almond (Amygdaltis nana). Closer to the mountains the vegeta- 
tion takes on a meadow character. 

A somewhat different type of mountain steppe is developed, often at 
elevations of 1000 meters and more, along the broad, open valleys. The 
high steppes of the eastern Altay (the Chuya steppe, at an elevation of 
1700 to 1800 m., and the Kuray steppe, which lies along the course of 
the Chuya River below the Chuya steppe, at an elevation of 1500 m.) 
are more like the stony steppes of neighboring Mongolia. Astragali 
(Astragalus brevifolius and A. dilutus) and other stunted legumes, 
grasses, polyns, and halophytes are particularly characteristic for these 
steppes. On the Ukok Plateau (elevation 2400 m. ), where skeletal chestnut 
soils are developed, the vegetation cover consists of polyns and cinque- 
foil (PotentiUa), crested wheat grass (Agropyron cristatum), and others, 
while closer to the mountains, side by side with steppe plants, there 

6 V. V. Sapozhnifcov, Katun i yeyo titoki (The Katun and Its Sources), Tomsk 


appear alpine plants: common edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum),~ 
alpine poppy (Papaver alpinurri), and others. Several glaciers descend to 
the plateau along its border; the glaciers end at 2500 to 2600 m., appear- 
ing in close proximity to the dry steppe. 

The forest zone of the Altay on the side of the western and southern 
steppes begins at an elevation of 350 m. In the northeast, however, beyond 
the Kuznetsk chern (fir forests), the forest zone adjoins the Siberian 
taiga. The upper boundary of this zone lies at 2000 to 2400 m. Deciduous 
species (birch, aspen, mountain ash, and bird cherry) are of secondary 
importance. The conifers in the Altay include Siberian larch, which 
appears as the predominant species; Siberian stone pine, fir, and spruce. 
Pine appears up to an elevation of 700 m.; in the mountains it does not 
form the pure stands which are characteristic of this tree. Usually it 
grows here in admixture with birch, aspen, and, higher up, with larch. 
In this pine zone there appears one mountain shrub the Dahurian 
rhododendron (Rhododendron dauricum), a very beautiful plant with 
a multitude of pink-violet flowers. Sometimes it grows quite tall; thus, 
on the shore of Lake Teletsk, Sapozhnikov saw Dahurian rhododendrons 
up to 4 m. tall, with stems as thick as a man's hand. This shrub grows at 
elevations up to 1800 m. The herbaceous vegetation in the pine zone 
is like that in the forest glades of the Siberian taiga: anemone (Anemone 
altaica and A. caerulea [A. nemorosa caerulea]), spreading pasqueflower 
(fulsatilla patens [A. patens]), peony (Paeonia anomala), lily (Lilium 
martagon), iris (Iris ruthenica), and others. 

Larch begins to appear before the upper boundary of pine is reached, 
above 700 m.; it grows in pure stands (Fig. 73). This most character- 
istic tree in the mountain forest of the Altay, prefers not too steep, 
moderately moist slopes in the open valleys. In the open country which 
is referred to as steppe, the larch settles only along the mountain slopes 
and in narrow belts along the rivers. It grows up to an elevation of 
2000 m. and higher, and often forms the upper limit of the forest. 

The north-facing slopes are much more extensively forested than 
those which face south; all the valleys of the Katun belki which face 
north are heavily forested, while on the south-facing slopes there are 
coppices only in the shadier places. Among other factors which bring 
about this condition are the prevailing south and southwest winds: "In 
addition to their drying effect, they also promote the accumulation of 
winter snows on the northern side, which is protected from winds" 

7 However, in the Alps the edelweiss is not associated exclusively with the alpine 


(Sapozhnikov). On the south-facing slopes even when tree vegetation 
does appear, it is represented by the less hydrophytic larches. 

"The mountain larch forest characteristically seldom forms dense thick- 
ets; more often it resembles a light park with glades, usually filled with 
shrubs and herbaceous plants" ( Sapozhnikov) . Of the shrubs in the larch 
forest, various species of spiraea (Spiraea) form dense, almost impassable 
thickets; they grow in admixture with raspberry, elder, European cran- 
berry-bush viburnum, sweethrier rose, honeysuckle, currant, hawthorn, 
barberry, and pea shrub [Caragana sp.]. "The forest glades among the 
larches are richly covered with meadows which contain bright flowers; 
Iris ruthenica blooms here in such numbers that the air is saturated with 
the odor of violets; gold-beard iris (I. flavissima) is found less frequently; 
globeflowers (Trottius asiaticus and T. altaicus), which replace the 
golden-yellow adonis (Adonis sibiricus), produce red blooms every- 
where; whole glades of forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica), yellow pea 
vine (Orobus luteus [Lathyrus luteus]), blue gentian, and a great many 
others add their colors to this carpet. And the trees are twined with alpine 
clematis (Atragene sibirica [Clematis alpina sibirica]) 9 with its pendant 
masses of white flowers" (Sapozhnikov). 

In the narrower and more moist valleys, larch grows in admixture with 
chern species (Siberian stone pine, fir, and spruce). Here herbaceous 
plants reach gigantic dimensions, forming a tall stand which in some 
places rises as high as the head of a man on horseback. Here are found 
the enormous Japanese bee larkspur (Delphinium elatum), monkshood 
(Aconitum excelsum and A. krylovii), burnet (Sanguisorba alpina), 
fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium, Ptarmica alpina) , pedicularis (Pe* 
diculans proboscidea), two large umbellifers (Bupleurum aureum, Arch- 
angelica decurrens [Angelica]), and others. At an elevation of 1400 m. 
birch disappears; higher up, aspen; still higher, about a hundred meters 
below the timber line, fir and spruce. The upper limit of the forest on the 
wetter slopes consists of Siberian stone pine; on the drier slopes, of larch. 
In the Chuya belki this boundary reaches elevations of 2200 to 2465 m. 

The upper limit of the forest lies at a somewhat higher elevation as one 
moves from north to south and from west to east In the west it reaches 
2000 m.; in the east, 2400 m. Forest grows reluctantly on the high pla- 
teaus. Thus, the Ukok Plateau (elevation 2400 m.) is unf crested, while 
in the adjoining valleys there is forest at elevations 100 to 180 m. higher. 
The explanation lies in the cold and almost snowless winters on the 
plateaus. The transitional zone between the forest and the alpine mead- 
ows is occupied by a belt of stunted shrubs; it consists of dwarf arctic 


birch (Betula nana) and various dwarf willows. The dwarf arctic birch, 
which usually grows half as tall as a man, is very characteristic for the 
Altay. In addition there are cotoneaster (Cotoneaster uniflora), honey- 
suckle (Lonicera hispida) with bright red berries, currant (Ribes fra- 
grans var. infracanum) with brownish-black berries and strongly scented 
leaves, black crowberry, and juniper. 

From 2000 to 2400 m. to 2800 to 3000 m. lies the region of alpine meail* 
ows 9 variegated by a mass of flowers. Here there is an abundance of 
Altay columbine (Aquilegia glandulosa) ; Altay violet (Viola altaica), 
with large yellow and blue flowers of different shades; white narcissus 
anemone (Anemone narcissi-flora) and white CaUianthemum rutaefolium 
(also of the buttercup family); pink and yellow pedicularis; blue gen- 
tian; and golden-yellow buttercup (Ranunculus altaicus), which raises 
its stems from under the snow. 

The alpine meadows, as they ascend, tend to resemble the alpine 
tundra. In the Terektin range (which reaches as far as the left bank of 
the Katun), lichens predominate at elevations of 2000 to 2500 m. There 
are thickets of shrub ground birch (Betula rotundifolia) and dryad. 
Under the small birches, mosses prevail. In the vicinity of the snowy 
patches there are herbaceous glades, which merge in some places into 
bogs with peat mosses, sheathed cotton sedge, and sedges. 


Judging by its fauna, the southeastern Altay (the Ukok Plateau, Chuya 
steppe, Chulyshman Plateau) is a continuation of northwestern Mongolia. 
The northeastern Altay (the basin of the Abakan and to some extent 
Lake Teletsk) is inhabited by fauna of the East Siberian taiga. 

The mammals include the bear; sable; Trans-Baikal polecat [Putorius 
eversmanni michnoi]; badger; lynx; along the Argut and the Chuya, 
snow leopard (Leopardus uncia [Felts uncia]); northern dhole; Mongo- 
lian seren (Gazella guiturosa [G. (Procapra) gutturosa]); in the Chuya 
steppe, ibex (Fig. 74); in the Chuya belki, along the Chuya Biver, 
in the Chuya steppe, and along the upper Chulyshman, mountain 
sheep (Ovis ammon)\ red deer (Cervus elaphus canadensis n. sibiricus 
[C. elaphus sibiricus]); occasionally, reindeer; musk deer; alpine and 
Mongolian mouse hare (Ochoiona alpina, O. pricei [O. pallasii pncei]); 
varying hare; on the Chuya steppe, Altay and Tian Shan bobac and 
Mongolian bobac (Marmota baibadna and M. sibirica); suslik (CtteUus 
eversmanni); Altay mole; and others. 

The birds include the Altay snow pheasant (Tetraogallus atiaieus)', 


grouse-the willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), tundra ptarmigan 
(L. nrntus rupestris), European partridge (Perdix perdix), and bearded 
partridge (P. daurica [P. barbata]); in the Chuya steppe, the Chinese 
goose (Cygnopsis cygnoides) and Indian goose (Eulabeiaindica [Eulabes 
indica]); black grouse; capercaillie; Swinhoe's snipe (Capella megala); 
pin-tailed snipe (C. stenura); solitary snipe (C. solitaria)', the common 
daw (northwestern Altay) and Dahurian jackdaw (Colaeus dahuricus, 
Chuya steppe); Siberian jay (Perisoreus infaustus); nutcracker (Nuci- 
fraga caryocatactes macrorhynca), which feeds on the seeds of the Sibe- 
rian stone pine and spruce; chough (Ptjrrhocorax pyrrhocorax); alpine 
chough (P. graculus); Altay finch (FringiUauda altaica)-, and the black- 
throated and redheaded thrushes. 

Among the birds as among the mammals, there are Mongolian ele- 
ments. Thus, the Chuya steppe contains the Mongolian brambling 
(Montifringilla davidiana potanini), wheatear (Saxicola insignis), Mon- 
golian rock sparrow (Petronto petronfa mongolica), and others. 

As for the fish, the mountain streams abound in salmonids: brown trout 
(Hucho taimen); lendk trout, or uskuch (Brachymystax lenok); arctic 
grayling (Thymallus arcticus}-, and, in the Chuya, the Mongolian cypri- 
nid, osman (Oreoleuciscus) . In Lake Teletsk a fish of economic impor- 
tance is the sig (a form of Coregonus lavaretus), there mistakenly called 

Kuznetsk Ala-Tau 

In all likelihood the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau is the northern continuation 
of the Gorbu range. It extends from NW to SE, and is bordered on the 
east by the Minusinsk basin, and on the west by the Kuznetsk coal- 
bearing basin, noted for its huge reserves of coal. The central, highest 
part of the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau reaches absolute elevations of 1000 to 
2100 m. Along the line of the Siberian railroad, the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau 
merges gradually into rolling plains. The range is not a single mountain 
chain with clearly defined orientation, but "consists of irregular remnant 
massifs (Tiorsts*) of ancient folded mountain systems, bordered on all 
sides by large faults." 8 On the east the outlying spurs of the Kuznetsk 
Ala-Tau are rooted deep in the Minusinsk basin. 

The Kuznetsk Ala-Tau is composed of a thick series of crystalline 
limestones, chiefly of the Cambrian period, overlain by a series of green- 

8 Ya. S. Edelstein, "Gidrogeologichesly ocherk Minusinskovo kraya" (Hydro- 
geological Sketch of Minusinsk Kray), Trudy Geol-razved. obyed. (Proceedings 
of the Geological Survey Society), No. 145, 1931. 


ish or greenish-gray sandstones, shales, limestones, and tuffs, no younger 
than Lower Silurian. Both these series, which underwent powerful fold- 
ing during the Lower Paleozoic (Caledonian) period, are cut by vol- 
canic intrusives. The above-mentioned strata are overlain unconform- 
ably by Devonian strata (Edelstein). 

The present configuration of the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau is not related at 
all to the bearing of the Paleozoic folds. The Kuznetsk Ala-Tau owes its 
present form to dislocations caused by faulting. Today there are no gla- 
ciers in the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau, but the southern mountain summits are 
covered with snow almost throughout the summer. During the glacial 
period there were many glaciers here. 

As for the vegetative cover of the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau, the following 
zones may be distinguished: 9 (1) mountain-fir and Siberian-stone-pine 
and spruce taiga in the north, (2) mixed fir and aspen forests in the 
south, and (3) an alpine region of bald summits. In tie taiga region 
there is a strongly developed moss cover, which is absent or poorly 
represented in the fir-aspen forests. In the latter, on burned-over sites, 
tall herbaceous meadows develop. In some places in the region of fir- 
aspen forests, entire slopes are occupied by lindens, which reach great 
dimensions. The herbaceous cover of these linden forests contains many 
relict forms; some of these are peculiar to the broad-leaved forests of 
Europe, while others are found in similar forests in the Far East. The 
linden forests of the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau are regarded as relicts of the 
Upper Tertiary or interglacial periods. 

The Kuznetsk basin lies between the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau and the Salair 
ridge (elevation 600 m.). Throughout the entire length of the basin 
flows the Tom Biver, which together with its tributaries gives the basin 
a well developed river network. Although the basin has an undulating 
relief, the local differences in elevation between the river bottoms and 
the interfluves between them seldom exceed 100 m. The formation of 
the Kuznetsk basin is related to the formation of the mountain ranges 
along its edges during the Lower Paleozoic period; folding in these ridges 
was accompanied by a simultaneous subsidence of the area which lay 
between them. At the beginning of the Devonian, both the Kuznetsk 
Ala-Tau and the Salair existed in the form of islands and peninsulas in 
the vast Ural-Siberian sea. Along the edges of this sea volcanic eruptions 
took place. From the Lower Carboniferous on, the connection between 
the Kuznetsk basin and the open sea became weaker, and the basin 

9 V. V. Reverdatto, Trudy Obshchestva faucheniya Tomsk&oo kraya (Proceedings 
of the Society for the Study of Tomsk Kray) 9 I, 1927. 


changed gradually into a lake. Conditions on the shores of this lake be- 
came favorable for the development of a sumptuous vegetation. Enor- 
mous waterlogged forests of arborescent ferns Sigillaria, Lepidodendron, 
Calamites, Araucarites, and others grew here; these forests provided the 
material for the formation of thick deposits of coal. In the south, in the 
basin of the Telbes River lies the Telbes iron-ore region. 10 

Both the interstream areas and the ancient river terraces of the Kuznetsk 
basin are covered in many places by material which has the character- 
istics of loesslike clay loams. At a depth of 80 to 100 cm. from the surface 
these day loams become calcareous. On these materials are developed 
more or less typical chernozems, degraded chernozems, and forest soils. 
Near the mountains the soils merge into podzolic soils. In vegetation the 
Kuznetsk basin is birch forest steppe, although at present few forests 
remain. Mixed-herbaceous meadow steppe predominates. 

10 V. L Yavorsky and P. I. Butov, "Kuznetsky kamennougolny bassein" (The 
Kuznetsk Coal Basin.), Trudy (Proceedings), Geol. kom. (Geological Committee), 
No. 177, 1927, p. 222, with map. 

XIV The Sayans 

TTHE Sayan system forms a rough arc, convex on the 
I north. On the west it borders on the Altay, while on 
the east, between the southern end of Lake Baikal and Lake Kosogol in 
Mongolia, it adjoins the Kharnar-Daban system of the Trans-Baikal re- 


The Sayan Mountains are divided into the western and eastern ranges. 
As we shall see, at one time a distinct geological history was attributed 
to each. The West and East Sayans meet in the mountain knot which 
lies at the northernmost point of the above-mentioned arc; here, in long. 
96 E, lie the sources of the Kazyr River, which flows west and is part 
of the Yenisey basin, and the Uda River, which is part of the upper 
Tunguska basin and flows in the opposite direction. At the point where 
the West and East Sayans meet, the elevations reach 3000 m. The West 
Sayan ranges lie SW-NE and WSW-ENE, the East Sayan ranges, 

The West Sayans 1 begin east of Lake Teletsk, at the sources of the 
Bolshoy Abakan (a left tributary of the Yenisey), where the Sayans join 
the Altay. From here the main Sayan range extends northeast toward 
the Bolshoy rapids of the Yenisey, which lie between the mouths of the 
Kemchik and the Kantigir (left tributaries of the Yenisey). Almost 
throughout its entire extent the main Sayan range is composed of gran- 
ite. In the western, or Abakan section, individual peaks reach 2800 to 
2900 m. in elevation, extending above the limits of tree growth. East of 
the Yenisey the main range has not been investigated thoroughly. In 
the basin of the upper Us River (a right -tributary of the Yenisey) the 

X I. K. Bazhenov, "Zapadny Sayan" (The West Sayans), Ocherki po geologii 
Sibiri (Sketches on the Geology of Siberia), izd. Akad, nauk (publication of the 
Academy of Sciences), 1934, p. 137, with map, bibliography. 



range is called the Yergaki; farther up, as far as the upper reaches of 
the Kazyr River, it is called the Yergak-Targok-Taiga. East of the Yenisey 
the range decreases in elevation, descending generally to 1800 to 1600 m., 
in some places below the timber line; but in other places it reaches 
2100 m. (in the Yergaki range). A series of ranges which run almost 
north and south branch from the western part of the main range to 
the north; these ranges are not very long, but sometimes reach a con- 
siderable elevation (2920 m.), no lower than the main range. 

At one time the axial (main) range of the West Sayans was consid- 
ered the range which lies along the boundary of the Tuva People's Re- 
public, that is, the Sabinsky range, across which lies the border pass of 
Shabin-Daban (elevation 2060 m.)- The Sabinsky range lies north of 
the Sayan range, along the left side of the upper Kantigir (a left tribu- 
tary of the Yenisey). According to Bazhenov, the Sabinsky range is part 
of the Dzhebash range, which extends from the upper reaches of the 
streams of the basin of the Dzhebash River (a right tributary of the 
Abakan), northeast toward the Yenisey, but not reaching as far as the 
Yenisey. The main Sayan range has been drawn also along the Kemchik 
range, which branches from the Sayan range proper and extends south- 
east to the Yenisey, crossing it at the natural boundary of the Kem- 
chik-Bom. Beyond the Yenisey, to the east, the Kemchik range is called 
the Kurtushibinsk range; this frontier range, formerly regarded as the 
main Sayan range, adjoins the Yergak-Targok-Taiga range in the upper 
reaches of the Us River, and here reaches 2100 m. in elevation. Much is 
still obscure regarding the orography of the West Sayans. 

The crest of the Sayans usually does not have the form of a ridge. 
Seen from an elevation, it appears to be a dissected plateau from which 
there usually protrude rounded, domelike, bald summits, that is, summits 
which rise above the timber line (Fig. 75 ). 3 Postoyev states (1932), de- 
scribing the western end of the West Sayans, 

In some places, when the river valleys are out of sight, one seems to be in a 
rather gently rolling country, and only when one stands before a deep valley 
gorge does one get a conception of the degree to which the relief is dissected. 
This impression is promoted by the remains of the old peneplain in the form 
of flat, plateaulike areas, which lie at an elevation of about 2000 m. 

All of these features suggest that the Sayans were formed on the site 
of a peneplain, which subsequently was lifted to a considerable eleva- 
tion by mountain-forming processes. At present this peneplain has been 

2 But where the bare summits and ranges sure cut by cirques, they have pointed 
peaks and ridges. 

Fig. 63. Juniper (Jun/perus exce/so) on 
the south coast of the Crimea. (Vegefa- 
tionsbilder. Vol. 17; part 1; plate 1) 

Fig. 64. Crimean form of the Aleppo 
pine (Pinus pityusa stankewitschi [P. 
halepensis pifyuso stankewitschi]) and 
juniper (Jun/perus exce/sa) on the south 
coast of the Crimea at Sudak. (Vege- 
taiionsbilder. Vol. 17; part 1; plate 3) 

Fig. 65. Crimean pine (Pinus faricio pa/- 
/as/ana [P. nigra poirefiana]) on the south- 
ern slopes of the Yaila. (Vegetationsbilder. 
Vol. 17; part 1; plate 2) 

ig. 66. Beech forest on the northern 
ope of the Yaila. (VegeMhnsbilder. 
ol. 17; part 1; plate 3) 












-W ;:..*; 

S-'S"" r*. * 

r * 

:r'A^>^ "--'. 


Fig* 68. Coniferous forest on the slopes of Mt. Kvasya in Sverdlovsk ob/asf. (Sovfofo) 

Fig. 69. The Inner Altcy. Lake Verkhne-Multinsk and the Katun belki (snow-capped 
mountains). (Sovetskaya Sibirskaya Entsiklopedia. Vol. 1: 63) 

Fig. 70. Mt. Belukha, the highest peak in the Soviet Altay. View from the east 
with Men-su Glacier in the foreground. (Sovetskaya Sibirskaya Entsiklopedia. Vol. 

Fig. 71. The Katun River near Toguz-Kan in the Inner Altay. (Sovetskaya Sibirskaya 
Entsiklopedia. Vol. 1: 63) 

Fig. 72. Lake Rakhmanovsk in the Altay. Near the lake are hot springs of the same 
name. (Aziahkaya fcossiya. Vol. 1: 401) 

Fig. 73. Larch stand and reindeer on a state farm in the Altay (Oirot autonomous 
oblasf). (Sovfoto) 

Fig. 74. Attay ibex. The park-like character of the valley bottom is characteristic 
of the dry valleys of the Altay, (Sovfoto) 


preserved in only a few places. As in the case of the Altay, the formation 
of a peneplain on the site of the West Sayans took place during the 
Mesozoic and Tertiary periods. In the middle or at the end of the Ter- 
tiary period, faulting and uplifts took place here; they gave rise to the 
contemporary West Sayans. 

The West Sayans are composed fundamentally of a thick series of 
greenish or green-gray crystalline schists. This series, which until re- 
cently was considered pre-Cambrian, is classified now as definitely Lower 
Silurian, because of the nature of the fauna remains that are found here. 
The crystalline schists are intensely dislocated; the folding took place 
between the Devonian and the Silurian (that is, during the Caledonian 
period, particularly during the Epiisk phase). During the Lower Devo- 
nian period the sea apparently covered part of the West Sayans. (Indi- 
cations of marine deposits have been found, for example, in the Us 
basin.) Opinions differ regarding what took place during the Middle 
Devonian, but, in any case, after the Middle Devonian the sea retreated 
from the West Sayans. Following this retreat, a long continental period 

There are no glaciers at present in the West Sayans, but traces of 
Quaternary glaciation are very numerous, in the form of moraines, 
cirques, glacial lakes, U-shaped valleys, and so forth. The snow line 
during the glacial period lay approximately at the present timber line. 
Some authorities acknowledge two glaciations in the West Sayans, 
others only one. 

Areas strewn with talus kurums are very characteristic for the Sayans 
(especially the East Sayans) and the Kuznetsk Ala-Tau. In some places 
the kurums cover the flat ranges and summits; sometimes they descend 
in wide rock flows into the upper reaches of the valleys. These "rivers" 
of rock are often covered with taiga, while under the rocks, which creep 
slowly downward, streams of water may flow. Kurums are products of 
the mechanical weathering of the bedrock under the influence of tempera- 
ture fluctuation. According to Edelstein, the formation of kurums took 
place predominantly during the first half of the Quaternary period, when 
the climate was more severe and the forest vegetation did not rise so 
high into the mountains as it does today. It is difficult to believe that 
the kurums could have been formed under taiga, with which they are 
often covered today. 

The Yenisey cuts through the West Sayans in a deep and narrow val- 
ley with numerous rapids. In the region of the Bolshoy rapids the Yen- 
isey is only 55 m. wide. Often the sides of the valley rise hundreds of 


meters above tbe river; sometimes bald summits approach very close 
to the river. The tributaries which enter the main river in this section 
often flow in deep gorges. 

The Minusinsk basin? Between the northern slope of the West Sayans 
on the south and southeast, the Abakan range and the southern Kuz- 
netsk Ala-Tau on the west, and the outlying spurs of the East Sayans 
on the northeast, lies the Minusinsk basin, crossed approximately in the 
middle by the Yenisey. Its lower portions, along the Yenisey, lie at 250 
to 300 m.; its borders lie at 400 to 600 m., and, in some places, even 
higher. A part of the basin, between the Yenisey, the Abakan, and the 
foot of the West Sayans, bears the name Koibalsk steppe. On the north 
the Minusinsk basin is enclosed .by mountain ridges, which are tran- 
sected by the Yenisey and which form the uniting link between the 
Kuznetsk Ala-Tau and the East Sayans; the Bateni range, which crosses 
the Yenisey at Bateni village, is such a ridge (Edelstein, 1931). 

In the literature, the name Minusinsk basin often designates the entire 
territory of the former Minusinsk uijezd (district). But this conception, 
as Edelstein (1931) has pointed out, is mistaken. Within this area there 
are several isolated sections of undisturbed sedimentary Paleozoic depos- 
its, which are separated from one another by strips of metamorphic and 
igneous rocks. Only the southernmost area, within which lies Minusinsk, 
has the form of a basin, and Edelstein suggests that the name "Minusinsk 
basin" be restricted to that area. 

The floor of this basin is composed of Devonian and some terrestrial 
Lower Carboniferous and Permian deposits, which occur in the central 
part of the basin in relatively undisturbed condition, in some places 
horizontally. Along the periphery, closer to the West Sayans and the 
Kuznetsk Ala-Tau, they are more noticeably dislocated; die dislocations 
here are chiefly of the thrust type. But even in the bottom of the basin 
there are some areas where the Devonian and Carboniferous strata were 
subjected to violent dislocations which gave rise to folds having a north- 
west trend. 4 

Within the Minusinsk basin, loesses and loesslike clay loams, usually 
associated with the river valleys, are rather widespread. Thus, more or 

3 Ya. S. Edelstein, "Gidroigeologiclaesky ocherk Minusinskovo kraya" (Hydro- 
geological Sketch of Minusinsk Kray), Trudy Geolwzved, obyed, (Proceedings of 
the Geological Survey Society), No. 145, 1931; "Geomorfologichesky ocherk Minu- 
sinskovo kraya" ( Geomoiphological Sketch of Minusinsk Kray), Trudy Inst. fiz. 
geogr. (Proceedings of the Institute of Physical Geography), No. 22, 1936. 
i 4 ^ , S * Edektein ' "Geologichesky ocherk Minusinskoy kodoviny" (Geological 
Sketch of the Minusinsk Basin), Ocherki po geologii Sibiri (Sketches on the Geology 
of Siberia), fed. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), 1932 

THE SAYAtfS 291 

less typical loesses are developed on the terraces which lie above the 
flood plain of the Yenisey and its tributaries, the Abakan, the Tuba, and 
others. But in the region of Minusinsk these strata occupy the interstream 
spaces as well. 

The East Sayan system 5 begins on the left bank of the Yenisey above 
Krasnoyarsk, near the mouth of the Mana River (a right-bank tributary), 
and extends southeast from there, to the area between lakes Baikal and 
Kosogol. There, in the region of the Tunka graben, which is occupied 
by the Irkut valley, the East Sayans join the mountain system of the 

The East Sayans are higher than the West, and contain several gla- 
ciers. The East Sayans reach their highest point north of Kosogol, at 
tie sources of the left tributaries of the Angara (the Oka and the Irkut), 
where Mount Munku-Sardyk rises to an elevation of 3490 m. Several 
glaciers come down from this peak (Fig. 76). The valley of the Irkut 
River separates the main East Sayan range from the Tunka belki which 
lie to the north and have an elevation of up to 2400 m. North of the 
Tunka belki and parallel with them lie the higher Kitoy belki (eleva- 
tion 2900 m.). 

In the region where the East Sayans meet the West Sayans, in the 
longitude of the Biryusa and the Kazyr (tributaries of the Uda), the 
elevations reach 3000 m. From this mountain knot, at the juncture with 
the West Sayans, a chain extends WNW toward the Yenisey; this chain 
serves as the water divide between the basins of the Kan and the Mana 
on the one hand, and the Tuba on the other. It consists of a series of 
massifs: in the upper reaches of the Kan River, the Kan belki (elevation 
2162 m.); west of the upper Mana River, the Mana belki (mean eleva- 
tion 1500 to 1S50 m.; some elevations up to 1800 m.). Part of the East 
Sayan system is the Kizir-Kazyr range, which forms the water divide be- 
tween the Kizir and the Kazyr rivers, tributaries of the Tuba River, itself 
a right-bank tributary of the Yenisey which empties into that river in 
the Minusinsk basin. This range reaches an elevation of 2676 in. in Mount 
Edelstein; on the slopes of the range, traces of two glaciations appear 
very distinctly.* 

The relief of the East Sayans consists of mountain massifs with flat 
summits above which low domelike bald peaks rise in some places. As 

6 1. A. Molchanov, "Vostochny Sayan" (The East Sayans), Ocherfa po geolosft 
Sibiri (Sketches on the Geology of Siberia), izd. Akad. nauk (publication of toe 
Academy of Sciences), 1934, p. S3, with map, bibliography. 

6 A, G. Vologdin, "Kizir-Kazyrsky raion" (Kizir-Kazyr Raton), Trudy Geol- 
razved. upr. (Proceedings of the Geological Survey Board), No, 92, 1931. 


Molchanov points out, the elevation of the original peneplain decreases 
from the center of the Sayans to the periphery; in the center the pene- 
plain lies at 2300 to 2400 m. and even 3000 m., while on the periphery 
it is lower. The summits of the bald peaks are sometimes flat; the ranges, 
therefore, have the character of plateaus. The peneplain surfaces have 
been preserved much better in the East Sayans than in the West. In 
places where the East Sayans were subjected to more intense glaciation 
(as in the Tunka and Kitoy belki, and in the Kizir-Kazyr range), they 
assume an alpine relief: pointed peaks with jagged ridges. 

The East Sayans are composed of crystalline schists and crystalline 
limestones of unknown age, and extensive Cambrian strata. Marine 
Devonian strata have a limited extent in the East Sayans. In the greater 
part of the East Sayans a continental period followed the Devonian, 
On terrestrial Tertiary deposits may be found basalt crusts, sometimes 
lying on the summits of the bald peaks (for example, on Mount Ospinsk, 
elevation 2900 m.); this indicates that the East Sayans were uplifted 
relatively recently. The basalt flows, in any case, took place after the 
surface of the peneplain had been formed. The flatness of the Sayans, 
thus, has no relation to the lava crusts. 

Suess attributed the formation of the East Sayans to the original uplift 
of Asia, He argued that folding took place here during the pre-Cambrian 
period, and that since the beginning of the Paleozoic the region of the 
East Sayans has not been covered by sea. But we have seen already that 
the East Sayans were submerged by a sea during the Cambrian period, 
while intensive folding took place here during the Lower Paleozoic 
(Caledonian) period. Toward the middle of the Tertiary period the re- 
gion of the East Sayans constituted a peneplain. During the second half 
of the Tertiary period, dislocations caused by faulting took place, which 
gave rise to the contemporary relief of the East Sayans. Even before the 
uplifting of the Sayans, mighty basalt flows began; they continued, ac- 
cording to I. A. Molchanov, even into the glacial period. 

The Sayans were subjected to glaciation repeatedly. In the Irkut valley 
traces of two glaciations may be seen; during the epoch of the more in- 
tense glaciation, an ice sheet descended here to an elevation of 815 m.; 
this glacier left a terminal moraine. Traces of ancient glaciation are 
found also in many other places. At present, glaciation in the East Sayans 
is very slight In addition to Munku-Sardyk, small glaciers are found 
in a few places, some of them in the Kizir-Kazyr range. In the Kizir val- 
ley there are very distinct evidences of two glaciations, which may be 
traced down to an elevation of 450 m. 


The following mineral resources are found in the Sayans: gold (par- 
ticularly in the East Sayans), iron ores, and others. Graphite has been 
discovered in Mount Botogol (elevation 2S08 m.) in the East Sayans 
north of Lake Kosogol; the graphite was formed here as a result of the 
action of syenite magma on richly carbonated sedimentary strata, which 
are thought to be of pre-Cambrian age. The only beds of nephrite in 
the Soviet Union are found in the Kitoy and Tunka belki. 


The Minusinsk basin has hot summers and cold winters. In summer 
the temperature reaches 40 C.; in winter, there are frosts of - 50 C. 
The hot summer permits the cultivation of watermelons and melons in 
the Minusinsk forest steppe. 

Little is known about the climate of the Sayans. Southwest and west 
winds prevail, which is shown by the shape of the trees. In describing 
the West Sayans, Tugarinov (1925) writes: 

The Siberian stone pine rises highest of all into the mountains, losing, how- 
ever, the characteristics of a tree and turning into a crooked creeping shrub. Its 
recumbent branches and trunk find shelter behind rocks and crags, on the sides 
away from the prevailing winds. Wherever we may go on the mountain peaks 
throughout the high-mountain region, we can be certain always from the ap- 
pearance of the trees that the prevailing winds here are south and southwest. 
The last of the erect Siberian stone pines are completely devoid of branches on 
the side toward the prevailing winds; only those branches on the leeward side 
survive; often on the windward side even the bark is absent. 

Precipitation in die Sayans comes predominantly in the summer; it is 
at a minimum in winter. In the lowlands, for example, at Minusinsk 
(elevation 250 m.), in the Minusinsk basin, or at Usinskoye village (ele- 
vation 666 m.) in the Us River basin, the mean annual precipitation is 
less than 300 mm. On the southern slope of the West Sayans, which rise 
from the Us basin, 1220 mm. fell during one year at Buiba (elevation 
1111 m.). 7 So little snow falls in the Minusinsk basin that often it is 
possible to ride in wheeled vehicles all winter long, and stock may be 
kept on pasture throughout the winter. In the mountains, however, the 
thickness of the snow cover is considerable, in some places as much as 
2.5 m. In the East Sayans, as one goes south and southeast, the total 

7 S. P. Suslov, "Materialy po fiz,-eeogr. landshaftam Zap. Sayana i yevo predgory" 
(Materials Concerning the Physical-Geographical Landscapes of the West Sayans 
and Their Foothills), Trudy Inst. fiz. geogr. Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the In- 
stitute of Physical Geography of the Academy of Sciences), XVIII, 1936, pp. 49, 50, 


annual precipitation decreases; the amount of winter precipitation de- 
creases particularly rapidly; the percentage of summer precipitation, 
however, increases. In these trends the climate approaches that of Mon- 
golia. At Mondy station (elevation 1310 m., lat 5142'N), which lies 
on the upper course of the Irkut River, the mean temperature for July 
is lS.7 C. 9 for January, 20.9 C.; precipitation amounts to about 300 
mm. annually, with 70 per cent coming in summer. Cloudiness decreases 
southward (toward Mongolia): in the north the mean annual figure is 
60 to 55 per cent; in the south, 45 per cent. Cloudiness decreases south- 
ward particularly rapidly in winter. In the west cloudiness is distributed 
almost evenly throughout the seasons; in the east the winter is distin- 
guished by clear skies, while the summer is cloudy (Mondy: cloudiness 
in February, 20 per cent; in July, 62 per cent). 


In the Minusinsk basin, west of the Yenisey, there is grassy steppe 
vegetation consisting predominantly of capillary feather grass, the fes- 
cue grass Diplachne squarrosa, and koeleria. On the slopes the grasses 
grow in admixture with polyn. Dark-chestnut soils and southern cher- 
nozems predominate. In the steppe east of the Yenisey there are occa- 
sional pine groves growing on sands, and birch groves growing on de- 
graded chernozems and podzolic soils. The steppe sections are occupied 
by chernozems, developed on deep, calcareous, loesslike clay loams. In 
general the part of the basin east of the Yenisey is forest steppe. On the 
salinized soils thickets of iris (Iris biglumis [I. ensata] ) are common. 

In the West Sayans the foothills are covered with chernozem steppes, 
which on the south-facing slopes extend as high as 400 m. On the north- 
facing slopes the chernozems are degraded and there are many forests. 
Above 600 m. the soils are podzolic. In the foothills there are pine groves 
and birch groves; this vegetation is supposed to have appeared as a result 
of the destruction of the taiga by man. 

Higher up lies continuous taiga of Siberian stone pine, fir, spruce, larch, 
pine, and birch (European white birch and pubescent birch). In some 
places Siberian stone pine predominates; in others, fir. The undergrowth 
contains mountain ash, bird cherry, alder, honeysuckle, and juniper. 
Occasionally (for example, along the Ana River, a tributary of the 
Abakan), almost pure larch forests are found. At 1600 to 2000 m. forest 
vegetation disappears; the boundary of the forest consists of Siberian 
stone pine. In the subalpine zone the presence of Manchurian alder 
(Alnus fruticosa) is characteristic. The alpine zone contains meadows 


developed partly on meadow soils, partly on peat-bog soils. Here, as 
in the taiga, rhododendron (Rhododendron chrysanthum) and bergenia 
may be found. On areas covered with talus, there are many lichens 
and mosses. 

The Us basin, drained by the Us River (a tributary of the Yenisey), 
is bounded on the north by the Mirsk range. The floor of this basin lies 
at an elevation of about 700 m. Here soils of a podzolic type alternate 
with chernozemlike soils; in appearance the basin belongs to the moun- 
tain forest steppe. The north-facing slopes are covered with spruce- 
larch and larch forests; the south-facing slopes are steppes, on which 
pinnate feather grass is common. 8 Winter in the Us River basin is very 
severe (the mean January temperature is 29 C); the summer is warm 
(the mean July temperature is 17 C.), so that the sowing of grains is 

The vegetation of the East Sayans, in general, has the same appear- 
ance as that of the West Sayans. In the foothills, up to an elevation 
of 1000 m., pines and larches grow; higher up, taiga of fir with Siberian 
stone pine, or of Siberian stone pine, fir, and spruce, predominates. The 
deciduous trees include the birch, Mongolian poplar (Populus suave- 
olens), and aspen. At the timber line the forest consists of Siberian stone 
pine and sometimes larch. In the Belaya River basin, the upper limit of 
Siberian stone pine lies at 1800 m. 9 In the lower sections of the moun- 
tains, there are moss-grown Siberian-stone-pine groves with a continu- 
ous moss carpet; at an elevation of about 1200 m. the moss is replaced 
by a dense undergrowth of rhododendron (Rhododendron chrysanthum) , 
or kashkara, as it is called here. In other places (such as Oka kray) Sibe- 
rian-stone-pine and larch forests with a dense reindeer-moss cover lie 
below the Siberian-stone-pine zone; here the Soyot reindeer breeders 
graze their herds; sometimes Siberian stone pine predominates, some- 
times larch. On the north-facing slopes, particularly near regions of per- 
manent ground frost, there is larch taiga with a continuous reindeer- 
moss cover. Here there is much tundra rhododendron (Rhododendron 
parvifolium), black crowberry, and bog bilberry. There is no pine at all 
in Oka fcray. 10 

8 Suslov, op. ctt. 

9 V. A. Povarnitsyn, "Lesa i lesovozobnovlenie v basseine r. Beloy v Vostochnykh 
Sayanakh" (Forests and Forest Renewal in the Basin of the Belaya River in the East 
Sayans), Trudy Sot?, po fauch. proizv. stt, Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Council for 
the Study of Productive Forces, Academy of Sciences), 1934, p. 43. 

10 M. I. Nazarov, "Ocherk rastitelnosti Okinskovo kraya v Vostochnom Sayane" 
(Sketch of the Vegetation of Oka Kray in the East Sayans), Izv. Cos. geogr. obshch. 
(Report of the State Geographical Society), 1935, pp. 54-86. 


In the region of the Tunka mountains there are only 300 to 400 mm. 
of precipitation. For this reason the vegetation has a xerophytic char- 
acter. Pure stands of pine and Siberian larch are common. 

On the banks of the Irkut there are tall spruce stands in some places, 
clumps of poplars in others, and willows and Siberian pea shrub (Cara- 
gana arborescens) in still others. The north-facing slopes of the range 
are covered either with larch or spruce-fir forest, while in the gorges 
there are pure stands of Siberian stone pine. Pine forests in the Irkut 
valley extend no higher than 800 m.; at higher elevations larch pre- 
dominates. In addition, in the undergrowth of the larch forest on the 
dry slopes, there is Dahurian rhododendron, while on the moist slopes 
there is a carpet of sphagnum and hypnum mosses, with occasional 
thickets of ledum. The timber line lies at 1800 to 2000 m.; here the for- 
est consists usually of larch and occasionally of Siberian stone pine; 
however, individual trees are found as high as 2100 to 2300 m. Higher 
up (2000 to 2400 m.) lies a belt of shrubs composed of ground birch 
(Betula rotundifolia), rhododendron, willow (Salix vestita), shag-spine 
pea shrub (Caragana jubata), Manchurian alder (Alnus fruticosa), cur- 
rant (Ribes graveolens), and alpine spiraea (Spiraea alpina) (V. Koma- 
rov). Subalpine tall herbaceous meadows and alpine meadows are 
poorly represented. High-mountain "tundra," chiefly of lichen, predomi- 
nates. Near the region of everlasting snows may be found leather ber- 
genia (Bergenia crassifolia) , Altay violet (Viola altaicd), Altay gen- 
tian (Gentiana altaica), and others. 


In the foothills of the Sayans, extensive areas are covered with birch 
groves. Here are found black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), willow ptarmigan, 
varying hare (Lepus timidus), fox, wolf, European polecat (Putorius 
eversmanni), ermine, weasel, and roebuck. Steppe forms are found in 
the Minusinsk basin; for example, the Dzhungarian hamster (Phodopus 
songorus), short-tailed vole (Lagurus lagurus), sheld duck (Tadorna 
tadorna), ruddy sheldrake (T. ferruginea [Casarca ferrugiriea]), Sibe- 
rian bustard (Otis tar da dybowskii), bearded partridge (Perdix daurica 
[P. barbata]), and others. 

In the Siberian-stone-pine taiga of the West Sayan range live ermine, 
weasel, kolinsky, varying hare, Sayan forest lemming (My opus schisti- 
color saianicus), elk, red deer (Cervus ekphus canadensis sibiricus 
[C. elaphus sibiricus]), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), bear, glutton, 

THE SAYAtfS 297 

sable, lynx, musk deer, squirrel, alpine mouse hare (Ochotona alpina), 
chipmunk (Eutamias asiaticus [E. sibiricus]), flying squirrel (Pteromys 
volans), mole, and others. In winter the hazel grouse, capercaillie, wood- 
pecker, linnit, bullfinch, coal tit, tit, nuthatch, jay, nutcracker, Siberian 
jay, waxwing, rough-legged buzzard (Archibuteo pdlidus [Buteo lagopus 
pallidus]), snowy owl (Nyctea nyctea), and goshawk are found in the 

The alpine zone lies at 2100 m. and higher. In summer this zone con- 
tains many ungulates: reindeer, musk deer, Asiatic ibex (Copra sibirica), 
and sometimes elk and red deer. In summer there are also bear and 
northern dhole. The ungulates descend into the forest zone for the winter, 
and only the musk deer remains somewhat above the edge of the forest. 

The birds of the alpine zone in summer include the tundra ptarmigan 
(Lagopus mutus), water pipit (Anthus spinoletta blackistoni), willow 
warbler (Acanthopneuste borealis), black-throated diver (Colymbus 
arcticus [Gavia arcticus]), Altay snow pheasant (Tetraogallus altaicus), 
and others. In winter they include the snowy owl, rough-legged Siberian 
buzzard, and Ural owl. 11 

The Sayans are rich in economically valuable animals. Sable is still 
rather numerous in the Siberian-stone-pine groves. 12 In the mountain 
taiga the Manchurian reed deer (izyubr, or moral) is very widespread; 
it is hunted for its horns and skins. Elk is found predominantly in the 
East Sayans. Roebuck is widespread. The musk deer is very common, 
and is hunted chiefly for musk. Above the boundary of the forest and 
even above the alpine meadows, along the rocky plateaulike belki, cov- 
ered with mosses and lichens (such, for example, as the Kan or Mana 
belki), there is wild reindeer. In fall, with the coming of snow, it de- 
scends into the forest zone; the reindeer is hunted by the northern dhole 
(chikalka), common wolf, lynx, and glutton, as well as by man. On the 
southern slopes of the West Sayans there is some ibex. In the taiga 
there are many bears. Squirrels, which are of great economic importance, 
are very widespread. There is considerable ermine, which follows the 
sable, squirrel, and Manchurian red deer in importance. The domestic 
form of the reindeer is found in the Sayans among the Karagasses and 
the forest Soyots. The region inhabited by the reindeer in the Sayans 
is isolated completely from the more northern regions of its distribution. 

11 Sayansky promyslovo-okhotnichy raion (The Sayan Commercial-Hunting Region)* 
Petrograd, 1921, Chap. III. 
12 IWd,p. 145 


The Sayan deer is used exclusively as a riding and pack animal, and is 
never used in harness. 13 

The birds, in addition to those mentioned above, include the follow- 
ing: Swinhoe's snipe (Capella megala}\ solitary snipe (C. solitaria)-, 
pin-tailed snipe (C. stenura); bearded partridge; needle-tailed swift 
(Chaetura caudacuta), the tail feathers of which terminate in spines; 
Siberian swift (Apus pacificus); and the red-throated and black-throated 
thrushes (Turdus ruficollis and T. atrogularis). 

The caterpillar of the Siberian or Siberian-stone-pine dendrolimus 
(Dendrolimus sibiricus) does great damage to the pine groves of the 
East Sayans, while the fir forests suffer severely from the larvae of the 
taiga longicorn beetle, Monochamus urusovi. 

13 Ibid., p. 145. 

XV Lake Baikal and the Trans-Baikal Region 


IN its relief the Trans-Baikal region is a continuation 
of the East Sayans. Neither the East Sayans nor the 
Trans-Baikal mountains consist of elevations in the form of ranges with 
clearly expressed crests; instead, these mountains have the appearance 
of flat and wide watershed plateaus, dissected by erosion into dome* 
shaped peaks and rounded ridges. There are few peaks which stand out 
individually. The view from any of the passes is a series of flat massifs, 
overgrown with forests, separated from one another by wide and deep 
valleys. Topographic maps lead one to expect to find folded mountain 
ridges in the Trans-Baikal region. But actually the picture is quite dif- 
ferent. The ranges of this region, composed predominantly of dislo- 
cated massive crystalline strata and crystalline schists, have a generally 
ENE-WSW orientation; but die dip of the strata which compose them 
is often different. This is explained by the fact that after the folding 
processes (which took place during the Lower Paleozoic period) had 
ended, the mountain country was vigorously eroded, becoming a pene- 
plain; subsequently, as Obruchev has explained, differential vertical 
movements formed alternating zones of subsidence (grabens) and up- 
lift (horsts); it is the latter which constitute the present ranges. 

Of the ranges of the Trans-Baikal, the Yablonovy is well known; 
roughly speaking, it forms the water divide between the Arctic Ocean 
and the Amur. This is strictly true only of its southwestern part, where 
the range serves as the water divide between the Khilok (a tributary of the 
Selenga) and the Ingoda (which, together with the Onon, forms the 
Shilka); but where it extends as far as the upper course of the Chita 
River, the Yablonovy range lies on the water divide between the Vitim 
River and its tributary, the Karenga; in this region it no longer consti- 
tutes the water divide between the basins of the Lena and the Amur* The 


highest point of the Yablonovy range is Mount Saranakan (elevation 
1610 m.), 65 km. NNE of the city of Chita. Obruchev (1914) describes 
the southwestern part of the range as follows: 

As seen from the valley of the Khilok River, the Yablonovy range appears to 
be of very inconsiderable elevation. The gentle northwestern slope rises quite 
imperceptibly to the main water divide, which appears from a distance to be 
either an almost completely flat divide, or a chain of flattened hills. . . . The 
water-divide ridge constitutes a plain of varying width, covered with dense 
forest, and slightly dissected by wide saddles which are occupied by bogs. The 
tributaries of both the Khilok (Baikal basin) and the Ingoda (Amur basin) 
often have their sources in these bogs. 

At the point where the railroad crosses the Yablonovy range, the pass 
is 1050 to 1070 rn. in elevation. The heights on either side of the Khilok 
rise only 105 to 125 m. above the river; those along the Ingoda, 305 to 
325 m.; thus, the eastern slope is steeper. On the pass there is found a 
bed of post-Tertiary lacustrine deposits. 

The highest point of the entire Trans-Baikal region, Mount Sokhondo, 
is composed of dacite, 1 and reaches an elevation of 2540 m. The main 
peak of Sokhondo is completely flat, covered with large fragments of 
dacite, and has terracelike slopes. Tree vegetation in the form of 
sparse stands of Japanese stone pine and larch rises up to 2000 m. On 
Sokhondo there are distinct traces of ancient glaciation in the form of 
moraines and cirques. This bald summit in the upper reaches of the 
Ingoda River lies not far from the Mongolian border, in the Borshcho- 
vochny range, which extends northeast from here. The passes across 
this range lie at an average elevation of 950 m., while the peaks reach 
1100 m. Beyond the point where the Onon River crosses it, the Bor- 
shchovochny range lies along the right bank of the Shilka. 

Northwest from the Yablonovy range spreads the gently rolling Vitim 
Plateau, covered with bogs and a continuous larch forest, and drained 
by the Vitim River. It is composed chiefly of granites, granite-gneisses, 
and gneiss-granites. In the center of the plateau there are basalts and 
basalt lavas up to 20 m. in thickness; these igneous products came from 
several small volcanoes, now extinct, as high as 160 m. in relative elevation. 
The rivers have worn canyon-shaped courses through the igneous rocks. 
The absolute elevation of the plateau is 850 to 1450 m.; elevations of 
1000 to 1350 m. predominate. 

In the basin of the Patom River (which empties into the Lena from 

1 Dacite is an igneous rock of poxphyritic structure. 


the right, above Olekminsk) lies a mountain country, which Kropotkin 
calls the Patom Upland. In structure this land is a continuation of the 
northern Trans-Baikal region; it is composed of granites and metamorphic 
rocks. The mean elevation of the upland is 850 to 1050 m. On the north, 
toward the Lena, the upland descends to the Central Siberian Plateau 
in a 400 to 500 m. escarpment. The boundary of the upland, in general 
outline, reflects the arc of the Lena River between the mouths of the 
Vitim and the Patom. The Patom Upland is characterized by the absence 
of clearly defined ranges and the relatively uniform height of all the more 
important individual peaks. The highest point of the upland is Mount 
Longdor (elevation 1956 m.). 

The country between the Vitim and the Olekma is rich in gold. 

Western Trans-Baikal, the Vitim Plateau, and the Patom Upland, ac- 
cording to Suess, are part of the system which he believes comprises 
the original uplift of Asia; all of these regions are composed of archean 
strata which were folded during the pre-Cambrian period; they have 
not been covered by sea since the Cambrian period. However, at pres- 
ent there is reason to believe that a sea did exist here during the Lower 
Paleozoic period, and that intensive folding took place here during the 
Caledonian (Lower Paleozoic) period. 

Eastern Trans-Baikal belongs to the region of Mesozoic folding. Here 
folded marine deposits Paleozoic, Triassic, and Jurassic have been 
found. The general trend of the folds of the Mesozoic deposits is to 
the northeast, while the folds are inclined to the northwest. Less intense 
folding took place here during the Tertiary period as well. 

The water-filled basins include Lake Baikal, the most remarkable lake 
in the world. If Baikal were placed in its latitude on the map of Europe, 
it would extend approximately from Moscow to Kursk, but the climate 
of its shores, as will be seen below, is much more severe than in corre- 
sponding latitudes in Europe. Baikal is the deepest lake on earth, the 
deepest depression on any continent. Its greatest depth is 1741 m.; its 
average depth, about 700 m. Since the mean elevation of the surface of 
Baikal is 453 m., the bottom of the deepest part of this lake is almost 
1300 m. below sea level. When we consider that the mountains on the 
shores of Baikal reach about 2000 m. in absolute elevation (for example, 
the Barguzinsk Mountains), the contrast in the relief of the earth's crust 
in this region is even more remarkable. From what has been said, it is 
clear that the Baikal basin can have originated only by tectonic means. 
After the Silurian, the region occupied by Baikal today was no longer 
covered by sea. The Baikal depression was formed by subsidences, 


analogous to the subsidences (grabens) in which the Trans-Baikal re- 
gion is so rich. These subsidences took place no later than the middle 
of the Tertiary period. Corroborative evidence is found in the character 
of the contemporary fauna of Baikal, which includes many ancient forms, 
as well as in the presence on the southern shore of Baikal of Middle Ter- 
tiary lacustrine deposits which contain remains of fresh-water mollusks; 
among the latter there are gastropods, which resemble the contempo- 
rary Baikal Baicalia (see below). 

The temperature of the water in the open lake in summer is very low; 
the mean temperature of the water in August, which is the warmest 
month, is 9 C. Along the shores in summer, the temperature of the 
water rises to 15 C., and in some places even to 19 C. Baikal freezes 
very late, not until the beginning of January (Fig. 77); this late freezing 
is explained by the slow rate at which very large masses of water are 
cooled; the violent stonns which take place in autumn also have an 
effect. Up to the middle of May, Baikal is covered by a deep layer of 
ice, the thickness of which reaches 1.25 m. At great depths the tempera- 
ture of the water in Baikal is constant, slightly over 3 C. 

The character of the temperature regime of the surface waters of 
Baikal exerts a tremendous influence on the climate of its shores. Sum- 
mer in the Baikal area is cool, while the winter is milder than in the 
interior of the country, at a distance from the lake. In short, Lake 
Baikal has the effect of making the climate less continental; in July the 
mean temperature is 5 C. cooler on the shores of the lake than at a 
distance from the lake; in December, on the other hand, it is 10 C. 
wanner on the lake than at a distance from it (see Table 24, p. 306). 

The water in Lake Baikal is as clear as ocean water; transparency 
up to 40 m. has been observed. In Baikal, in addition to stationary waves, 
or "seiches," which are typical in all lakes, there are also tides, although 
these are of negligible amplitude. 

The fauna of Baikal is extremely rich and abounds in endemic forms. 
It is ancient and unique. The basins which surround Baikal contain the 
usual Siberian fauna, which is found even in the bays (sors) of Baikal. 
But as soon as we move into Baikal itself, it is as though a new world 
opens before us, in the form of a fauna so unique that I have designated 
it (1916) as belonging to a separate (Baikal) subregion of the circum- 
polar region. The fauna of Baikal includes the Baikal hair seal (nerpa, 
Phoca sibirica), which is related closely, on the one hand, to the ringed 
seal of the Arctic Ocean (P. hispida), and, on the other, to the Caspian 
hair seal. The fish include the viviparous Baikal "oilfish" (Comephows), 


a representative of a family native only to Baikal; another closely re- 
lated family, Cottocomephoridae, the Baikal representatives of which 
are called bychki, is also endemic in this lake. The Baikal whitefish 
(Coregonus autumnalis migratorius) is of great economic importance. 
Mollusks are represented in Baikal by more than eighty species; there 
are two endemic families of gastropods (Benedictiidae and Baicaliidae), 
which, like the two above-mentioned fish families, are typical fresh- 
water families. The Baikal mollusks bear some resemblance to the mol- 
lusks of the Upper Tertiary salt-water deposits of southeastern Europe, 
and also to the mollusks living at present in Lake Okhrid (on the Balkan 
Peninsula) and in some parts of the Caspian. It is worth noting that the 
mollusk genus Baicalia appears in the Lower Cretaceous fresh-water 
deposits of the Trans-Baikal region. 

Baikal is particularly rich in amphipods (Gammaridae), of which 
more than two hundred species are known here. The worms include a 
small, many-bristled worm of the genus Manayunkia, representatives of 
which are distributed extensively in the fresh and salt waters of the 
Northern Hemisphere. Some of the invertebrates found in Baikal have 
very close relatives in the tropics and subtropics ( for example, the leech 
Torix baicalensis, the bryozoan Hislopia baicalensis, and the fresh-water 
copepod HarpacticeUa inopinata). 

In the Tertiary deposits on the shores of Baikal, fresh-water bivalve 
mollusks have been discovered; they are found today in the Amur and 
in China (E. Rammelmeyer). As for the origin of the Baikal fauna, 
the hypothesis has been advanced that it had its beginnings in the sea, 
but I maintain the view that the fauna of this lake is of ancient fresh- 
water origin. 2 The endemic fauna of Baikal consists of two elements: 

(1) Ancient forms, developed in Baikal itself, from roots of which noth- 
ing more is known, during the course of its long geological existence (for 
example, sponges of the Baikal family Lubomirskiidae, several sparsely 
bristled worms, several mollusks, fish of the two above-mentioned en- 
demic families, and others). Relatives of these forms are found nowhere 
among present-day fresh-water or marine fauna; but some of them are 
found in fossil condition, for example, the above-mentioned Baicalia. 

(2) Remains (relicts) of Upper Tertiary fresh-water fauna, which inhab- 

2 For details and bibliography see L. S. Berg, Klimat i zhten (Climate and Life), 
Moscow, 1922, pp. 28-53; also "O predpolagayemykh morskikh elementakh v faune i 
flore Baikala" ( Concerning the Supposed Marine Elements in the Fauna and Flora of 
Baikal), Izv. Akad. nauk (Report of the Academy of Sciences), 1934; "Yuzhnie ele- 
menty v faune Baikala" (Southern Elements in the Fauna of Baikal), Uchen. zap. 
Lgf. univ. (Scientific Report of Leningrad University), No. 17, 1937. 



ited Siberia and possibly adjoining parts of Central Asia (as well as 
North America and eastern Europe). Finally, we must note that several 
genera which at one time were considered endemic in Baikal, have been 
discovered subsequently in the fresh waters of Siberia and even Europe. 


The climate of the Baikal and Trans-Baikal regions is unique, and is 
affected by a number of different factors. The climate of the Siberian 
taiga is found here, adjacent to the climate of the Mongolian steppe; in 
addition. Lake Baikal exercises a strong influence. The climate of Mon- 
golia is distinguished by sharp differences in the quantity of summer 

Table 23 









Ulan-Ude (formerly 












and winter precipitation; as much as 75 per cent of the total annual pre- 
cipitation may occur in summer, while in winter there is only 2 to 3 per 
cent, or even less. This type of rainfall distribution is found also in the 
southern Trans-Baikal. There is not much precipitation in the Trans- 
Baikal and the Baikal regions, the average being about 300 mm. per year, 
and in some places even less. On Olkhon Island (in Baikal) there are only 
169 mm., so that the Buryats (the inhabitants of Olkhon) have to irrigate 
their meadows; irrigation is used also in the valley of the Barguzin River. 
A large part of the shore of Baikal southwest of Olkhon is covered by 
dry steppe; here and there lie salt lakes, surrounded by solonchaks which 
bear halophytic vegetation. But in the southwestern part of the region 
there is considerable precipitation; in Mysovaya there are 515 mm., 
while in Pereyemnaya there are over 600 mm. 

The southern Trans-Baikal lies in the same latitude as Kiev and Khar- 
kov and even farther south, and the summer is generally warm, in spite 
of the relatively high elevation above sea level (500 to 800 m,). The 
winter, however, is severe. 


The maximum precipitation comes in July; the minimum, in Febru- 
ary. At Selenginsk three-fourths (74 per cent) of the total annual pre- 
cipitation comes in summer, only 3 per cent in winter. There is very little 
snow; at its greatest depth, the snow cover in winter at Ulan-Ude reaches 
only 17 cm.; at Troitskosavsk, 13 cm.; and at Olovyannaya, only 2 cm. 
As a result of the negligible snow cover, the subsoils freeze hard, and 
permanent ground frost is extensive; near Mogzon station (lat. 5143 / N) 
the depth of the permanently frozen layer reaches 67 m.; this depth, of 
course, is the extreme. In summer the subsoil thaws to an average depth 
of 3 m. Because of the negligible snow cover in this region, there is 
almost no high water in spring. 

Winter in the Trans-Baikal (as also in Yakutiya) is characterized by 
clear skies and calm. The cloudiest month is July; the clearest months, 
January and February. In general, however, there is litde cloudiness; 
the mean annual figure for Ulan-Ude is 53 per cent; for Troitskosavsk, 
47 per cent; and for Nerchinsk, 39 per cent (July and August there have 
53 per cent; January, 19 per cent). In general no part of the U.S.S.R., 
nor even of Central Asia, has such clear winter skies as the Trans-Baikal. 
The duration of insolation is very great; in Akatuy it is 72 per cent of the 
duration possible annually. In March the sun shines here 85 per cent 
of the number of hours possible; in July, 59 per cent; there are only 23 
days during the year when the sky is covered with clouds all day long. 

A region of very high pressure covers the Trans-Baikal in winter. The 
isobars (in January, atmospheric pressures converted to sea level are 
775 to 773 mm.), which generally extend from north to south, are dis- 
posed so that the pressure decreases from west to east and from south 
to north. (Over the Okhotsk and Bering seas the pressure is low.) For 
this reason winds with a western component prevail in winter; they 
range from northwest to west. In summer, on the other hand, the pres- 
sure is low over the Trans-Baikal, and the isobars are disposed so that 
in July, for example, north and northeast winds prevail; in June and 
August, northwest winds. 

Baikal, as we have said, exerts a pronounced influence on the climate 
of the surrounding area, not only in summer and autumn, but also in 
the latter half of the winter, when the lake is covered with ice. For 
illustration we present the annual course of atmospheric temperature at 
Listvenichnoye, which lies on the shore of Baikal, and at Ulan-Ude 
(formerly Verkhneudinsk), which lies in the same latitude (5150'N), 
but at some distance from the eastern shore, (The data are for the period 



Table 24 











































In January and December at Listvenichnoye it is 10 C. warmer than 
at Ulan-Ude; but in June and July on the shore of the lake it is 7 C. 
cooler than at a distance from the shore. The highest temperatures at 
Listvenichnoye occur not in July, but in August; the lowest tempera- 
tures, not in January, but in February; this lag in temperature maximum 
and minimum is found generally in a marine climate. The annual tem- 
perature range at Listvenichnoye is only 29.6 C., while at Ulan-Ude 
it is 45.4 C. 


The Trans-Baikal is unique in that here the Siberian taiga lies adja- 
cent to the Mongolian steppes. In the depressions the steppe extends far 
to the north as far as Baikal (Olkhon Island and neighboring places), 
the Upper Angara, and the Barguzin. In the mountains the taiga stretches 
from Siberia far to the south, as far as the upper reaches of the Onon 
and the Ingoda, where it protrudes into the dry steppes of Mongolia. 
This intermixture of two elements may be traced in the climate, the soils, 
the vegetation, and the fauna. 

In the Trans-Baikal there are two large zones of steppe and forest 
steppe; these are the Selenginsk on the west, and the Nerchinsk on the 
east At elevations of approximately 500 to 900 to 1000 m. there are 
steppes; from 900 to 1000 m. up to 1200 m. there is forest steppe; higher 
up there is mountain taiga, which rises in the south to elevations of 
1700 to 1900 m. The steppe and forest, naturally, extend higher up into 
the mountains in the southern Trans-Baikal than in the north; in the 
north the forest ends in some places at 1200 m. The subalpine zone ex- 
tends up to 1900 to 2200 m., where it is replaced by the alpine zone. 
Agriculture does not extend beyond 900 to 1100 m. 

The steppe and forest-steppe zones. In addition to the two large steppe 
zones mentioned above, steppe elements may be found still farther to 
the north, in the basin of the upper Angara. Here, in some places on the 
southern slopes, soils are developed which resemble steppe soils and 
which are covered with steppe vegetationfescue, koeleria, feather grass, 
steppe sedge, and others; on the north-facing slopes there are larch and 
pine-larch forests; on the wetter slopes and in the valley bottoms, grow- 


ing on podzolic soils, there are numerous Japanese-stone-pine stands, 
some pure, some with an admixture of fir and larch. 

In the basin of the Barguzin there are chestnut soils, on which are 
found polyn and feather-grass steppes; of the feather grasses, the capil- 
lary feather grass predominates. There are some solonetz soils also. The 
mountains, however, are covered with forest on the northern slopes, 
larch, on the southern slopes, pine. Between latitudes 52& N and 53^ N, 
at an elevation of about 950 m., lie the Yeravinsk steppes, which have 
slightly podzolic, dark soils. 

Farther south, at a lower elevation, lie the Nerchinsk steppes, or, more 
exactly, forest steppes; they lie at an elevation of 620 to 690 m. (The 
mountains here reach 850 m. in elevation.) The steppe areas are cov- 
ered with meadow-steppe soils with sharply distinct carbonate horizons 
beginning at a depth of 30 cm. and extending to 1.5 to 2.5 m. Several 
types of steppe may be distinguished here, according to vegetation: steppe 
covered chiefly by wheat grass (Agropyron pseudagropyron) , which is 
a very valuable fodder crop; mixed-herbaceous steppe, on which nar- 
rowleaf clematis (Clematis angustifolia) predominates; steppe on which 
the day lily (Hemerocallis graminea [H. minor] Liliaceae) is most 
prominent; and other types. In the Nerchinsk steppes columnar solonetz 
soils are widespread. The floors of the deep valleys contain solonchaks. 
In some places there are thickets of birches and willows. 

In the southeastern corner of the Trans-Baikal, through which the 
railroad passes into Manchuria, typical polyn steppes are developed on 
chestnut soils. They stretch from the land-locked Tarey lakes on the west 
to the Argun River on the east This is one of the northernmost outposts 
of the Mongolian steppes. Farther north, 50 to 70 km. from the border, 
and also westward, along the Onon. and the Selenga, steppe is found 
only in separate islands, which are part of the forest-steppe complex, 
while in the western Trans-Baikal, steppe sections are found only in 
the depressions. Between the Tarey lakes and the Argun River the steppe 
rises also into the low ranges which are found here; the lowlands, or pads, 
however, are covered with solonchak meadows. 

Grassy steppes on chestnut and forest-steppe soils are widespread in 
the western Trans-Baikal, in the basin of the Selenga and its tributaries, 
the Khilok, Chikoy, and Dzhida. In this region the elevations are distrib- 
uted as follows: 8 

S L. I. Prasolov, Yuzhnoye Zabaikalye, "Pochvenno-geografichesky ocherk* (The 
Southern Trans-Baikal Region: a Sketch of the Soil-Geography), Mat. Kom. po tested, 
resp. (Materials of the Commission for the Study of the Republics), izd. Akad. nauk 
(publication of the Academy of Sciences), No. 12, 1927, p. 131. 


Table 25 




Main valleys 
Secondary valleys 
Passes across the ranges 
Summits of the ranges 

500 to 600 
600 to 800 
900 to 1000 
1000 to 1200 

The Burin-Khan hills (elevation 1640 m.), which lie between the 
Dzhida and the Temnik, 4 are covered, up to an elevation of 800 to 900 m., 
with dry grassy steppe on dark-chestnut soils and southern chernozems. 
The summits of the hillocks in this steppe stand out because of the pre- 
dominance on them of Siberian tansy (Tanacetum sibiricum). Higher 
up, on the shady slopes, coppices of larch appear; this forest steppe 
lies at 900 to 1200 m. At an elevation of 1200 to 1300 m. there is a birch- 
larch forest The flat summit of the Burin-Khan is covered with a mossy 
taiga of larch, spruce, and Japanese stone pine. 

Considerable tracts in the region between Selenginsk and Troitskosavsk 
are covered by sands which represent alluvial post-Tertiary deposits, 
sorted during the dry postglacial epoch. Loesslike sandy loams are found 
here also. The sands are covered (or were covered until recently) with 
pine groves, which in some places alternate with sections of steppe cov- 
ered with sandy-loam chestnut soils. Therefore, this region must be class- 
ified with the forest steppe, which descends very low here, below 600 m. 
in absolute elevation. Trans-Baikal pine groves are distinguished from 
European pine groves by the abundant undergrowth of Dahurian rho- 
dodendron and the profusion of orchids. 

Besides pine groves in the Trans-Baikal forest steppe, there are small 
birch woods and also larch and birch-larch woods. 

The mountain taiga. As one ascends, the pine groves, as well as the 
birch and aspen, disappear gradually, and larch begins to predominate, 
in some places together with Japanese stone pine; on the high ranges, 
Japanese stone pine occasionally predominates. On Sokhondo, Japanese 
stone pine ascends to an elevation of 2000 m. 

As we have said, the taiga in the southern Trans-Baikal begins at 
1200 m. But this is true only in general; there are exceptions. Thus, 
around Lake Baikal the taiga usually extends down to the elevation 
of the lake; for example, on the northwest slopes of Khamar-Daban, 

4 One branch of the Temnik River empties into the Selenga, the other into Lake 


Japanese stone pine grows on the shore of the lake itself (although there 
are steppes on Baikal also, for example, on Olkhon Island). 

But in the northern Trans-Baikal the taiga often ends at 1200 m. Thus, 
in the basin of the Tungir River (a right tributary of the Olekma, lat 
54 to 55 N), according to Sukachev, 5 forests of Dahurian larch pre- 
dominate, with an undergrowth of Dahurian rhododendron, which 
reaches 2.5 m. in height; sometimes the undergrowth contains the 
shrubby Middendorffs birch (Betvla middendorffii) , which grows 2 m. 
tall. The herbaceous cover consists mostly of cowberry and crystal tea 
ledum (Ledum palustre). On the sandy soils and clay loams there is 
pine; very rarely there is Siberian spruce. The Asiatic white birch 
(Betula platyphylla) is not numerous, nor does it extend far up the 
slopes; occasionally there are Erman's birch (B. ermani), aspen, Mongo- 
lian poplar, and bird cherry; mountain ash extends as far as the timber 
line. At an elevation of 1200 to 1300 m. the taiga ends; it is replaced by 
Japanese stone pine (Pinus pumila), characteristic for the subalpine 
strip; this pine grows 2 to S m. tall here, and forms almost impassable 
thickets. The above-mentioned shrubby Middendorffs birch appears here 
also, together with the Japanese stone pine. Two other plants which 
.grow here are the characteristic East Siberian ericaceous alpine plant, 
Cassiope ericoides, and the alpine ptarmiganberry (Arctostaphylos air 
pina [Arctous alpinus] ) . Above the zone of Japanese-stone-pine groves 
lies the alpine zone of bald summits, with many lichens, as well as some 
of the higher plants: alpine ptarmiganberry, ledum, cowberry, black 
crowberry, an arctic species of diapensia (Diapensiaceae), severny zlak 
("northern grass"), alpine sweet grass (Hierochloe alpina), rhododendron 
(Rhododendron chrysanthum), Japanese stone pine, and shrub birch. 
Here, as is usually true throughout the Trans-Baikal (but not, for example, 
in the Altay), there is no belt of wet meadows in the alpine zone. 

In the region of Mount Sokhondo, in the southern Trans-Baikal, there 
are larch forests with Japanese stone pine at lower elevations; there are 
also some pine, birch, and aspen. Tree vegetation extends up to 2000 
m. Under the taiga the soils are slightly podzolic. Higher up lies a sub- 
alpine shrub belt of Japanese stone pine, East Siberian dwarf birch 
(Betula exilis), rhododendron (Rhododendron chrysanthum) > and juni- 

5 V. N. Sukachev, "Rastitelnost verkhney chasti basseina r. Tungira Olekminskovo 
okr. Yakutskoy obi." (Vegetation of the Upper Part of the Tungir River Basin in 
Olekminsk Okrug of Yakutsk OUast), Trudy Amursk. eksp. (Proceedings of the 
Amur Expedition), No. 16, botan. issled. (Botanical Survey), 1910 g., Vol. 1, St. 
Petersburg, 1912, p. 286. Formerly these localities did not belong to the administrative 
unit of the Trans-Baikal. 


per (Juniperus davurica). Below the rock-strewn summits there are 
glades, which bear a variegated carpet of dicotyledons; such glades 
are rare in the Trans-Baikal. 


The fauna of the Trans-Baikal displays the same intermixture of 
steppe and taiga forms as does the vegetation. In the steppe and forest- 
steppe areas the suslik (Citellus eversmanni and C. dauricus), Mongolian 
bobac (the marmot Marmota sibirica), jerboa (Attactaga saltator mon- 
gollca [A. sibirica mongolica]), Dahurian hamster (Cricetulus furuncu- 
lus [C. barabensis]), Siberian red-backed mouse (Evotomys rutilus 
[Clethrionomys rutilus]), various species of meadow mice of the genus 
Microtus, Dahurian burrowing rat (Myospalax dybowski), and hare 
(Lepus tolai) are common. Many Mongolian birds nest here: the sheld 
duck (Tadorna tadorna), ruddy sheldrake (T. ferruginea [Casarca fer- 
ruginea]), Indian goose (Anser indicus), saker falcon (Falco cherrug), 
demoiselle crane (Anthropoides virgo), Siberian bustard (Otis tarda 
dybowsldi), avocet (Recurvirostra avocetta), Mongolian lark (Melano- 
corypha mongolica), and others. 

The Trans-Baikal taiga contains bear, sable, glutton, wolf, northern 
dhole, lynx, squirrel, flying squirrel (Pteromys volans), birch mouse 
(Sicista montana [S. betutina montana]), mountain sheep, roebuck, 
Manchurian red deer, elk, and reindeer (Rangifer angustirostrte [R. fe- 
randus angustirostris]). There are many East Siberian taiga birds. 

The rose finch (Carpodacus roseus) and the pine grosbeak (Pinicola 
enudeator) are characteristic of the Japanese-stone-pine thickets in the 
Trans-Baikal; in fact, they are characteristic of eastern Siberia in gen- 

The tundra ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), dotterel (Eudromtos mori- 
nellus), and horned lark (Eremophila alpestris flava [Otocoris alpestrls 
fiava]), nest in the alpine zone. A remarkable shore bird, the Polynesian 
tattler (Heteractites incana brevipes [Heteroscelus brevipes]), nests in 
the Baikal area; the nearest relative of this bird nests in Alaska. The 
rock thrush (Monticola saxatilis turkestanica) nests on the rocky preci- 
pices of the northern Baikal area; this bird, which is native to dry and 
warm countries (for example, the Crimea), is undoubtedly a relict of 
the xerothennic period. 

The amphibians of the Trans-Baikal (Nerchinsk, Troitskosavsk) in- 
clude the Asiatic tree frog (Hyla stepheni). 

XVI - Mountains of Northeastern Siberia 

THIS region includes the Verkhoyansk, Chersky, and 
Kolyma (Gydan) ranges, and the heights of Chukotsk 
National okrug. 


During recent years considerable changes have taken place in our con- 
ceptions of the Verkhoyansk system, which lies east of the middle and 
lower course of the Lena, guess, in agreement with Maidel, held that the 
Verkhoyansk range merges on the southeast into the Kolyma range, 
which lies along the northern shore of the Sea of Okhotsk. But the most 
recent investigations have shown 1 that to the east of Okhotsk (village) 
there is no continuous latitudinal range. (Maidel continued the Kolyma 
Mountains far to the west, while in fact they do not extend west of the 
Yama River, which empties into the Sea of Okhotsk at Yamsk.) 

Tectonically the Verkhoyansk range appears to be a continuation of 
the Dzhugdzhur (Aldan) range, which lies along the western shore of 
the Sea of Okhptsk. 

The Verkhoyansk system includes the Verkhoyansk range; the Tas- 
Kystabyt range, which lies west of the Chersky range; the Chersky range; 
and several other elevations in Northeast Asia. The development of dis- 
located Triassic marine sediments is common to all of these ranges. The 
folding took place roughly from east to west. 

The Verkhoyansk range lies on the water divide between the Lena, the 
Yana, and a part of the Indigirka. To the north it extends as far as the 
Arctic Ocean, and to the south as far as the Suantar River, which lies in 
the basin of the upper reaches of the Indigirka. 

1 S. Obmchev, "Kolymsko-indigirsky kray, Geograf. i geolog. ocherk" (Kolyma- 
Indigirka Krat/, Geographical and Geological Sketch), Trudy Soveta po izuch* proizv. 
stt, ser. yakut (Proceedings of the Council for the Study of Productive Forces, Yaku- 
tian Series), No. 1, 1931, with map. U. A. Bilibin, "O khrebtakh severo-vostoka AaoT 
(Concerning the Ranges of Northeastern Asia), Problemy sov. geologil (Problems in 
Soviet Geology), 1935, No. 12, pp. 1079-1085. 



Bilibin (1935) draws the Verkhoyansk range as far south as the lower 
course of the Yudoma River (a tributary of the Maya). Here, to the east 
of that part of the Aldan which flows from south to north, lie mountain 
chains with individual peaks up to 1800 m. in elevation; these chains 
are composed of Lower Paleozoic limestones, and, like the strata of which 
they are composed, are oriented in a northeast direction. Bilibin calls 
these chains the Setta-Daban. 

In the south, in the region of the upper Indigirka, the elevations of the 
range reach 2500 m.; in the region of the road from Yakutsk to Verkho- 
yansk, 2000 m.; the range decreases in elevation to the north. The Ver- 
khoyansk range belongs to the category of folded ranges; it is composed 
predominantly of a thick series of shales and sandstones ("the Verkho- 
yansk complex") of Upper Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, and Jurassic 
age. There are no extensive Lower Paleozoic deposits in the Verkhoyansk 
range. The last of the folding movements which gave rise to the range 
took place at the end of the Triassic and the beginning of the Jurassic. 3 
During the Middle Jurassic the sea withdrew from the region of the 
range. The presence of terraces 300 to 350 m. above the valley bottoms 
(A. Grigoryev, 1926) indicates that an uplift took place during the post- 
Tertiary period. 

Vanyushin (1937) points out that the Verkhoyansk range, in the region 
between the Vilyuy and the Aldan rivers, must be considered not as a 
folded range, but as an uplifted peneplain, that is, a range of the massif 
type. The summits of many of the mountains have the character of a 
plain, so that they present the appearance of table mountains; in general, 
long chains are absent, but there are many large elevations which consist 
of flat, undissected plateaus. 

Looking down at the district from the high mountains, a picture typical for 
the Verkhoyansk region unfolds before the observer: as far as the eye can 
reach, there lie numerous separate, chaotically disposed, sandstone-shale moun- 
tains of the table type, approximately of the same height; they have gentle con- 
tours in the basin of the Yana River, and sharper relief in the direction of the 
Lena basin. 

According to this observer, S. S. Vanyushin, the region of the Verkhoy- 
ansk range constituted a peneplain, which was uplifted during the 
Upper Tertiary period, and then dissected by river erosion, 3 

2 N. P. Kheraskov, "Skhema tektoniki Verkhoyanskoy skladchatoy zony" (Scheme 
of the Tectonics of the Verkhoyansk Folded Region), Problemy sov. geologii (Prob- 
lems in Soviet Geology), 1935, No. 4, pp. 368-382. 

3 S. S. Vanyushin, "Fiziko-geografichesky ocherk zapadno-verkhoyanskovo rudnovo 
raiona" (Physical-Geographical Sketch of- the West-Verkhoyansk Mining Region), 
to. Geogr. obshch. (Report of the Geographical Society), Vol. 69, 1937, pp. 783-788. 


The range bears traces of no less than two glaciations. On the Aldan 
slope glaciers of the alpine type descended at one time as far as the 
Aldan valley. 

In the upper Indigirka region lies the Oimekon Plateau, which does 
not exceed 1500 m. in elevation. It is noted for its low winter tempera- 
tures, which rival those of Verkhoyansk. 

The Chersky range (or Ulakhan-Chistay), which consists of several 
parallel chains, cuts across the upper course of the Indigirka and the 
Kolyma. The Chersky range is little known, and Bilibin doubts even that 
it exists as a separate orographic entity, maintaining that, at least in the 
southern part, it is not a folded range, but a "vast upland consisting of 
elevations of approximately uniform height, composed of sedimentary 
rocks, among which rise individual granite massifs/' In any case, in the 
region where it crosses the Indigirka, the range, or upland, or plateau- 
whatever it may be called in this place reaches elevations of 2000 to 
2500 m., and perhaps even higher. Both the Kolyma and the Indigirka 
cut the range at right angles in narrow gorges, or "rift'* valleys. The rift 
valley of the Indigirka, which passes through the highest part of the 
range, is particularly majestic; here the valley floor lies 1500 to 2000 m. 
below the summit of the range. Part of the range extends beyond the 
Kolyma onto the Pacific slope, in the direction of the Sea of Okhotsk. 
Along the Pacific the mountain ranges usually lie parallel to the contour 
of the shore, but in this place the Triassic folds lie SSE-NNW, while the 
shore trends east and west. 

The Chersky range consists fundamentally of the same thick folded 
series of rocks (the Verkhoyansk complex) as the Verkhoyansk range; 
on the north it joins chains which consist predominantly of Paleozoic 
deposits; in both formations granite intrusions, which compose the high- 
est parts of the chains, are very common. 

Bilibin is inclined to call these Paleozoic chains a range, pointing out 
that they are equivalent to the Tomus-Khay, or Garmychan range, 
which lies in the basins of the rivers Moma (a right tributary of the 
Indigirka) and Yasachnaya (a left tributary of the Kolyma). The Garmy- 
chan range continues west across the Moma basin along the left bank 
of the Indigirka, and merges into the Tas-Khayakhtakh range, 4 which 
lies on the watershed between the Indigirka and the Yana. At any rate, 
the geological structure of the Tas-Khayakhtakh range is related very 
closely to the structure of the Paleozoic chains of the Chersky range; 
granites are very extensive in both formations. 

* Concerning this range, see V. A. Fedortsev, Igo. Go& geogr. obshch. (Report of 
the State Geographical Society), 1935, No. 5, p. 592. 


During the glacial period a tremendous ice sheet covered the Chersky 
range. In the region where the Indigirka cuts through the range, glaciers 
descended to an elevation of 400 m., as is evident from the presence of 
moraines at this elevation. Some of the glaciers were over 150 km. long. 

Between the Kolyma (Fig. 78) and its right tributary, the Omolon, 
lies the Yukagirsk Plateau, which has an elevation of 300 to 800 m. It 
is composed chiefly of horizontal Triassic deposits. 

Along the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, northeast from the Yama River 
(which empties into the Sea of Okhotsk at Yamsk), lies the Kolyma, 
or Gydan range, which has an average elevation of 1500 to 1600 m. in 
the upper course of the Omolon River. The Kolyma (Gydan) range does 
not reach as far north as the basin of the Bolshoy Anyuy River, a right 
tributary of the Kolyma. Traces of former glaciation have been discov- 
ered in this range. 

On the watershed between the Anadyr and the rivers of the Arctic 
Ocean basin lies the Anadyr range, with elevations over 2000 m. 5 On the 
northern shore of Kresta Bay lies Mount Matachingay (elevation about 
2800 m.), 6 the highest point in Chukotsk National okrug; it rises sharply 
above the surrounding heights, which do not exceed 450 to 600 m. 
Matachingay may be a volcano andesites and liparites have been found 
at its foot. In the vicinity of Matachingay traces of former glaciation are 
very distinct. 

From the Parapolsky Dol (which divides Kamchatka from the con- 
tinent) the Koryak range extends to the northeast. The elevations do not 
exceed 1500 m. 

We must keep in mind that traces of ancient glaciation in north- 
eastern Siberia are found only in the mountains. As in Alaska, there were 
no glaciers in the lowlands. This fact is corroborated not only by geo- 
morphological data, but also by evidence from the fields of botanical 
and zoological geography. 


Very little is known of the climate of the mountains of Northeast 
Siberia, because there are no meteorological stations in the mountains. 
However, the following data deserve mention. In the southern foothills 
of the Verkhoyansk range, at an elevation of 1020 m., in lat 64 N, lies 

5 S. Obruchev, "Orografichesky ocherk Chulcotskovo okruga" (Orographic Sketch 
of Chukotsk Okrug), Trudy Arktich. inst. (Proceedings of the Arctic Institute), LIV, 

6 According to Litke (1828), the elevation of Matachingay is 2625 m. 


the Mangazeisk silver-lead deposit (formerly the Semenovsk mine), 
where meteorological observations, conducted during the course of one 
year ( 1917-1918 ), 7 showed that a large-scale inversion of temperature 
takes place in winter. In January it is comparatively warm, the mean 
temperature being 29 C., while in Verkhoyansk it is 50 C., and 
in Yakutsk, - 43 C. The mean July temperature is only 8.3 C. There 
was very little precipitation during that year, only 163 mm. (a maximum 
in August, 44 mm.). In the upper reaches of the Indigirka, on the Oime- 
kon Plateau, very low winter temperatures (lower than 60 C,) have 
been recorded during recent years. 


In the Verkhoyansk range the Dahurian larch predominates. In the 
foothill river valleys it is accompanied by Mongolian poplar; in some 
places on sandy soils there grow small pine woods. In the mountains on 
the southern slope, the larch is accompanied sporadically by birch; and 
in the valleys, on the podzolic soils which lie above the flood plain, by 
Siberian spruce. Along the streams and brooks there are small woods of 
Mongolian poplar, willow, larch, and individual spruces. The larch forest 
along the road from Yakutsk to Verkhoyansk rises to an elevation of 
950 m., while individual larches occur even 100 m. higher. Above this 
lies wooded tundra of recumbent birches (Betula middendorffii and 
B. subtilis), recumbent Japanese stone pine, and a series of flowering 
herbaceous plants. The pass lies here at an elevation of 1420 m. 8 On the 
northern slope of the Verkhoyansk range there is no spruce. To the east, 
along the passes in the Indigirka basin, larch forests occur up to an eleva- 
tion of 1400 m. In the Chersky range near the Arctic Circle, on the Indi- 
girka River, the timber line lies at an elevation of 650 m. As in the Ver- 
khoyansk range, there is some Erman's birch (Betula ermani) in the 
Chersky range. 

East of the Kolyma basin the mountains are uiiforested, with this ex- 

r V. B. Shostakovich, "Materialy po klimatu Yakutskoy A.S.S.R." (Materiab Con- 
cerning the Climate of the Yakutsk A.S.S.R.), Mat. Yakut, feom. (Materials of the 
Yakutian Commission), VI, 1927. 

8 A. Birkenhof, in the publication Lesnie resursy Ydkutii (Forest Resources of 
Yakutiya), "Yakutskaya A.S.S.R." (The Yakutian A.S.S.R.), No. 3, isd. Akad nauk 
(publication of the Academy of Sciences), 1932, p, 14. 

9 S. N. Nedrigailov, Mat. Kom. po izucheniyu Yahitii ( Materials of the Commission 
for the Study of Yakutiya), XII, 1928, pp. 356-361. According to Chersky ( 1893), on 
the northeastern slope of the Verkhoyansk range, in lat. 63 N, the forest extends up 
to 1730 m.; I have pointed out the improbability of this figure in Osnovy klima- 
tologii (Principles of Climatology), 1927, p. 255. 


ception: along the upper course of the Anadyr and the middle course 
of its tributary, the Main, there are larch forests. 

The northernmost outposts of forest in northeastern Siberia are along 
the right (northern) tributaries of the Maly Anyuy (a tributary of the 
Kolyma) ; here Dahurian larch is found in lat. 69 N. In the upper reaches 
of the Bolshoy and Maly Anyuy rivers, the larch, as has been pointed out, 
extends into the basin of the Anadyr, but it has spread only along the 
upper course, as far south as lat. 65 N. 

Along the river valleys of Anadyr kray, beyond the boundary of con- 
tinuous forests, are scattered small woods of Mongolian poplar (Populus 
suaveolens) and the relict Korean willow (Salix macrolepis) ; here and 
there on the elevated portions of the valleys there are small islands of 
white birch (Betula cajanderi). In the valley of the Anadyr, Japanese 
stone pine (Pinus pumila) is widespread; there is Japanese stone pine 
lower down also, next to the flood plain, as well as on the hills and on 
the mountain slopes; in some places it forms vast impassable thickets 
(L. Portenko). 

At one time, apparently during the xerothermic period, forests occu- 
pied a greater extent in Anadyr kray, but today they have been replaced 
by tundra or wooded tundra. 

In the Verkhoyansk and Kolyma (Gydan) ranges, as in the adjoining 
lowlands, forests of Dahurian larch, with an undergrowth of Japanese 
stone pine, predominate. Poplar and willows grow in the valleys. In the 
mountains of the Anadyr and Penzhina basins, a subalpine type of vege- 
tation is widespread; it takes the form of Japanese-stone-pine groves with 
Manchurian alder (Alnus jruticosa) and shrubby MiddendorfFs birch 
(Betula middendorffii) , and with a great many lichens. On the Chukotsk 
Peninsula and in the Anadyr range, lichen tundras and areas covered 
with talus predominate. 


The fauna of the mountains of northeastern Siberia has been little 
studied. The mammals include the mountain sheep (Ovis nivicola), 
which is found as far as Chukotsk National okrug; 10 musk deer; black- 
capped bobac (Marmota camtschatica bungei), which is associated with 
the high-mountain tundra; and Kolyma suslik (Citettus eversmanni bux- 
toni), which does not ascend high into the mountains and is not found 
in the Verkhoyansk range. Another animal found here is the lemminglike 

10 According to the Luoravetians, at one time the mountain sheep extended as far 
as Cape Dezhnev. 


mountain vole (Arvicola letnmina [Aschizomys lemminus]). The suslik 
and bobac go into hibernation during the cold period of the year, which 
lasts eight to nine months, and sleep in the permanently frozen subsoil. 
The presence of steppe rodents (suslik and bobac) so far north and up 
in the mountains is curious. The squirrel, fox, and ermine are very 
common in the mountain forests. In the Verkhoyansk range the Amur 
lemming (Lemmus amurensis) has been found; apparently, it descended 
from the mountains of eastern Siberia into the Amur basin during the 
glacial period. Among the birds of economic importance, the capercaillie 
(Tetrao parvirostris) and the hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasto) are 
common. Other typical birds which nest in the mountains include the 
harlequin duck, mountain-tundra ptarmigan, Polynesian tattler (Heter- 
actitis incana brevipes [Heteroscelus brevipes]), and Mongolian plover 
(Aegtolitis mongolus [Charadrius mongolus]). The nutcracker (Nuci- 
fraga caryocatactes macrorhynca) is common in the thickets of Japanese 
stone pine, where it feeds on the pine nuts. The tundra ptarmigan 
( Lagopus mutus) inhabits the rock-strewn areas overgrown with lichens. 
The great knot (Erolia tenuirostris)* 1 nests in the alpine zone of the 
mountains of Anadyr "kray, at an elevation of 500 to 600 m. 

11 L. A. Portenko, "Ornitogeograficheskie sootnosheniya na krainem severo-vostoke 
Palearktiki v svyazi s osobennostyami landshafta" ( Ornithogeographical correlations 
in the Extreme Northeast of the Palearctic, in Relation to the Landscape Features), 
Pamyati M. A. Menzbira (In Honor of M. A. Menzbier), Moscow, 1937, izd. Akad. 
nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), p. 395. 

XVII - Mountains of the Far East 


THIS CHAPTER DEALS with the Amur basin, 
except for the Shilka and Argun basins, which 
are described in Chapter XV. 


Geographers at one time pictured the Stanovoy range, which they 
drew from the Trans-Baikal to Bering Strait, as lying on the watershed 
between the Arctic and the Pacific oceans. This conception originated 
in the first half of the seventeenth century, when the Cossacks from 
Yakutsk penetrated across the mountains to the Sea of Okhotsk in one 
direction, and in the other, into the Amur basin, at the point where the 
Zeya empties into the Amur and where Blagoveshchensk stands today 
(Poyarkov in 1644). But this conception is inadmissible, first of all, 
because the outlying spurs of the Chersky range (pp. 313-314), which 
extend as far as the northern shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, cross the expanse 
of the conjectural Stanovoy range at a right angle. Furthermore, as Kropot- 
kin wrote, back in 1875, "there does not exist any single range either 
high or low, either steep or flat which lies along the watershed between 
the waters of the Pacific and the Arctic oceans/' Kropotkin referred to 
the region of the upper Olekma. The most recent investigations confirm 
anew Kropotkin's conception, concerning not only the upper reaches of 
the Olekma, but also, to the best of our knowledge, the region as far as 
the upper reaches of the Zeya, as well. The rivers of the Lena and Amur 
basins do not have their source in a water-divide range, but originate on 
a rather high plateau bordered on the north and south by ranges across 
which rivers force their way either toward the Lena or toward the Amur. 
The border range which faces the Lena basin is usually called the Stano- 
voy, but it does not have any significance as a water divide. 


The Stanovoy range in the upper reaches of the Zeya was explored 
by Prokhorov in 1911. The watershed between the Zeya and the Lena 
basins is a plateau, lying at an absolute elevation of 1300 to 1450 m. and 
covered with lakes and low ridges. On the north and on the south this 
plateau is bordered by mountain chains. The highest chain, which, as 
we have said, may be called the Stanovoy range, lies on the north. It is 
interesting to note that the rivers of the Lena basin have their source 
not on the northern slope of this chain (that is, not in the Stanovoy 
range), but at the foot of its southern slope; they cut across the chain 
transversely. The elevations of the main chain of the Stanovoy range, 
which drops sharply to the north, reach 2000 to 2500 m. The southern, 
secondary chain is much lower; the peaks here do not exceed 1400 m. 
in elevation. 

Today the name Stanovoy is given to the system of ranges which lie 
between the upper reaches of the Aldan River and its tributary the Maya. 
The structure and tectonic history of the Stanovoy range are the same 
as those of the northern Trans-Baikal and the Olekma-Vitim mountain 
country, and the principal folding in all of these regions is attributed 
to the Lower Paleozoic. 

To the west the Stanovoy merges into the system of chains which are 
known as the Olekma-Baikal system. 1 This system, which extends from the 
upper reaches of the Aldan to the northern end of Lake Baikal, is com- 
posed of two ranges: the eastern, which lies between the big rapids on 
the Olekma in lat. 57 N and the region in which the Muya empties into 
the Vitim, is the Udokan range; west of the Vitim lies the other range 
the South-Muya. The Olekma-Baikal system lies approximately east- 
northeast. The elevations in this system reach 2000 m.; elevations of 
2800 m. and more have been reported in the Udokan range, but these 
figures are not reliable. In the Udokan and neighboring ranges there are 
distinct traces of glaciation. 3 At the eastern end of the Udokan range, in 
the region where it approaches the Olekma River, it joins the north- 
eastern end of the Yablonovy range; this mountain country is strongly 

According to V. Obruchev, the Olekma-Baikal range is part of the 
Stanovoy system, but I do not agree. The Stanovoy range was under- 

1 For details see L. S. Berg, Udbenie zap. Moslc. univ. (Scientific Report of Mos- 
cow University), (Geography), 1936, p. 62. 

2 A. A, Arsenyev, "K geomorfologil Oldcmo-Vitimpkoy gornoy stran/' (Concerning 
the Geomorphology of the Olekma-Vitim Mountain Country), Byutt. Mask, obshch. 
i$p. prtr. (Bulletin of the Moscow Society for Natural Research), otd. geol. (Geo- 
logical Section), XV, 1937, pp. 42&-431. 


stood originally to be a range lying at least approximately in the region 
of the watershed between the Lena and the Amur; the Olekma-Baikal 
range, however, belongs entirely to the Lena system. 3 

The Bureya range, or the Little Khingan, begins in the upper reaches 
of the Selemdzha, crosses the upper course of the Bureya, and then 
extends toward the Amur, with the Bureya on its right side. In the north 
this range reaches elevations over 2000 m. 4 In addition to deep-lying 
igneous and metamorphic rocks, it contains undisturbed Paleozoic, as 
well as Mesozoic rocks. Where the Bureya Mountains cross the Amur, 
the river flows through a narrow gorge, which has sheer cliffs in some 

Between the Ussuri River and the lower Amur on the west, and the 
Sea of Japan and Tatar Strait on the east, lies the Sikhote-Alin mountain 
system, consisting of a series of ranges extending in a northeast-southwest 
direction. In the south the Sikhote-Alin extends as far as Vladivostok. It 
does not follow that the highest range of the Sikhote-Alin lies on the 
water divide between the Sea of Japan, on the one hand, and the Ussuri 
and the Amur, on the other; the sources of the rivers of 'both these basins 
often extend to the opposite slope. 

According to the character of the seacoast, the eastern slope of the 
Sikhote-Alin may be divided into two strikingly different sections. The 
southern, from Peter the Great Bay to Olga Bay, is strongly dissected, 
and has many indentations. The northern, from Olga Bay to DeCastries 
Bay, has undissected shores; here, with the exception of Sovetskaya 
Gavan, there is not one bay. The explanation for these differences in 
the coast line lies in the fact that to the north of Olga Bay the shore lies 
parallel to the chains of the Sikhote-Alin, while to the south the shore 
line cuts across the mountain chains at a right angle, to form Posyet, 
Amur, Ussuri, and other bays, as well as a number of islands (Putyatin, 
Askold, Russky, and others). 

Individual peaks almost reach (in the south, northeast of Suchan) 
or somewhat exceed (in the north, in lat 48J N) 1900 m. c The mean 
elevation of the peaks is 650 to 850 m. 

At die extreme south, in Suchan raion, the highest peaks only slighdy 

3 See Berg, op. cit. 

4 S. L. Kushev, "K geomorfologii Bureinskovo khrebta" (Concerning the Geomor- 
phology of the Bureya Range), ArngurirSelenidzhinskaya eksp. (Amgun-Selemdzha 
Expedition), I, 1934, izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences). 

5 The highest point is Mount Komarov (elevation 1940 m.), in the upper reaches 
of the Kopi River (A. Yemelyanov, Izv. Dalne-Vostochnovo filicla Akad. nauk 
[Report of the Far Eastern Branch of the Academy of Sciences], 1937). 

Fig. 76. Munku-Sardyk Glacier and Mt. Munku-Sardyk in the Eastern Sayans. 
(Sovetskaya Sibirskaya Entsiklopedia. Vol. 1: 200) 

Fig. 77. Lake Baikal in November. The steep shore at Ma lie Koty. (Sovetskaya 
Sibirskaya Entsiklopedia. Vol. 1: 200) 










Fig. 80. Primeval stand of birch (Befu/a ermam) in Kamchatka. (VegefafronsJbifc/er. 
Vol. 23; part 1/2; plate 8) 

Fig. 81. Angelica urs/na in a well drained valley meadow in Kamchatka. (Vege- 
fafionsbi/o'er. Vol. 23; part 1/2; plate 5) 


exceed 1300 m. The range is built of igneous, metamorphic, and sedi- 
mentary Paleozoic rocks. There are also basalt fields which form table 
mountains. The extrusion of these basalts took place at different periods; 
there are some pre-Tertiary basalts, but there are also some which were 
extruded during the Quaternary period. Along the borders Carbonifer- 
ous, Triassic, and Jurassic deposits have been found; these, however, are 
not a part of the structure of the range itself. The Sikhote-Alin is a folded 
range, formed by folding which began during the Lower Cretaceous 
period. In Suchan rich deposits of coal are being worked; they underlie 
the Nikansk series (Upper Cretaceous to Lower Jurassic). At Tetyukhe 
(north of Olga Bay) there is a lead-zinc deposit, which lies in the form 
of a lens along the boundary between the porphyry and the limestones 
(probably Triassic). Terraces containing the shells of mollusks which 
still inhabit the Sea of Japan are found on the shore of that sea; they 
indicate that a shifting of the coast line has taken place. 


Little is known about the climate of the mountains of the Far East, 
The monsoon type of climate is clearly in evidence (see above, pp. 60-62) . 
Moist and cool winds from the sea prevail in summer and dry and cold 
winds from the land in winter. Thus, at Vladivostok, in summer, SE and 
S winds prevail; in winter, N, NW, and NE winds. The temperature is 
lowered severely when the ice melts in the Sea of Okhotsk. At Ayan, 
which lies on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk only slightly north of the 
parallel of Moscow, the warmest month, August, has a mean temperature 
of only 12.6 C. (that is, 6 C. cooler than the warmest month in Mos- 
cow). As a result of the cool summer and the proximity to the ocean, 
forest vegetation does not rise high up into the mountains of the Far 
East; on the side of the Sikhote-Alin which faces the ocean, north of lat. 
44 N, elevations over 1200 to 1300 m. are usually unforested. On the 
other hand, because of the sparsity of winter precipitation, there are no 
glaciers in the mountains of the Far East (with the exception of Kam- 
chatka, which will be discussed below). 


Slightly podzolic stony soils predominate, with patches of peat-bog 
soils among the crags and in the areas covered with talus. In the north 
of Amur oblast, on the above-mentioned (pp. 31&-319) watershed plateau 
of the Stanovoy range, at an elevation of 1300 to 1500 m., bog and half- 
bog soils predominate; on these there grow thickets of rough bluejoint 


reed grass (Calamagrostis langsdorfii [C. canadensis scdbra]). Here also 
in some places there are half-bog podzolic soils, covered with forests of 
Dahurian larch, with an undergrowth of Japanese stone pine and shrubby 
Middendorffs birch (Betula middendorffii) . 

Under the broad-leaved forests of Ussuri kray, the podzolic horizon 
has a gray-yellow color, as do the podzolic soils of the warm-temperate 
regions of Europe. 


The forest vegetation of the Far East consists of three types: (1) The 
East Siberian vegetation consists predominantly of Dahurian larch. 
(2) The arctic, or so-called Okhotsk vegetation is characterized by Yeddo 
spruce, Erman's birch, Khingan fir, and some Dahurian larch; the shores 
of the Sea of Okhotsk and the lower reaches of the Amur are part of 
the region in which this vegetation is developed. (3) Finally, along the 
middle course of the Amur, in the Ussuri basin, and in the southern 
Sikhote-Alin there is found a third type of vegetation, the Manchurian, 
which is characterized by a profusion of broad-leaved species (oak, 
maples, ash, lindens, and others), a great many southern shrubs, Korean 
pine, and a number of vines. 

In the southern Sikhote-Alin all three types of vegetation are found: 
at lower elevations, the Manchurian type, which in the extreme south 
on the south-facing slopes extends no higher than 750 to 1000 m.; higher 
up, the Okhotsk type; and still higher, the Siberian taiga of Dahurian 

While the Manchurian element, particularly oak, makes it appearance, 
as we have said earlier (pp. 63-64), even east of the confluence of the 
Shilka and the Argun, it reaches considerable development only to the 
east of the Bureya River. 

In the Bureya range the Okhotsk type of forest predominates in the 
north; the Manchurian type in the south. In the northern part of the 
range, forests of Dahurian larch and Yeddo spruce predominate; the 
latter is found in the river valleys and also at the timber line, where it 
grows in the subalpine coppices together with Japanese stone pine and 
rhododendron; there is also some Erman's birch (Betula ermani). The 
Asiatic white birch (B. platyphylla) is found throughout. Yeddo spruce 
(Pioea jezoensis) is an ancient type, related to one of the spruces found 
on the Balkan Peninsula; it grows in northern Japan, Korea, Manchuria, 
in the Amur basin, on the Okhotsk coast, on Sakhalin, and in Kamchatka. 


At not very high elevations in the mountains, along the banks of streams, 
there is Khingan fir (Abies nephrokpis) (Sochava, 1934). 

In the southern part of the Bureya range, the forests have an entirely 
different appearance. Here on the eastern slope the following vegetation 
may be seen: 6 At lower elevations, at the foot of the range, lie mixed- 
herbaceous and shrub meadows, on which there are individual Mongolian 
oak and Dahurian birch trees; the shrubs are lespedeza and Siberian 
filbert. Higher up, on the southern slopes, there is park-land forest of 
Mongolian oak [Quercus mongollca], Amur linden, and Dahurian birch, 
with an undergrowth of the two shrubs mentioned above, together with 
Dahurian rose (Rosa davurica). There is also some Amur grape (Vitis 
amurensis) . In the lower and middle belts of the mountains grow Korean- 
pine and broad-leaved forests composed of a great variety of trees and 
shrubs. The following species are found here: Korean pine (Pinus 
koraiensis); Amur linden (Tilia cordata amurensis [T. amurensis]); 
Manchurian ash (Fraxinus mandshurica); Khingan fir; Mongolian oak 
[Quercus mongolica]; mono maple (Acer mono), very closely related to 
the European Norway maple; maackia (Maackia amurensis) 9 a papili- 
onaceous shrub; Amur lilac (Syringa amurensis); and Amur cork tree 
(Phellodendron amurense Rutaceae). The undergrowth is very profuse, 
consisting of Manchurian filbert, honeysuckle, euonymus, aralia (Aralia 
mandshurica) y "wHd pepper" (Eleutherococcus senticosus [Acanthopanax 
senticosus] Araliaceae), and many other species. The trees and shrubs 
are twined with vines, which include Amur grape, Chinese magnolia 
vine (Schizandra chinensis), and kolomikta actinidia (Actinidia kolo- 
mikta)* The Chinese magnolia vine, which belongs to the magnolia 
family, got its Russian name, limmonik, from the lemon odor emitted 
by its bark; this plant is a Japanese-Chinese form, which extends about 
as far north as the grape. The actinidia, which bears the local name of 
kishmish, or "raisin," is also a vine (Dilleniaceae); A. kolomikta rises 
rather high up into the mountains; its fruits are used for making com- 
pote or jam. 

Somewhat farther north, these Korean-pine and broad-leaved forests 
of the Bureya range contain Yeddo spruce and Khingan fir. At elevations 
of 600 to 900 m. lie spruce-fir forests of the Okhotsk type. 

It is interesting to note that the river valleys, into which the cold air 

V. P. Bayanova, "Medonosnie rasteniya Birobidzhana" (Melliferous Plants of 
Birobidzhan), Trudt/ Dalne-Vostocknovo filiala Akad. nauk (Proceedings of the Far 
Eastern Branch of the Academy of Sciences), I, 1935, pp. 411-417. 



descends, contain larch forests, which extend into this area from the 
northern part of the Bureya range. 

The flood plains have forests which differ little in composition from 
the Korean-pine and broad-leaved forests. Here the Manchurian walnut 
(Juglans mandshurica) begins to appear. 

Along the Amur the Korean-pine and broad-leaved forests extend 
approximately as far as lat. 50 N; they reach up to 300 m. in elevation. 
The Korean pine, however, extends somewhat farther north, as far as 
the basin of the Garin River. 

In the southern part of the Sikhote-Alin, 7 Manchurian vegetation is 
well represented; however, it does not ascend high up in the mountains. 
At the extreme south, in Suchan raion, the vertical limits of the distribu- 
tion of some representatives of the Manchurian flora are as follows 
(I. Shishkin, 1923): 

Table 26 






Korean pine (Pinus koraien&ut) 
Oak (Quercus mvngolica) 
Maple (Acer pseudo-sieboldianum) 
Filbert (Corylus mattdskurica [C sieboldiana mand- 
Grape (ViUs amwensis) 
Maackia (Maackia amurensis) 
Chinese magnolia vine (Schizandra chin&nsls) 





As a result of felling and fires, the mixed forests which contain Korean 
pine turn into deciduous forests, often with spiny aralia (Ardia mand- 
shurica) predominating. 

The vertical vegetation belts of the Sikhote-Alin, beginning at the 
bottom, are as follows: 

(1) In the southern Sikhote-Alin there are three types of Korean-pine 
and broad-leaved forests: 

a) Oak and Korean-pine and broad-leaved forests. The fundamental 
forest-forming species here are the Mongolian oak [Quercus mongolica], 

7 D. P. Vorobyev, "Rastitelny pokrov yuzhnovo Sikhote-Alinya" (The Vegetation 
Cover of the Southern Sikhote-Alin), Trudy Ddne-Vostochnovo filida Akad. nauk 
(Proceedings of the Far Eastern Branch of the Academy of Sciences)* L 1935, 
pp. 287-372. 


Dahurian birch (Betula davurica), and Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis), 
which reaches tremendous dimensions. As a result of felling and fires, 
this type of forest turns into oak groves and shrub thickets, chiefly of 
Siberian filbert and lespedeza; the latter shrub is one of the chief melli- 
fers of this area. 

b) Along the mountain slopes grow Korean-pine and broad-leaved 
forests. The first layer society contains the gigantic Manchurian fir ( Abies 
holophylla), which grows as tall as the Korean pine. This fir, native to 
South Ussuri kray, Manchuria, and Korea, is not found in the moun- 
tains above 300 to 400 m. In addition to Korean pine and fir, the first 
layer society contains birch (Betula costata), Scotch elm (Ulmus mon- 
tana heterophylla [U. glabra] ), kalopanax (Kalopanax ricinifolia), Amur 
linden, mono maple (Acer mono), and, occasionally, cork tree and 
enormous Mongolian oak trees. The second layer society consists of 
Manchurian linden, hornbeam, maples, mazzard cherry, and Amur 
lilac; sometimes there is Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata), related very 
closely to the European species. The undergrowth is very rich in shrubs 
Manchurian filbert, "wild pepper," jasmine, various species of honey- 
suckle, euonymus, currant, and others. This forest contains many grape- 
vines, Chinese magnolia vine, and actinidia. In addition to the above- 
mentioned actinidia (Actinidia kolomikta), another species is found here 
which grows only in South Ussuri kray; this is A. arguta, the largest of 
the Ussuri vines, which has stems up to 16 cm. in diameter; its fruits are 
eaten. The herbaceous cover contains many ferns. An epiphytic fern, the 
linear polypody (Polypodium linear e], which is distributed from Japan 
and China to the Tian Shan, is often found growing on the tree trunks. 

c) Korean-pine and broad-leaved forests with an admixture of Yeddo 
spruce, and with birch [Betula costata], Amur linden, maple (Acer 
mono), Manchurian linden, and Scotch elm (Ulmus montana hete- 
rophylla [U. glabra] ) predominating, are found in the first layer society. 
The second layer society contains maples, hornbeam, Miyama cherry 
(Cerasus maximowiczi [Prunus maximowiczi]) , maackia (Maackia 
amurensis), and Khingan fir; among the vines, actinidia is common, and 
there is some Chinese magnolia vine and grape; the undergrowth con- 
tains Manchurian filbert, "wild pepper" (Eleutherococcus senticosus 
[Acanthopanax senticosus]), aralia (Aralia mandshurica) , currant, and 
jasmine. In the upper parts of the valleys, Yeddo spruce and Khingan fir 
assume a great significance; Amur cork tree (Phellodendron amurense) 
and Manchurian walnut (Juglans mandshurica) appear. These forests 
rise to about 600 m. in the south. Farther north, in addition to Yeddo 


spruce this type of forest also contains Siberian spruce, and there is a 
great deal of Manchurian ash (Fraxinus mandshurica) . 

In the extreme south of the Sikhote-Alin, in the Korean-pine and broad- 
leaved forests, there is Korean Siberian spruce (Picea excelsa obovata n. 
koraiensis [P. obovata koraiensis]), closely related to the Siberian spruce. 

(2) Higher up in the mountains, the Manchurian type of vegetation 
(broad-leaved forests with Korean pine) is replaced by Okhotsk fir and 
spruce forests of Yeddo spruce, accompanied in the second layer society 
by Khingan fir (Abies nephrolepis) and Erman's birch (Betuk ermani). 
In the southern Sikhote-Alin Yeddo spruce and Khingan fir grow as far 
as the upper limit of forest vegetation, but are found also in the valleys 
along the middle courses of the rivers; in the north, however, they descend 
as far as the seacoast. As distinguished from the Manchurian forest, the 
Okhotsk type contains a vigorous moss cover. Although forests of this 
type are found even in the extreme south of the Sikhote-Alin, they pre- 
dominate in the northern part, north of the Samarga River, and also in 
the lower reaches of the Amur. In this type of forest vines are either 
completely absent or (as in the south) rare. 

(3) Still higher appears the East Siberian type of vegetation high- . 
mountain forest of Dahurian larch. It is represented by the same types 
as are found in the Trans-Baikal: (a) with an undergrowth of Japanese 
stone pine, (&) with an undergrowth of shrubby MiddendorfPs birch, 
and (c) with an undergrowth of ericaceous undershrubs, among which 
the chief element is not the common crystal tea ledum, as in the Trans- 
Baikal, but the silvery ledum (Ledum hypoleucum). After fires, the 
larch is replaced by Japanese white birch (Betula japonica [B. platy- 
phylla japonica] ) . 

(4) In the subalpine zone there are stunted groves of creeping Japa- 
nese stone pine and golden rhododendron. There are occasional coppices 
of Erman's birch. 

(5) On the bald summits and in areas covered with talus, lichens 
(reindeer moss) predominate, among which grow many ericaceous 
plants: ledum, cowberry, cassiope, rhododendron, and others. There are 
also dryads, and stunted groves which contain the same species as the 
subalpine strip. Finally, there is microbiota, the coniferous Microbtota 
decussata [Thuja orientalist], which resembles the juniper; this shrub or 
small tree, which grows up to 5 m. tall, is native to the upper zones of 
the mountains above 500 m. and as high as 1550 m.; it belongs to a 
genus which is endemic in the Sikhote-Alin. 

It is worth noting that in the valleys of the Sikhote-Alin the broad- 


leaved Manchurian forest contains an admixture of Yeddo and Siberian 
spruce, species which are native to the zone which lies above the broad- 
leaved forests. The valleys of the rivers which empty into the sea contain 
characteristic park-land flood-plain forests of Japanese poplar (Populus 
maximowiczi) , which grows tremendously tall as tall as 45 m. In these 
forests there are a great many species of deciduous trees and shrubs. In 
some places, lying along the border of tie flood plain, there are long 
and narrow thickets of the singular Korean willow, Salix (Chosenia) 

On the eastern slope of the Sikhote-Alin, between lat. 43 and 44K N, 
and from the seacoast up to an elevation of 1100 m., there grows the 
peculiar Korean Dahurian larch (Lara olgensis [L. gmelini olgensis]), 
which does not extend as far as the timber line. 


The southern Sikhote-Alin contains a number of Manchurian animal 
forms which do not ascend high into the mountains. These include the 
Japanese deer (Cervus nippon [Sika nippon]), which is found between 
Olga Bay, the Iman River, and Lake Khanka, as well as in the adjoining 
parts of Manchuria and Korea; in the southern part of the Primorye this 
deer is bred for its antlers, which are sold in China. Among the other 
animals are the Himalayan black bear (Selenarctos tibetanus ussuricus), 
native also to the Bureya range and Japan; Ussuri elk; Amur goral 
(Nemorhaedus goral}; yellow-throated marten (Maries flavigula [M. 
(Lamprogale) flavigula borealis]); and Amur badger (Meles amurensis 
[M. leptorhynchus amurensis]}', the sable and musk deer are Siberian 
forms found here. 

The Siberian spruce grouse (Falcipennis falcipennis), a member of 
the grouse family, closely related to the North American Canace cana- 
derisis [Canachites canadensis canace], is associated with the region of 
Okhotsk flora, and particularly with the forests of Yeddo spruce. 

Siberian forms predominate in the northern ranges. 

xviii Sakhalin 1 

THE island of Sakhalin, over 950 km. in length, lies 
I approximately between the latitudes of Tula and 
Odessa. Only the northern half of the island, from lat. 50 N, belongs 
to the U.S.S.R.* 

It will be recalled that during the first half of the last century, Sakhalin 
was considered a peninsula, connected with the continent south of the 
mouth of the Amur River. However, two hundred years before that 
time, it was known to Russians that Sakhalin was an island. Thus, in the 
curious "Account of the Great River Amur, Which Divides the Russian 
Settlement from the Chinese," a document drawn up during the last 
half of the seventeenth century (before 1689), we find the following 

One of the mouths of the famous great river Amur, which is mountainous 
and forested, empties into the ocean, and opposite that mouth there is a great 
island; and on that island live many foreigners, the Gili/ak peoples. Their yurts 
are of hewn wood, and they wear clothes made of sable and fox and animal 
skins, and ride on dog-drawn sledges in winter, and in summer on the water in 
boats, and they keep from 500 to 1000 dogs in their settlements; they subsist on 
all kinds of animals and fish. 2 

Without any doubt it was Sakhalin which was being described. 

Opposite Cape Lazareva, Sakhalin is separated from the continent by 
a strait only 7.5 km. wide. This strait is named after Nevelsky, who dis- 
covered it in 1849. 

1 D. V. Sokolov and N. N. Tikhonovich, Sakhalin (priroda, naselenie, bogatstva) 
(Sakhalin [Natural Features, Population, Resources]), Moscow, 1925, p. 126, with 

* The entire island is, of course, now Soviet, the southern half having been oc- 
cupied by Soviet forces in August, 1945. Berg describes the northern half of the 
island only. TR. 

2 See A. Titov, Sfbir c XVII veke (Siberia in the Seventeenth Century), Moscow, 
1890, p. 110. 




From the Japanese boundary almost as far as lat 51 N, mountain 
ranges lie along each coast; from lat. 51 to 51& N, the ranges decrease 
in elevation and recede somewhat from the shore; finally, still farther 
north, there are areas of lowland up to 30 km. wide along the shore, and 
the height of the mountains diminishes still further, exposing this part 
of the island to cold winds from the Sea of Okhotsk. The eastern range, 
which is higher in elevation, in the south (lat. 50& N) reaches 2013 m. 
in Mount Nevelsky; this is the highest elevation on Sakhalin. The west- 
ern range is called the Kamyshevy range, after the thickets of bamboo 
(locally known as kamysh); in the south it reaches elevations of 1022 m. 
The northern tip of Sakhalin, which is called Schmidt Peninsula (in honor 
of the scholar F. B. Schmidt, who explored Sakhalin), reaches elevations 
of 708 m. 

South of lat. 52 N, in the middle of the island (as also in the middle 
of Kamchatka), lies a lowland, drained by the Tym River in the north 
and the Poronay in the south. This lowland, bordered on the east and 
west by mountains, is from 5 to 30 km. wide, and up to 150 m. in eleva- 
tion. As it is sheltered from winds, it has a relatively more continental 
climate than the coasts, and is better suited for agriculture than any 
other part of the region. 

Wide lagoons, separated from the ocean by long and narrow sand 
spits, and kept fresh by the rivers which empty into them, are very 
characteristic of the eastern coast. These lagoons are comparable to the 
Frisches Haff, Kurisches Haff, and other lagoons of the Baltic Sea. They 
afford easy and safe communication for tens of kilometers. Steamers 
are able to enter some of them. 

The structure of Sakhalin includes igneous rocks (syenites, diabases, 
andesites, porphyries, and basalts, but no granites); metamorphic rocks 
of Paleozoic age; and, finally, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and post-Pliocene 
sedimentary deposits. Among the Cretaceous deposits, black or dark- 
gray argillaceous shales predominate. The Tertiary deposits are devel- 
oped predominantly in the western range, in the northern part of the 
eastern range, and on Schmidt Peninsula. 

The deposits of the Tertiary, and to some extent also of the Cretaceous 
system, are very rich in coal of excellent quality. The greatest coal-bearing 
regions are the western coast, the central lowland, and, finally, the eastern 
strip (west of the region of oil-bearing deposits). In some places in the 


Tertiary deposits on the eastern coast there are oil beds; these are found 
occasionally also on the western coast. 

Post-Tertiary marine deposits, developed up to elevations of 60 to 
120 m., and in some places, on the western coast, up to 275 m. (Krish- 
tofovich), form distinct terraces (usually four) along the shores. 

All of the Tertiary and Cretaceous deposits of Sakhalin are strongly 
dislocated; folding was accompanied by radial displacements. The chief 
epoch of mountain-formation was during the period between the Plio- 
cene and the beginning of the post-Tertiary marine transgression, the 
deposits of which lie horizontally or nearly so. Before the post-Tertiary 
transgression, Sakhalin was connected with the continent in the region 
of Nevelsky Strait. No traces of glaciation have been discovered on 


The climate of Sakhalin is more severe than might be expected from 
the position of the island. The summer is cool and the winter cold; the 
explanation lies in the cold winds in summer, south, southeast, and east, 
blowing from the cold sea; in winter, northwest, that is, from the region 
of the Siberian anticyclone. The eastern coast has a more severe climate 
than the western. The climate is milder in the central lowland. Although 
frosts of almost 50 C. occur here in winter, in summer the temperature 
rises to over 30 C. In spring there is a period of drought, while in 
summer and autumn there are monsoon rains. At the beginning of June, 
the summer is in full swing in the central lowland, while along the 
eastern and northwestern coast there is snow until July, when the scant 
vegetation is just beginning to come to life on the permanently frozen 
soil (Krasyuk, 1927). 

Winter on Sakhalin is long, bitter> and windy. All of these factors are 
adverse to the cultivation of winter grains, but spring wheat yields aa 
excellent harvest in the central lowland. 

The climate in the interior of the island and along the coast may be 
compared by examination of the mean monthly temperatures for Alek- 
sandrovsk and Kirovskoye, which lie in the same latitude (Table 27, 
p. 331). The data show that the summer temperature is almost the same 
in both localities, while the winter is somewhat milder on the coast. Pre- 
cipitation is greatest in summer and autumn, when the moist sea monsoon 
blows, and least in winter. The niimber of days with precipitation is great. 
Snow remains in the mountains until the middle of August, but there 
are no everlasting snows. The mean annual figure for cloudiness on 



Table 27 















drovsk * 

















village f 































* On the west coast, lat. 50 54' N, absolute elevation 16 m. f 1881-1915. 
t On the Tfym River, lat. 50 44' N, absolute elevation 125 m.; temperature, 1881-1915; 
precipitation, 1886-1904. 

Sakhalin is about the same as on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, 
60 to 65 per cent, but its seasonal distribution is entirely different On 
Sakhalin cloudiness is greatest in summer, least in winter and spring; 
cloudy days are most numerous in summer, clear days, in winter; this 
distribution is a result of the monsoon climate. 

The Sakhalin coast is famous for its fogs, which often last for weeks 
at a time. As one ascends into the mountains, the fogs disappear; fogs are 
few also in the central part of the island. On the eastern coast the most 
persistent fogs occur in May, June, and July; fogs are uncommon in 

Permanent ground frost is very widespread, although not continuous. 
The rivers on Sakhalin are covered with ice from the beginning of Decem- 
ber to the middle of April The open sea does not freeze along the eastern 
coast or in the southern part of Tatar Strait; but near the shores and in 
the bays along the eastern coast there is ice. The Amur estuary and the 
Gulf of Sakhalin also freeze annually. 

High water in the rivers occurs three times a year in spring, due to 
the melting of snows in the valleys; somewhat later, due to the melting 
of mountain snows; and, finally, in the latter half of the summer, due to 


The soils of Sakhalin belong to the podzolic, bog, and alluvial types. 
Alluvial soils developed in the central lowland are very fertile. They 
have a clay-loam texture and granular structure, and contain 6 to 8 per 
cent humus and a great deal of phosphorus. "Apparently," says Krasyuk, 
"annually over a long period of time masses of salmonid species died 


along the river banks and were covered with silt; as they decayed, they 
enriched the soil with humus, phosphorus, and nitrogen, thereby con- 
tributing to the richness of the alluvial soils/' 3 These soils yield an 
excellent wheat harvest. On the alluvial soils in the Tym valley there 
are tall herbaceous meadows (with scattered clumps of birch) or spruce- 
fir forests. 


The flora of Sakhalin belongs, in general, to the Okhotsk type, but 
includes also a certain admixture of Manchurian elements, which in- 
crease in number as one moves south. But even in the northern part of 
the island, we find in the west such plants as the Mongolian oak [Quer- 
cus mongolica], ukurundu maple [Acer caudatum ukurunduen$e?], 
Manchurian ash, elm, "wild pepper" [Acanthopanax senticosus], and 
others. The presence of bamboo, which grows only in the western range, 
is very characteristic. 

Lake the opposite shore of Tatar Strait, Sakhalin lies in the taiga zone. 
Spruce-fir forest predominates, often with an admixture of birch. All of 
the foothills and mountains are covered with these forests, which grow 
on podzolized clays or clay loams. The spruce belongs to two species 
Yeddo (Picea jezoensis) and Sakhalin (P. glehni); the latter, native also 
to Hokkaido and the southern Kurile Islands, has a bark which resem- 
bles the bark of the fir. The Sakhalin fir (Abies sachdinensis), which 
has the same distribution as the Sakhalin spruce, is related rather closely 
to the Khingan fir. Spruce predominates in the first layer of the forests; 
fir, in the second. In localities which have more favorable climatic con- 
ditions, spruce and fir are accompanied by aspen, birch, elm, ash, maple, 
willow, poplar, and even oak. Japanese white birch (Betula japonica 
[B. platyphylla japonica]) grows in the lowlands and in the foothills, 
while in the mountains there is Erman's birch, which will be discussed 

On poor soils and on peat bogs there is Dahurian larch (Larix dahurica 
[L. gmelini]) 9 which takes the place of pine here. In the valley of the 
Poronay, on sandy ridges, grow larch forests of the pine-grove type; 
they have a ground cover of reindeer moss. In addition to larch, these 
groves contain birch, and also Japanese stone pine (Pinus pumila). Deer 

3 A. A. Krasyuk, "Selskokhozyaistvenny promysel na Safchaline v svyazi s pochven- 
nymi usloviyami" (Agriculture on Sakhalin and Its Relation to Soil Conditions ), 
Soobshch. Otd. pochvoved. (Report of the Soil Science Section), No. 2, Leningrad 
1927, p. 56, with map. 5 ' 


often graze in these larch groves. Larch forests are widespread along 
both the western and eastern shores, below the zone of the spruce-fir 
taiga. There are many larch forests on Schmidt Peninsula. In some places, 
where the seacoast is higher in elevation, the larch forest extends down 
to the very sea, but on low-lying shores the larch forest merges grad- 
ually into "tundra," passing through a stage of puny dwarf larches. Tun- 
dras" are developed both on the eastern coast and in the region of the 
Amur estuary, as well as along the upper course of the Poronay River. 
On the sandy coasts there is dry "tundra," covered with lichens and 
bushes of birch, alder, Japanese stone pine, sweetbrier rose, and others. 
In the north, on mossy peat bogs with permanently frozen subsoil, there 
lies a tundra covered with peat mounds and very similar to the typi- 
cal tundras of northern latitudes; here grow ledum, leather leaf, bog 
bilberry, cranberry, cloudberry, sundew, sheathed cotton sedge, and 

In the flood plains the herbaceous plants reach a tremendous height 
3 to 4 m. Such tall herbaceous stands consist of the groundsel Senecio 
cannabifolia, which is called nettle here, because of its resemblance to 
that plant; Kamchatka meadowsweet; Japanese butterbur, or lopukha 
(Petasites japonicus); Sakhalin knotweed (Polygonum sachalinense)-, 
reed grass; fern; and others. In the river flood plains, yelans are numerous 
plantations of willow, poplar, Mongolian poplar (Populus suaveolens), 
Asiatic smoothleaf elm (Ulmus foliacea propinqua [17. carpinifolia]) 9 
and Manchurian ash; among the willows the Korean willow (Salix macro- 
lepis) is distinguished for its size. The river valleys contain, in addition, 
Manchurian alder (AZnt/s hirsute), hawthorn, elder, bird cherry, and 
mountain ash. The older flood plains, which are not subject to inunda- 
tion, are covered with mixed forests. 

On the cut-over or burned-over areas grow Japanese-white-birch groves 
(Betula japonica [B. platyphylla japonica]) containing alder or larch. 
With the passage of time these forests change into spruce-fir or larch 

As one ascends into the mountains on the western coast, Erman's birch 
(Betula ermani) and Kurile bamboo (Sasa kurilensis, locally called 
kamysh) appear in the spruce-fir forests. Western Sakhalin is the only 
place in the U.S.S.R. where bamboo grows in its wild form. In some 
places the bamboo forms dense and tall thickets which are difficult to 
penetrate. Both bamboo and Erman's birch are absent in the eastern 
range. Still 'higher lies a belt of Japanese stone pine (Pinus pumila), and, 
finally, an alpine belt The Japanese stone pine is widespread not only 


in the mountains, but also along the coasts, where it forms thickets 
sometimes impassable except with the aid of an ax. 


The fauna, like the flora, is an admixture of Manchurian, Siberian, 
and Okhotsk elements. Of the mammals, there is an abundance of bear, 
glutton, lynx, sable, squirrel, chipmunk, flying squirrel, fox, wolf, and 
hare. The reindeer belongs to the Okhotsk-Kamchatka form. The birds 
include the Siberian spruce grouse (Falcipennis faldpennis), a member 
of the grouse family; this bird is a representative of the Okhotsk fauna; 
it has been mentioned previously (p. 327). 

Of the lizards there is the common lizard (Lacerta vivipara). The 
frogs include the Siberian Rana amurensis, native to the mound bogs 
which contain ledum and cloudberry. In the rivers pink salmon and 
chum are numerous. The Sakhalin pike belongs to the Amur form (Esox 
reicherti). Among the fresh-water mussels on Sakhalin are (according 
to V. L Zhadin): cristaria (Cristaria plicata), a large Manchurian form, 
native also to the Amur basin, Japan, and China; the Sakhalin fresh- 
water pearl mussel Margaritana sachalinensis; and Bering's anodonta 
(Anodonta beringiana); the last two forms belong to the category of 
Okhotsk fauna. 

xix . Kamchatka 

IXAMCHATKA lies between lats. 60 and 51 N, that 

IV is, approximately between the latitudes of Leningrad 

and Kiev; but its natural features are entirely different. Kamchatka is the 

only place in the U.S.S.R. where there are active volcanoes at the present 



In the middle of the peninsula, there lie two parallel ranges extending 
SSW-NNE, and separated by a depression in which flows the Kam- 
chatka River. The same type of structure two ranges with a depression 
between themis found also farther north in Anadyr kray, as well as in 
Sakhalin, in Alaska, and along the western coast of North America. The 
western range of Kamchatka, sometimes called the central range, reaches 
an elevation of 3660 m. in the Belaya or Ichinsk volcano. This is the only 
volcano active today in the central range; its crater always smokes. The 
central range is composed of phyllites and crystalline schists, which are 
overlain by sandstones and shales, perhaps of Paleozoic age; higher up 
there are volcanic rocks, apparently of Mesozoic age; the western bound- 
ary of this series is overlain by dislocated Tertiary strata. 

Between the central range and the Sea of Okhotsk lies an unforested 
region (in the literature it is often called a tundra), which rises to an 
elevation of 600 to 750 m. Its structure includes dislocated marine Plio- 
cene and some Upper Cretaceous deposits. 

On the western side of the peninsula there is not a single active 
volcano, but there are some fifteen old extinct volcanoes and andesitic 

Between the eastern range and the coast of the Bering Sea, there are 
eighteen volcanoes active at the present time, of which the most inter- 
esting will be mentioned here. Beginning at the south, 30 km. northeast 
of Petropavlovsk, there is the Avacha volcano (elevation 2725 m.), which 



erupted last in 1926. In 1927 this volcano emitted ash, and in subsequent 
years it has emitted vapors and gases, chiefly sulphurous gas and hydrogen 
sulphide, but also some hydrogen chloride. Avacha has a structure like 
Vesuvius, but is twice as high. The lavas of Avacha belong chiefly to 
the andesitic type. 1 

The Kronotsk volcano, 3730 m. in elevation, situated on the shore of 
a deep lake (depth, 128 m.) of the same name, has been considered ex- 
tinct; but in 1922 a blackish smoke was observed near the summit (Fig. 

Klyuchevsk volcano, 4860 m. in elevation, in the lower reaches of 
' the Kamchatka River, is the highest point on the entire peninsula and 
one of the most grandiose volcanoes on earth; it surpasses Mont Blanc 
in elevation. It has erupted repeatedly, the last time in 1931. According 
to legend, somewhat before the coming of the Russians (1696) a violent 
eruption took place, in the course of which the lava reached as far as 
the Kamchatka River at Klyuchi village, 32 km. away from the crater. 
Usually above the summit smoke billows in the form of gigantic cabbage 
heads, sometimes rising two or more kilometers above the crater; from 
within these clouds of smoke, ashes and stones often rain down on the 
slopes of the volcano. The crater, into which investigators descended in 
1935, has a diameter of 250 to 300 m. and a depth of 50 m. As the party 
descended into the crater, they saw 

clouds of ash and stones, many of them a bright iridescent red color, which 
rose in a fan 200 to 300 m, high and fell back with a crash. Dark gray smoke 
enveloped the crater continually. The strong odor of the sulphurous gas and 
hydrogen chloride irritated the nose and throat. Within the crater reigned twi- 
light gloom and darkness, which made the bright color of the incandescent 
rocks stand out more sharply and brightly. Crashing and rumbling shook the 
whole basin of the crater. At about 4:00 P.M., while we were inside the crater, 
a particularly powerful explosion took place: a gigantic cloud rose and began 
to inundate the whole basin of the crater with a hail of incandescent rocks. 2 

Finally, the northernmost active volcano of Kamchatka is Shiveluch 
(elevation 3300 m., lat. 5639'N), of which the most recent eruption 
took place in 1928; there are six glaciers on Shiveluch. 

Where the peninsula joins the mainland, from Korf Bay in the Bering 
Sea (in lat. 60 N), to Penzhinskaya Bay in the Sea of Okhotsk, there 
lies a low plateau, the Parapolsky Dol, 155 m. in elevation. This plateau 

X A. N. Zavaritslcy, Problemy sov. geologii (Problems in Soviet Geology), 1935, 
No. 12. 

. Geogr. obshch. (Report of the Geographical Society), Vol. 69, 1937, p. 973. 



MAP 12. Volcanoes of Kamchatka. 



is covered with tundra. At the eastern edge, 40 km. from the coast of 
the Bering Sea, lies a low unforested range, 940 m. in elevation, com- 
posed of andesites; it is a continuation of the central range of Kam- 
chatka. Farther to the northeast, it rises in elevation and merges into the 
Koryak range. 

As in other volcanic regions, there are many hot springs on Kamchatka, 
for example, the Paratunsk at Petropavlovsk. The Nalychevsk hot springs, 
which lie between the Avacha and Zhupanovsk volcanoes, are noteworthy. 
The water in these springs has a temperature of 72 C. The springs, 
which emerge from andesitic lava beds, are very rich in boron and 
arsenic; they deposit large quantities of arsenious travertine (Zavaritsky). 

There are some deep lakes. For example, Lake Kurilsk, which lies in 
the south, is 306 m. deep; it is surrounded on all sides by extinct vol- 

During the Quaternary period, mountain glaciers had a somewhat 
greater development than today, but the ice cover was not continuous. 

Climate 3 

Because of the length of Kamchatka from north to south, its climate 
naturally varies. The southern tip, Cape Lopatka (lat. 5057'N) lies 
approximately in the same latitude as Saratov. 

In winter a low-pressure area prevails over Kamchatka; the pressure 
decreases from the western coast of the Sea of Okhotsk to the western 
coast of the Bering Sea, and from north to south. Accordingly, northwest 
and north winds prevail in winter at Petropavlovsk. In summer, however, 
a high-pressure area lies over Kamchatka, and the pressure increases 
from the western coast of the Sea of Okhotsk to the western coast of 
the Bering Sea, and from north to south. For this reason, southeast, east, 
and south winds prevail in summer at Petropavlovsk. In short, a shift 
of winds of monsoon character occurs. In the interior of the peninsula 
the climate is much more continental than along its coasts. The west 
coast, which is under the influence of the cold Sea of Okhotsk, is char- 
acterized by a much more severe climate than the east coast. Petropav- 
lovsk, which lies in the same latitude as Orel (lat. 53 N), has a marine 
climate: a cool summer and a rather mild winter; the mean temperature 
of the warmest month, August, is 12.5 C.; the mean temperature of the 
coldest month, February, is 10.2 C.; thus, the annual range is only 

3 V. A. Vlasov, O ktonate Kamchatki, Kamchttskaya efopeditsiya Ryabushinslcovo 
(The Climate of Kamchatka, Ryabushinsky Expedition into Kamchatka), met. otd, 
(Meteorological Section), No. 1, Moscow, 1916. 


about 23 C., which is relatively small. In the interior of the peninsula 
the summer is warmer and the winter colder; in Klyuchi, which lies S& 
farther north than Petropavlovsk, the annual range is greater than 31 C. 
(The warmest month is July, and the coldest month, January, as in con- 
tinental climates.) During the day, in August, the thermometer in Petro- 
pavlovsk rises to about 16 C. (the mean daily maximum); in Klyuchi, 
in July, it reaches 18 C. Absolute maxima in the valley of the Kam- 
chatka River reach higher than 30 C.; absolute minima, 50 C. The 
vegetative period, during which the mean diurnal temperature is greater 
than 5 C., generally lasts from the end of May or the first days of June 
to the first days of October; in the central part of the peninsula it begins 
earlier, in the middle of May. The central part of Kamchatka is rela- 
tively better suited for agriculture. 4 Cloudiness on the coast, particularly 
on the western coast, is great, and reaches its maximum (as is generally 
true in monsoon regions) in summer; its minimum comes in winter. In 
the interior of the country, there is less cloudiness. The annual cloudiness 
at Petropavlovsk is 60 per cent; in July, 73 per cent; in December, 53 
per cent. In summer along the coasts there are many fogs; in Petro- 
pavlovsk one out of every two days in July has fog; in Bolsheretsk fogs 
are even more frequent. In winter, however, there are almost no fogs 
along the coasts. In the interior of the country, it is the other way around; 
in Klyuchi (absolute elevation 30 m.) and in Milkovo (absolute eleva- 
tion 150 m.), there are almost no fogs in summer. 

Fogs and cloudiness prevail up to elevations of 1500 m., at least along 
the west coast. Higher up, the climate is drier; there is evidence of this 
fact in the presence here of the suslik and bobac. 

At Petropavlovsk, on the east coast, there is much precipitation; the 
annual total is 821 mm. Most of it comes from August to October, the 
least in January. In winter there is much snowfall; often it accounts for 
more than half the total annual precipitation. On the west coast, how- 
ever, where dry west winds blow in winter from the region of the Siberian 
maximum, the winters have little snow; in Bolsheretsk (lat. 52XN), 
in 1910, only 17 per cent of the total annual precipitation (450 mm.) 
fell in the form of snow. There is also relatively little precipitation in 
the valley of the Kamchatka River; at Milkovo the precipitation totals 
about 350 mm. per year. Thunderstorms are a rare phenomenon on Kam- 

*S. U. Lipshits and U. A, Liverovslcy, Pochvenno-batonicJieskte issledovaniya i 
problems selskovo khozyaistoa v tsentralnoy chasti doliny r. Kamchatki (Studies of 
Soils and Flora and the Problem of Agriculture in, the Central Part of the Kamchatka 
River Valley), Moscow, 1937, p. 220, with a map of Kamchatka, fed. Akad. nauk 
(publication of the Academy of Sciences). 


chatka. At Petropavlovsk 189 mm. of precipitation fell in one day in 
October; 5 showers of such magnitude have not been recorded in other 
parts of Kamchatka. 
In northern Kamchatka there is permanent ground frost. 


The soils of Kamchatka belong to the podzolic, sodded-meadow, and 
bog types. The sodded-meadow soils, which are developed on the old 
alluvium of the second and third terraces of the Kamchatka River, are 
the most fertile; these soils are covered with meadows and thin forests of 
white birch. 

Vegetation * 

The flora of Kamchatka is poor. There are only 800 to 850 species. 
The reason for this paucity is believed to be the lack of contact between 
the peninsula and neighboring districts. On Kamchatka there are rela- 
tively few composite and papilionaceous plants (with the exception of 
the genera Oxytropis and Astragalus). 

With the exception of the valley of the middle Kamchatka River and 
the poorly drained western coast, Kamchatka is covered with mountain 
vegetation of the Okhotsk type. There are no forests here like those of 
the Siberian taiga. The characteristic tree is Erman's or mountain birch 
(Betula ermani), which has a gray or reddish bark and a thick bushy 
crown; it grows in thin, parklike stands (Fig. 80). Birch coppices alter- 
nate with glades of tall herbage. Along the eastern coast the shore is 
covered with Erman's birch, together with groves of Japanese stone pine, 
alder, and mountain ash, typical of the subalpine zone. In the central 
part of the peninsula, Erman's birch rises into the mountains to an eleva- 
tion of 600 to 750 m., but along the coast, only to 300 m. or lower. 

Amid the undergrowth in the Erman's-birch forests (and in other 
places, as well), sweetberry honeysuckle (Lonicera edulis) is common; 
its dark-blue edible fruits are gathered in large quantities by the local 
population at the end of July and in August. 

At lower elevations in the valley of the Kamchatka River there is no 

6 P. I. Koloskov, "Klimatichesky ocherk poluostrova Kamchatki" (Climatic Sketch 
of the Kamchatka Peninsula), Izv. Dalnevostochnovo geafiz. inst. (Report of the Far 
Eastern Geophysical Institute) No. II (IX), 1932, p. 138. 

6 V. L. Komarov, Puteshestoie po Kamchatke t 1908-1909 gg., Kamchatskaija 
eksp. Rydbushinskovo (Journey Along the Kamchatka in the Years 1908-1909, 
Ryabushinsky Expedition into Kamchatka), botan. otd. (Botanical Section), No. 1, 
Moscow, 1912. 


Erman's birch; here grow forests of Dahurian larch, and coppices of 
Yeddo spruce and Japanese white birch (Betula japonica [B. platyphylla 
japonica]). As one ascends into the mountains, the first tree to disappear 
is the spruce, and then the larch and white birch; then there appears 
Erman's birch, which rises, as we have said, to an elevation of 600 to 
750 m. Above the Erman's birch in the mountains of Central Kamchatka, 
lies a vigorously developed belt of shrub thickets, sometimes completely 
impassable, of Japanese stone pine (Finns pumila), alder (Alnus kam- 
tschatica), and Siberian mountain ash (Sorbus sambudfolia) . These 
thickets are very characteristic for Kamchatka in general. At an elevation 
of 1000 m. alpine tundras and meadows begin; the presence of ericaceous 
plants is characteristic for the tundras. Alpine plants are found even 
along the coast in Kamchatka. 

In the river valleys there grow forests of willow and Mongolian poplar. 
The willows include the Korean willow, Salix (Chosenia) macrolepis. 
Of the true willows, the Sakhalin willow (Salix sachalinensis) predomi- 
nates. 7 In the valley forests Manchurian alder ( Alnus hirsute) is common. 
The riparian meadows are covered chiefly with rough bluejoint reed 
grass (Calamagrostis langsdorffii [C. canadensis scabra]), sedges, and 
meadow pea vine (Lathyrus pratensis). 

A typical plant in the dry meadows among the coppices of Erman's 
birch is the umbellifer Angelica ursina, which grows to a considerable 
height (Fig. 81). Another large umbellifer is the cow parsnip (Heracleum 
lanatum or H. dulce), up to 4.5 m. high and 12 cm. in diameter; the 
Itelmen people (Kamchadals) used it for sweetening, and the Russians 
formerly distilled vodka out of it. In the valleys on fertile arable soils, 
there are large thickets of Kamchatka meadowsweet (Filipendula kam- 
tschatica), a herbaceous plant which grows 2 m. high in one month; at 
one time its roots were stored for the winter. The Kamchatka fritillary 
(Fritillaria kamtschatcensis), with large purple flowers, is widespread 
in the birch forests, on the meadows, and among the shrubs, as far as 
the alpine belt. The bulbs of this plant, which are rich in starch and 
sugar, are cooked and eaten by the local population; in taste, the bulbs 
resemble chestnuts. Mice accumulate stores of Kamchatka fritillary bulbs 
for the winter. On fertile soils in the flood-plain forests, there is Kam- 
chatka nettle (Urtica platyphylla), which sometimes grows as tall as a 
man; at one time fishnets and fabrics were made from its fiber. 

7 N. V. Pavlov and P. N. Chizhilcov, Prirodrde usloviya i problemy zemledeliya 
na yu&e Bolsheretskovo raiona Kamchatki (Natural Conditions and Problems of 
Agriculture in the South Part of Bolsheretsk Raton of Kamchatka), Moscow, 1937, 
p. 125, izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), 


Near the hot springs there is found a whole series of relict, more 
characteristically southern plants, native to Sakhalin, Japan, Korea, and 
Manchuria. Often in March, while snow lies all around, the bog violet 
(Viola repens) bursts into bloom. 

On the eastern coast of Kamchatka, near the mouth of the Semyachik 
River, there is a grove of fir (Abies gradlis) related very closely to the 
Sakhalin fir. On the slopes of Shiveluch volcano grow groves of Kam- 
chatka spruce, related very closely to the Yeddo spruce. 

In conclusion we present the vertical sequence of vegetation on the 
western coast (according to N. V. Pavlov): 

Forest belt, to 550 m. 

Sphagnum bogs 

Thickets of black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) 

Mixed-herbaceous meadows 

Tall-herbaceous meadows (ushkha) 

Forests of Erman's birch 
Shrub belt, 500 to 800 m. 

Japanese stone pine 

Alder groves (Alnus kamtschatica) 
Alpine belt, 800 to 1400 m. 

Dry mountain tundras 

Alpine meadows 

Alpine glades 


The fauna of Kamchatka is not rich; it has a rather insular character. 
In the mountains up to 1000 m., there are mountain sheep ( Ot>fe nivicola), 
which are found all the way to the extreme south of the peninsula. There 
are many bear and fox, and some black-capped bobac (Marmota cam- 
tschatica) and Kamchatka suslik (Citellus eversmanni stejnegeri). Wild 
reindeer (Rangifer tarandus phylarchus) > of the same form as is found 
on Sakhalin and on the Amur, are encountered. There is a large sable, 
but its fur is of little value. Elk is absent The tree squirrel (Sciurus 
vulgaris) has appeared only recently on Kamchatka, particularly in Tigil 
raion, where there were none in 1910. 8 

There are few birds on Kamchatka, fewer than 200 species. Only 
aquatic birds are well represented: ducks, which are found in great 
numbers, geese, shore birds, gulls, cormorants, and guillemots. Starlings, 
creepers, kingfishers, pigeons, water rails, cranes, and others are com- 

8 Otchet Kamchatskovo okr. revol. kom. I. Kamchatskoxnu syezdu sovetov (Report 
of the Kamchatka Okrug Revolutionary Committee to the First Kamchatka Congress 
of Soviets), Petropavlovsk, 1928, pp. 43-44, 


pletely absent; there are no black grouse, hazel grouse, or Siberian jays. 
Some common Siberian forest birds form special subspecies on Kam- 
chatka; for example, the capercaillie, the pied and the three-toed wood- 
peckers, and the bullfinch. 

The amphibians include the Siberian four-toed salamander (Hynobius 
keysertingi) . 

Kamchatka is very poor in true fresh-water fish; the Amur grayling is 
the only one known. However, there are many anadromous salmonids, 
which belong to the North Pacific genus Oncorhynchus, an Okhotsk 
form, analogous to Erman's birch and Yeddo spruce. To this genus belong 
the king salmon, red salmon, chum, pink salmon, and silver salmon, 
which are of great economic importance in Kamchatka. Here is found 
also the true salmon (Salmo), which is not found in Siberia and which 
reappears in the North Pacific, in Kamchatka, and in North America, after 
an interval. Together with the salmonids, seal penetrates into the Kam- 
chatka River; it goes as far as Kozyrevka, 200 km. up the river from its 

The fresh-water mollusks include the fresh-water pearl mussel Mar- 
garitana middendorffii, from which the inhabitants of Golygin village 
used to obtain a fairly good pearl. The pearl mussel is not found in 
Siberia except in Kamchatka, the Amur basin, and Sakhalin. 

The Commander Islands 

The Commander Islands, which lie east of Kamchatka, approximately 
in lat 55 N, consist of two islands, Bering and Medny. The former was 
discovered on November 4, 1741, by the famous navigator Bering; the 
latter, in the same year, by Stcller, a companion of Bering. The islands 
are separated from Kamchatka by tremendous depths (about 5000 m.), 
and from the Aleutians by considerable, but lesser depths. In some places 
the coast descends to the sea in vertical precipices. The islands are com- 
posed of volcanic rocks (andesitic tuffs, basalts, and others). Bering 
Island rises to an elevation of 670 m.; Medny to an elevation of 590 m. 
The age of the tuffs is Upper Oligocene or Lower Miocene. Medny Island 
was named for the copper contained in the igneous rocks.* 

The climate of the islands is marine, humid, cool, and foggy. The 

9 E. K. Suvorov, Komandorskie ostrova i pushnoy promysel na nikh (The Com- 
mander Islands and the Fur Industry on Them), St. Petersburg, 1912, p. 324. L. S. 
Berg, Qtkrytie Ramchatki i ekspeditsii Seringa (The Discovery of Kamchatka and 
Bering's Expeditions), Leningrad, 1935, izd. Arkt. hist, (publication of the Arctic 
Institute), pp. 278-308. 

* The Russian word for copper is wed, Tn. 


winter is mild; the coldest month, February or March, has a mean tem- 
perature of 3 or 4 C. The summer is cool; the warmest month, 
August, has a mean temperature of 10 to 11 C.-this in a latitude south 
of that of Moscow. Storms are very frequent on the islands. "At times 
there are such bitterly strong winds on this island [Bering Island] that 
a man can hardly remain standing on his feet,'* wrote Khitrov, a com- 
panion of Bering. Precipitation amounts to about 500 mm. per year. 

The islands are unforested and covered with tundra-the southernmost 
outpost of this type of vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere. In some 
places in the valleys there are thickets of willow, mountain ash, and 
Erman's birch (Betula ermani), which grow as tall as a man, or a little 

The islands are inhabited by arctic fox, while on the coast there are 
marine animals: the sea otter (Enhydra lutris}> incorrectly called sea 
beaver; Steller's sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), a member of the eared 
seal family; and northern fur seal (Arctocephalus ursinus [Cattorhinus 
ursinus]}) of the same family. During the time of Bering the sea around 
the islands abounded in Steller's sea cow (Rhytina stelleri [Hijdrodamdis 
stelleri]), which was exterminated completely by about 1770. 

xx Mountains of the Arctic 

IN this chapter we will examine that part of the Arctic 
which belongs to the region which I have called ( 1930 ) 
the ice region; in this region the mean temperature of the warmest month 
is approximately C. Precipitation as a rule falls in the form of snow. 
To this region belong Franz Josef Land, the northern part of Novaya 
Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya (North Land), and Bennett Island. That part 
of the Arctic which is occupied by tundra has been described already 
(p. 2ff.). 

Franz Josef Lane? 1 

This archipelago, which was discovered in 1873 by the Austrian expe- 
dition of Payer and Weyprecht, and became a part of the U.S.S.R. in 
1926, lies approximately between lat. 80 and 82 N. It is thus the 
northernmost territory of the U.S.S.R. The area of Franz Josef Land, 
including 800 islands, is about one-third the size of Spitsbergen. The 
largest two islands lie on the western border of the archipelago. Aleksan- 
dra Land, the westernmost of the two, is low-lying. In 1928 a geophysical 
station was built on Hooker Island (one of the southern islands) by the 
Institute for the Study of the North (now the Arctic Institute). 

Almost all the islands consist of low plateaus covered by continental 
glaciers. Approximately 97 per cent of the archipelago is covered with 
ice. The highest elevations rise over 900 m. 

The islands are composed of Middle and Upper Jurassic marine de- 
posits, and are covered with basalt crusts up to 20 m. thick. In some 

1 "Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa" (Franz Josef Land), Trudy Inst. po izuch. Severa 
(Proceedings of the Institute for the Study of the North), No. 47, 1930 (articles by 
V. U. Wiese and R. L. Samoilovich). V. K. Esipov, Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa (Franz 
Josef Land), Archangel, 1935, p. 74 (bibliography). T. N. Spizharsky, "Oledenenie i 
geomorfologiya" (Glaciation and Geomorphology), Trudy Arkt. irwrf. (Proceedings of 
the Arctic Institute), XLI, 1936. "Geologicheskoye stroyenie Zemli Frantsa-Iosifa" 
(Geological Structure of Franz Josef Land), Trudy Arm. inst. (Proceedings of the 
Arctic Institute), LXXVI, 1937. 




places the lavas are overlain by terrestrial Lower Cretaceous deposits 
which contain remains of vegetation; here and there they contain beds 
of lignite; these deposits also are covered with basalt crusts. After the 
Upper Jurassic sea retreated, the archipelago became a land mass. The 
basalt extrusions took place during the Lower Cretaceous period; there 
were several of them, which explains the alternation of basalt crusts 
with sedimentary deposits which contain flora. 

During the Quaternary period, powerful faulting took place in the 
region of Franz Josef Land; these dislocations divided the land mass 
which existed on the site of the archipelago into numerous islands. Evi- 
dence of the subsidences which took place here is found in the fact that 
the straits which divide the islands are very deep in some places, some- 
times as much as 500 m. deeper than surrounding parts of the Barents 
Sea (Spizharsky). Along the shores, at elevations up to 30 m., as many 
as four levels of terraces are well developed. 

Lying so high in the Arctic, the archipelago naturally has a very severe 
climate. The annual course of temperatures during the years 1932-1936 
at Tikhy Bay in lat. 8020'N, was as follows: 2 

Table 28 

























The annual course of temperatures on Franz Josef Land, as in the high 
Arctic in general, is characterized by a rather even temperature through- 
out the winter, although in some years a sharp rise in December and 
January may be observed (for example, in 1929, December was 5.5 C. 
warmer than November). At one time this phenomenon was explained 
as the effect of the relatively .warm ocean water, which raises the tem- 
perature of the air through the ice cover. But a more correct explanation 
may be that it is due to warm air currents from the south. 3 It is true that 
at Tikhy Bay in December, 1929, SE, S, and E winds prevailed, while 
in November the winds were E, N, and SE, and in March 1930, N, E, 
and NE. In general, however, the winter is relatively mild, as compared 

2 Z. A. Ryazantseva, "Novaya Zexnlya i Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa" (Novaya Zemlya 

^t nz J S ^ f Land) ' Trud y Afkt - ins *- (Proceedings of the Arctic Institute), Vol. 
79, 1937, p. 37. 

wu^' T V FOSU pl ^ e ^fya^yk 11 ' *ta" (Concerning the Reason for 
Mild Winters), Met. vestn. (Meteorological Herald), 1934, Nos. 4-7, pp. 107-117. 


with the winter on the mainland of northeastern Asia, which lies much 
farther south. However, the wind velocity in winter may reach 40 m. 
per second. During some years the number of stormy days (when the 
wind velocity exceeded 20 m. per second) has been as high as 10 in 
January. 4 

On individual days in summer the temperature in the south of the 
archipelago may reach 12 C. (for example, in 1904). The number of 
days without frost in July at Tikhy Bay is only 8; the annual total is 19. 
Cloudiness is very great, being least in March, and greatest in August 
and September. 

The measurement of precipitation in the Arctic is very unreliable, but 
on the basis of data from snow surveys, the approximate annual total of 
precipitation on Hooker Island is estimated at 300 mm. Fogs, as in gen- 
eral in the Arctic, predominate in summer. 

The vegetation of the archipelago, which is covered in considerable 
part by an ice sheet, is naturally very poor. Only about forty species of 
arctic flowering plants are known: buttercup, saxifrages, arctic poppy, 
scurvy weed, Draba, Cerastium, and several grasses. In the south in some 
places there is polar willow (Salix polaris). Lichens are far more nu- 
merous; there are about a hundred species. 

On the islands there are as many as thirty species of birds. The dovekie, 
or little auk (Alle die), the most numerous of the birds here; Mandt's 
guillemot (Cepphus mandti); the large glaucous gull (Larus hyper- 
boreus)-, the kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)-, Brlinnich's murre (Una lorn- 
wa); the fulmar (Fulmarus glacidis); and the ivory gull (Pagophila 
eburnea) nest in tremendous colonies ("bazaars") on the steep shores. 
There are some tundra ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus). The kittiwake and 
murre nest only in the south of the archipelago. The ivory gull some- 
times forms bazaars on the rocks, sometimes nests on flat surfaces. The 
mammals include the polar bear, and, occasionally, the arctic fox, which 
feeds on birds and their eggs. Of the marine mammals, the walrus, 
bearded seal [Engnathus barbatus barbatus?], and seal are of economic 


To die west of Franz Josef archipelago, in lat. 80 N and long. 37 E, 
lies the small island of Victoria, the western boundary of the arctic 
possessions of the U.S.S.R. It is about 7 km. long, and is covered com- 
pletely with a layer of ice about 100 m. thick. Judging from the pebbles, 
which consist of Upper Carboniferous limestone, this island, in structure, 
is related closely to the Northeast Land of Spitsbergen. 

*E Shishakova, KKmat i pagoda (Climate and Weather), 1932, pp. 143-144. 
*M. V. Klenova, "Ostrov Viktoriva" fVirtnrfa Tlnn/n A~*~ TTT -mo* 



Northern Novaya Zemlya 

Novaya Zemlya has been discussed to some extent already (p. 10). 
The northern island, approximately north of lat. 75 N, is part of the ice 
region. The northern tip of the island lies in lat. 77 N. The sparse 
vegetation and fauna are concentrated along the shores. The island was 
crossed in 1913, in lat. 76 N (from Pankratyev Peninsula). The surface 
of the ice sheet here reaches 913 m. above sea level; on April 4, on the 
highest point, the temperature was 18 C.; a light NNW wind was 
blowing, the sun was shining, and in general the weather was excellent; 
throughout the day, hoarfrost was deposited on the surface of the ice 
in tremendous quantity: the layer of freshly deposited hoarfrost was 3 cm. 
deep. On the return journey, on April 22, it was calm, rain was falling, 
and there was a dense fog; the temperature was + 1 C. 6 Meteorological 
observations at the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya (Cape Zhelaniya, 
1931-1936) show the following mean temperatures: T 

Table 29 

























Here, as on Franz Josef Land, there are equable temperatures in the 
middle of winter, and February is warmer than either January or March. 

In January temperatures of 50 C. have been recorded here. 

Polygonal soils are widespread. 

On the shore of Russkaya Gavan, in lat. 7614'N, only 25 flowering 
plants have been enumerated. They include the arctic draba, saxifrages, 
poppy, buttercup, and dwarf polar willow (Salix polaris). The first to 
appear in the spring of 1933 was the twinleaf saxifrage (Saxifraga op 
positifolia) ; its green leaflets were visible at the end of May. At the end 
of June, the vegetation began to blossom; some species (Cerastium 
alpinum) continued to bloom until the last days of September, when 
the soil had become frozen already. 8 

In lat. 76 N on the western coast, 70 species of flowering plants and 
over 200 lichens have been collected. The vegetation is particularly rich 
in places which are fertilized by birds* 9 

8 V. U. Wiese, Zap. po gidrogr. ( Hydrographic Report), XLIX, 1925, pp. 63-74. 

7 S. E. Ryazantseva, op. cit. 

8 L. I. Zubkov, Arctica, III, 1935, 

9 North of latitude 75 N, there are only 80 species of flowering plants. See 
A. L Tolmachev, "Obzor flory Novoy Zemli" (Survey of the Flora of Novaya Zemlya), 
Arctica, IV, 1936, pp. 143-174. ' 


The shores of Novaya Zemlya, to the extreme north, contain many bird 
bazaars. The bird which appears here in largest numbers is Briinnich's 
murre (Una lomvia); but north of lat 75 N, there are also bazaars 
where the guillemot (Cepphus mandti), kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), 
dovekie (Alle die), and fulmar (Fulmams glacialis) nest. Reindeer are 
found as far as the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya. 10 

Severnaya Zemlya (North Land) 

Severnaya Zemlya was discovered in 1913 by Captain Vilkitsky. But 
as early as 1869 Tretyakov had written as follows concerning the vicinity 
of Cape Chelyuskin: "We have heard often that in the sea there is 
another land, from which the arctic fox and polar bear come. Perhaps 
there are islands which stretch, in the form of an archipelago, from 
Novaya Zemlya to Severo-Vostochny ( North-East ) Cape." 11 In the years 
1930-1932 Severnaya Zemlya was charted and explored by the geologist 
Urvantsev. 12 

The Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, which lies approximately between 
lats. 78 and 81 N, is situated opposite Cape Chelyuskin, from which it 
is separated by Vilkitsky Strait. Bordering the Kara Sea on the east, the 
archipelago consists of four large islands and many small ones, with a 
total area of 36,712 sq. km. The largest island, October Revolution Island, 
has rocky, steep eastern shores and low western shores, indented by bays. 
The highest elevation on the island (and in the whole archipelago) is 
675 m. A considerable part of the area of the archipelago (about 42 per 
cent) is covered with ice, which does not exceed 200 to 250 m. in thick- 
ness. According to Urvantsev, the present glaciation is a vestige of an 
ancient, much thicker ice sheet There are traces of two phases of gla- 
ciation, separated by the boreal marine transgression. Judging from the 
shells which have been found, this transgression reached an absolute 
elevation of 70 m.; judging from, the elevation of the terraces, it reached 
90 to 100 m. During the postglacial period another transgression took 
place, up to an elevation of 15 to 25 m. At present an uplift of the land 
mass is taking place. The archipelago is composed of metamorphic schists, 
igneous rocks, and Paleozoic Quaternary deposits. All of the pre-Quater- 

10 L. I. Zubkov, "Dikie oleni Novoy Zemli" (Wild Deer of Novaya Zemlya), 
Trudy Arkt. inst. (Proceedings of the Arctic Institute), XXII, 1935, pp. 55-60. 
n Zap. Geograf. obshch. po obshch. geogr. (Report of the Geographical Society 

Concerned with Social Geography), II, 1869, p. 231. 

12 N. N. Urvantsev, Sevetnaya Zemlya (North Land), Leningrad, 1933, p. 29, 
with map, izd. Arkt inst. (publication of the Arctic Institute), Dwz goda na 
Severnoy Zemle (Two Years on Severnaya Zemlya), Leningrad, 1935, izd. Glavn* 
upr. Sevmorputi (publication of the Board of the Northern Sea Route), p. 364, 
with map. 



nary deposits have been intricately dislocated. Severnaya Zemlya attained 
its present features as a result of faulting which took place during the 
Tertiary and Quaternary periods. Until recently Severnaya Zemlya was 
connected with Taimyr, from which it became separated as a result of 
subsidences, which probably took place during the postglacial epoch 

The climate of the archipelago is very severe. Data on the temperature 
of the islands which lie to the west of October Revolution Island (in lat 
79/2 N), and, for comparison, observations on Cape Chelyuskin (lat. 
7743'N), are illustrative of the climate of the southern part of the 

Table 30 













Islands which lie 
west of October 
Revolution Island* 
Cape Chelyuskin t 













* October, 1930, to August, 1934. I. L. Rusinova and M. A. Davydova, "Meteor- 
ologicheskie nablyudeniya Severozemelskoy ekspeditsii 1930-1932 gg." (Meteoro- 
logical Observations of the Severnaya Zemlya Expedition, 1930-1932), Trudy Arkt. 
inst. (Proceedings of the Arctic Institute), LV, 1936, p. 28. 

f October, 1932, to August, 1934. B. Richter, Sooetsky Sever (The Soviet Arctic), 
Moscow, 1935, No. 3-4, p. 126. 

Here, as on Franz Josef Land, a rise in temperature is observed in the 
middle of winter, in February. 

The lowest temperature recorded on Severnaya Zemlya for the period 
indicated is 47C.; the highest, less than 5 C Cloudiness is greatest 
in August, least in March. The annual precipitation must be about 
150 mm. The snow cover disappears at the end of June or the begin- 
ning of July. The wind velocity is relatively small; it is greatest in Sep- 
tember (7.4 m. per second), least in April and December (4.9 m. per 
second). In general, this area has an arctic and marine variety of East 
Siberian climate. 

Bennett Island, discovered in 1881 by the American Lieutenant De 
Long on the yacht Jeannette, lies north of New Siberia Island in the 
New Siberian archipelago. It is composed of the same horizontal Cam- 
brian deposits and basalts as the Central Siberian Plateau, and reaches 
450 m. in elevation. There is a glacier in the interior of the island. 

Wrangel Island is part of the region of arctic tundras. In climate, the 
island approaches that of the ice region; the mean temperature in July 
is 2.4 C. There are no glaciers, even though the elevation on the island 
reaches 755 m. 

MAP 13. Landscape zones of the European part of the U.S.S.R. 





n %] 


S33S3SaS2SS Ss'SISi I S^ 


o sjgaiS 
g s'^lfc 


33 S< 

3 1 SI 


= J M 

sll^lllllllll * Illllfl 

CM PO ^i* 10 vd ** OQOsO*"<r*i wj ^H */S <O * OO O\ O "4 C4 ro ^ lOO r 













s ^ 














*i : w)^^P^^m 




a:.::::::'-.-:. 1 N^vflSO tf^Y^AvPk^l 



MAP 23. Mountain ranges of Eastern Siberia and the Far East. 

1 Tas-Khayakhtakh range; 2 Poluosny range; 3 Moma (Garniychan) range; 4 Kytm-Tas 
range; 5 Ganalsk-peak range; 6 Balaginsk range; 7 Kum-Roch range; 8 Pronchishchev range; 
9 Udokan range; 10 Kalar range; 11 Tas-Kystabyt range; 12 Dzhagda range; 13 Yam-Alin 
range; 14 Tsagan-Daban range; IS Malkhansk range; 16 Khudunsk range; 17 Tsagan- 
Zhurzhey range; 18 Dahurian range; 19 Nerchinsk range; 20 Delyun-Uransk range; 21 North- 
Muya range; 22 South-Muya range; 23 Barguzin range; 24 Ulan-Burgasy range; 25 Upper- 
Angara range; 26 Onotsk range; 27 Kropotkm range; 28 Primorsk (Maritime) range. 



Only the most important works are cited below the more recent and inclusive 
works, which contain maps and bibliographic lists, and which deal with all or 
with several regions of the U.S.S.R. 

Arkhangelsk/, A. D., Geologicheskoye stroienie S.S.S.R. (Geological Structure 
of the U.S.S.R.), Zapadnaya chast (The Western Part), 2 vols., 2nd ed., 
Leningrad, 1933-1934. 

, Shatsky, N. S., Menner, V. V., et al. 9 Kratky ocherk geologicheskoy struk- 
tury i geologicheskoy tetorii S.S.S.R. (Brief Sketch of the Geological Struc- 
ture and Geological History of the U.S.S.R.), izd. Akad. nauk (publication 
of the Academy of Sciences), with an atlas of paleogeographic diagrams, 
Moscow, 1937. 

Berg, L. S., Ustrotetvo poverkhnosti (Aziatskoy Rossii) (Surface Structure [of 
Asiatic Russia]), Aziatskaya Rossiya (Asiatic Russia), II, III (bibliog- 
raphy), izd. Peresel. upr. (publication of the Board of Immigration), with 
map, 1914. 

, Klimat i zhizn (Climate and Life), Gos. izd. (State Publication), Moscow, 

, "Klimaticheskie poyasa zemli" (Climatic Belts of the World), Izv. geogr. 
inst. (Report of the Geographical Institute), V, 1925. 

, Osriovy klimatologii (Principles of Climatology), Gos. izd. (State Publica- 
tion), Leningrad, 1927; 2nd ed,, Uchpedgiz, 1938. 

, Ocherk istorii russkoy geograficheskoy naufa (vplot do 1923 g.) (Sketch 
of the History of Russian Geographic Science [to the year 1923]), izd. 
Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), Leningrad, 1929. 

, Fiziko-geograficheskie (landshaftnie) zony S.S.S.R. (Physical-Geographi- 
cal [Landscape] Zones of the U.S.S.R.), Part I, Introduction, Tundra, 
Forest Zone, Forest Steppe, izd, Leningrad univ. (publication of Lenin- 
grad University), Leningrad, 1936. 

, Relyef Sibiri, Turkestana i Kavkata (Relief of Siberia, Turkestan, and the 
Caucasus), Uch. zap. Mosk. univ. (Scientific Report of Moscow Univer- 
sity), V, gcografiya (Geography), with map, 1936. 

Bush, N. A., Botanikogeografichesky ocherk Jevropetekoy chasti S.S.S.H. (Bo- 
tanical-Geographical Sketch of the European Part of the U.S.S.R.), izd. 
Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), Leningrad, 1935. 

, Botaniko-geogfafichesky ocherk Kavkaza (Botanical-Geographical Sketch 
of the Caucasus), izd. Akad, nauk (publication of the Academy of Sci- 
ences), Leningrad, 1935. 



Bush, N. A., Botaniko-geografichesky ocherk Yevropeiskoy dhasti S.S.S.R. i 
Kavkaza (Botanical-Geographical Sketch of the European part of the 
U.S.S.R. and the Caucasus), izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy 
of Sciences), Leningrad, 1936. 

I. Dokembry i drevny paleozoy (I. The Pre-Cambrian and the Ancient Paleo- 
zoic) and II. Sredny i verkhny paleozoy (II. The Middle and Upper 
Paleozoic), izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sciences), 
Leningrad, 1935. 

Dokturovsky, V. S., Torfyanie bolota (Peat Bogs), 2nd ed., Moscow, 1935. 

Geologiya i poleznie tekopayemie Severn S.S.S.R., I, Geologiya (Geology and 
Mineral Resources of the Northern U.S.S.R., I, Geology), izd. Glavn. upr. 
Sevmorputi (publication of the Board of the Northern Sea Route), Lenin- 
grad, 1935. 

Glinka, K. D., Pochvy Rossii i prilegayushchikh stran (Soils of Russia and the 
Adjoining Countries), Cos. izd. (State Publication), II, 1923. 

, Pochvovedenie (Soil Science), 3rd ed,, Moscow, 1927. 

Gorodkov, B. N., and Neustruyev, S. S., "Pochvennie raiony Uralskoy oblasti" 
(Soil Regions of Ural Oblast), Ural (The Urals), No. 5, Ekaterinburg, 

Kaminsky, A. A., "Klimaticheskie oblasti Vostochnoy Yevropy" (Climatic Prov- 
inces of Eastern Europe), Trudy po lesn. opytn. delu (Proceedings on 
Forestry Experimentation), LXIV, 1924. 

, Davlente vozdukha i veter v S.S.S.R. (Atmospheric Pressure and Wind in 
the U.S.S.R.), izd. Gl. Geofiz. observatorii (publication of the Central 
Geophysical Observatory), Leningrad, 1932. 

Kashkarov, D. N., Zhivotnie Turkestana (Animals of Turkestan), Gos. izd. Uzb. 
(Uzbek State Publication), Tashkent, 1931. 

Katz, N. Ya., "Tipy bolot i yildi razmeshchenie na territorii Yevropeiskoy chasti 
S.S.S.R." (Types of Bog and Their Distribution in the European Part of 
the U.S.S.R.), Zemtevedenie (Geography), XXXIX, 1937, 

Korovin, E. P., Rastitelnost Sredney Azii i yuzhnovo Kazakstana (The Vegeta- 
tion of Central Asia and Southern Kazakstan), izd. Akad. nauk (publica- 
tion of the Academy of Sciences), with map, Tashkent, 1934. 

Lyaister, A. F., and Chursin, G. F., Geografiya Zakavkazya (Geography of the 
Transcaucasus), Tiflis, 1929. 

Morozov, G. F., Uchenie o Use (Forests), 4th ed., Gos. izd. (State Publica- 
tion), Leningrad, 1928. 

, Uchenie o tipakh nasazhdeny (Types of Vegetational Stands), Gos. izd. 
(State Publication), Leningrad, 1930. 

Neustruyev, S. S., Ekmenty geografii pochv (Elements of Soil Geography), 
Gos. izd. (State Publication), Leningrad, 1930. 

Obruchev, V. A., Geologichesky obzor Sibiri (Geological Survey of Siberia), 
Gos. izd. (State Publication), 2nd ed., Moscow, 1927. 

"Obyasnitelnaya zapiska k geologicheskoy karte severnoy chasti S.S.S.R/' (mas- 
shtab 1:2,500,000) (Explanatory Note Accompanying the Geological Map 
of the Northern Part of the U.S.S.R. [Scale 1:2,500,000]), Trudy Arkttch. 
in-ta. (Proceedings of the Arctic Institute), Vol. 87, Part 1, 1937. 


Reverdatto, V. V., Rastitelnost Sibirskovo kraya (The Vegetation of Siberia), 
Novosibirsk, 1931. 

Rubinstein, E., Srednfe mesyachnie temperatury vozdukha Yevropeiskoy chasti 
S.S.S.R. (Mean Monthly Atmospheric Temperatures in the European Part 
of the U.S.S.R.), with atlas, izd. Glavn. Geofiz. observat. (publication of 
the Central Geophysical Observatory), Leningrad, 1926. Also for the 
Asiatic part of the U.S.S.R., 1931. 

Semenov-Tian-Shansky, V. P. (ed.), Rossiya (Russia), izd. Devriena (publica- 
tion of Devriena), 11 vols., 1899-1914. 

Sukachev, V. N., Bolota (Bogs), Leningrad, 1926. 

, Rastitelnie soobshchestva (Vegetational Associations), 4th ed., Leningrad, 

, Kratkoye rukovodstvo k issledovaniyu tipov lesov (Brief Manual for the 
Study of Different Types of Forest), Gos. izd. (State Publication), 2nd 
ed., Leningrad, 1930. 

Stegman, B. K., Osnovy ornito-jreograficheskovo razdeleniya PdLearktiki; Fauna 
S.S.S.R.; Ptttsy (Principles of the Ornitho-Geographical Subdivision of the 
Palearctic; Fauna of the U.S.S.R.; Birds), I, izd. Akad. nauk (publication 
of the Academy of Sciences) . 

Tanfilyev, G. I., Glavneishie cherty rastitelnosti Rossii (The Principal Features 
of the Vegetation of Russia), St. Petersburg, 1902. 

, Geografiya Rossii, Ukrainy i primykayushchikh k ram s zapada territory 
(The Geography of Russia, the Ukraine, and the Territories Which Adjoin 
Them to the West), II, Nos. 1-3, Odessa, 1922-1924., 

Voznesensky, A. V., Karta klimatov S.S.S.R. (Map of the Climates of the 
U.S.S.R.), Trudy po selskokhozyaistvennoy meteor. (Proceedings on Agri- 
cultural Meteorology), XXI, 1930. 

Walter, G., and Alekhin, V., Omovy botanicheskoy geografii (Principles of Bo- 
tanical Geography), Moscow, 1936. 

Zhivotny mir S.S.S.R. (Fauna of the U.S.S.R.), I, izd. Akad, nauk (publication 
of the Academy of Sciences), 1936. 

Maps and Atlases 

Climatological Atlas of the U.S.S.R., izd. Cos. plan. kom. (publication of the 
Central Planning Commission), Leningrad, 1933. 

Soil Map of the European Part of the U.S.S.R., izd. Akad. nauk (publication of 
the Academy of Sciences) . 

Soil Map of the Asiatic Part of the U.S.S.R., izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the 
Academy of Sciences), 1927. 

Geological Map of the European Part of the U.S.S.R., izd. Tsentr. Geolog.-razv. 
inst. (publication of the Central Geological Survey Institute), 1937. 

Geological Map of the U.S.S.R., 1:5,000,000, izd. Tsentr. Geolog.-razv. inst. 
(publication of the Central Geological Survey Institute), 1937. 

Map of Quaternary Deposits in the European Part of the U.S.S.R., izd. Tsentr. 
Geolog.-razv. inst. (publication of the Central Geological Survey Institute), 

Geobotanical Map of the European Part of the U.S.S.R,, izd. Gl. Botan. sada 
(publication of the Central Botanical Garden), 5-7, 9, 10, 14-15; 1928- 

Geological Map of the Northern Part of the U.S.S.R., 1:2,500,000, izd. Arkt. 
inst. (publication of the Arctic Institute), 1937. 

Industrial Atlas of the U.S.S.R., No. V, Part 1, Natural Conditions in the 
U.S.S.R., izd. Prezidiuma VSNKh (publication of the Presidium of the 
Supreme Council on National Economy), Leningrad, 1931. 

Atlas of Leningrad Oblast and Karelia, Leningrad, 1937, izd. Geogr.-ekon. inst. 
(publication of the Geographical-Economics Institute), with text (Lenin- 
grad Oblast and the Karelian A.S.S.R.), p. 341, Leningrad, 1935. 

Atlas of Tadzhikistan, izd. Akad. nauk (publication of the Academy of Sci- 



ABSOLUTE ELEVATION. Elevation above sea level, 

ALLUVIAL SOILS, Azonal group of soils, developed from transported and 
relatively recently deposited material (alluvium) characterized by a weak 
modification (or none) of the original material by soil-forming processes* 

ALLUVIUM. Fine material, such as sand, mud, or other sediments deposited 
on land by streams. 

ANTICLINE. An upfold or arch of stratified rock in which the beds or layers 
dip in opposite directions from the crest. 

ANTICYCLONE. The system of winds that belongs to and encircles a region 
of maximum barometric pressure. The winds circulate around the center clock- 

AWN. A bristlelike appendage of plants, especially occurring on the glumes 
of grasses. 

@ABXHAN. Isolated sand dune in the form of a lunar crescent. The wind- 
ward slope is convex; the horns point down-wind, 

BASIC ROCKS. Rocks poor in silica; opposed to acid. 

BEDROCK. The solid rock underlying soils and other superficial formations. 

BELKI (Russian). Snow-capped mountains. 

BOBAC. A marmot of eastern Europe and Asia. 

BOG SOILS. An intrazonal group of soils with a mucky or peaty surface 
soil underlain by peat, developed under swamp or marsh types of vegetation, 
mostly in a humid or subhumid climate. 

Bon (Russian), A pine grove growing on sandy soil. 

CARYOPSIS. A one-celled, one-seeded, superior fruit, with pericarp united 
to the seed; the fruit of cereals. 

CHERNOZEM SOILS. Azonal group of soils having a deep, dark-colored to 
nearly black surface horizon, rich in organic matter, which grades below into 
lighter-colored soil and finally into a layer of lime accumulation; developed un- 
der tall and mixed grasses in a temperate to cool subhumid climate. From 
the Russian for "black earth/' 

CIRQUE. A deep, steep-walled, amphitheatral recess in a mountain, caused 
by glacial erosion. The glacial cirque is so distinctive a geomorphic form that 
it is identified by a specific word in many languages, thus:. kar, corrie, cum, 
botn, caldare, oule> zanoga. These foreign terms are occasionally used in Eng- 
lish when the reference is to the occurrence of glacial cirques in the places 
, where these words are used. 


CYCLONE. The system of winds that accompanies and surrounds any con- 
siderable region of minimum barometric pressure. The winds circulate around 
the center counterclockwise. 

DEGRADATION. Change of one soil type to a more highly leached one. 

DEGRADED CHERNOZEM. A zonal group of soils having a very dark brown 
to black surface horizon underlain by a dark- to light-gray leached horizon 
which rests upon a brown horizon; developed in the region between chernozem 
and podzolic soils, where the forest vegetation has encroached upon grassland. 

DETRITUS. A heterogeneous mass of fragments of stone or earth. 

DHOLE. A fierce wild dog of Asia, of houndlike form, of a deep bay color, 
with small erect ears and a bushy tail. It hunts in packs and will attack even 
the tiger. 

DICOTYLEDON. Plant of the class denoted by their possession of two cotyle- 
dons, or seed lobes. 

DILUVIUM. Material of any sort deposited in one place after having been 
moved from another; drift. 

DRUMLIN. An oval hill of glacial drift, normally compact and unstratified, 
usually with its longer axis parallel to the movement of the ice responsible for 
its deposition* 

ELUVIAL. See "eluviation." 

ELUVIATTON. The movement of soil material from one place to another 
within the soil, in solution or in suspension, when there is an excess of rain- 
fall over evaporation. Horizons that have lost material through eluviation are 
referred to as eluvial and those that have received material as illuvial. The 
term refers especially to the movement of colloids, whereas leaching refers 
to the complete removal of material in solution. 

ENDEMIC. Indigenous or native to a restricted locality; confined naturally 
to a certain limited area or region; opposed to exotic. 

EPEIROGENIC. Of, pertaining to, or designating, continent-making move- 
ments of the earth's crust, or the rising or sinking of vast areas. 

EPIPHYTES. Plants which germinate on other plants and grow without 
obtaining nourishment at the cost of the substance of the host. 

ESCAPE. A cultivated plant found growing as though wild, dispersed by 
any agency. 

ESKER. A sinuous ridge of glacial sand and gravel, deposited by a stream 
flowing beneaih, in, or upon the glacier, and left as a ridge after the melting 
of the enclosing ice; serpentine kame, os. 

EXTRUSIVE ROCKS. Igneous rocks produced from lavas which reach the sur- 
face of the earth before they consolidate. 

FAULT, A fracture in the earth's crust accompanied by a displacement of 
one side of the fracture with respect to the other and in a direction parallel to 
the fracture. 

FLOOD PLAIN. The nearly flat surface subject to overflow along stream 

FLUVIOGLACIAL. Deposited or accomplished by streams from glacier ice. 

FOEHN. A warm, dry wind blowing down a mountain side onto the valleys 


and plains beyond; the dhinook is a warm, dry foehnlike wind that descends 
the Rocky Mountains. 

FOSSORIAL. Fitted for digging or burrowing, as the legs of certain insects. 

GEOSYNCLINE. A great downward flexure of the earth's crust. 

GLAVNY (Russian). Main. 

GLEIZATION. A general term for the process of soil formation leading to 
the development, under the influence of excessive moistening, of a glei (gley) 
horizon in the lower part of the solum. A soil horizon in which the material 
ordinarily is bluish gray or olive gray, more or less sticky, compact, and often 
structureless, is called a glei (gley) horizon and is developed under the in- 
fluence of excessive moistening. 

GLEY. See "gleization." 

GLINT (Russian). An escarpment in the Baltic region. 

GLUME. The chaffy two-ranked members of the inflorescence of grasses 
and similar plants. 

GRABEN. A block of the earth's surface that is depressed in relation to the 
surrounding rock units. The topographic basin that results from graben faulting 
is a rift, or rift valley. 

GRASSES. Annual or perennial, mostly herbaceous plants, family Gramineae. 

HALF-BOG SOILS. An intrazonal group of soils with mucky or peaty surface 
soil underlain by gray mineral soil; developed largely under swamp-forest type 
of vegetation, mostly in a humid or subhumid climate. 

HALOPHYTE, A plant which grows on saline soil. Halo is from the Greek 
for "salt" 

HAMATE. Hooked at the tip. 

HERB. A plant that dies to the ground each year, or at least that does not 
become woody. It may be annual, biennial, or perennial. 

HORST. A block of the earth's surface bounded by faults and lifted above 
its surroundings; opposed to graben. 

HUMUS. The well decomposed, more or less stable part of the organic mat- 
ter of the soil. 

HYDROPHYTE. A plant which grows in water or in saturated soil. 

IGNEOUS ROCK. A rock produced through the cooling of melted mineral 

ILLUVIAL. See "eluviation." 

INTERFLUVE. The higher land separating adjacent stream valleys. 

INTRAZONAL SOIL. Any of the great groups of soils with more or less well 
developed soil characteristics that reflect the dominating influence of some 
local factor of relief, parent material, or age over the normal effect of the 
climate and vegetation. 

INTRUSIVE ROCKS, Igneous rocks produced from magmas that have con- 
solidated below the earth's surface; plutonic rocks. 

KAME. A short irregular ridge, hill, or hillock of stratified glacial drift. 

KARST* A limestone plateau, on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, marked 
by sinks, or karst holes, interspersed with abrupt ridges and irregular protu- 
berant rocks, and by caverns and underground streams; any region character- 
ized by similar topography. 


KIANG. A large Tibetan wild ass (Equus hemionus), somewhat resembling 
a horse* 

KRAY (Russian). An administrative unit in the R.S.F.S.R. and the Ukraine, 
formed along lines of economic characteristics, which supersedes both the 
raion congresses of Soviets of the rural districts and the Soviets of the small 
cities. See "oblast" 

KURGAN (Russian). An accumulation of earth, of rounded, generally sym- 
metrical form, often more or less elliptical in horizontal section; tumulus, or 

LACCOLITH. An intrusive mass of igneous rock completely surrounded by 
strata which it has upheaved to form an arch or domical bulging. 

LACUSTRINE DEPOSITS. Materials deposited by lake waters. 

LATER SOCIETY. A plant community within an association which results 
from the tendency of various species of smaller size than the dominant life 
form to display their foliage at more or less definite levels. Thus, horizontal 
vegetative strata, the product of a process of adaptation and selection in which 
light is a dominant factor. 

LEACHING. Removal of materials in solution. 

LEGUME. A simple, usually dry pod, splitting along the back into two 
valves or parts; the fruit of any leguminous plant. 

LOESS. An unstratified deposit of loam, ranging to clay at the one extreme 
and to fine sand at the other, usually of a buff or yellowish-brown color. 

MAQUIS. Evergreen transition zone between steppe and forest in the Medi- 
terranean region, the species being characteristic of the adjoining forest; mostly 
of taller scrubs. 

MASSIF. The dominant, central mass of a mountain ridge more or less de- 
fined by longitudinal or transverse valleys; a diastrophic block, or any isolated 
central independent mass; a thickly-wooded hillside or a cluster of trees such 
as obscures all view beyond it. 

MELKOSOPOCHNK (Russian). Region of low hillocks and declivities with 
gentle slopes, believed to have been formed as a result of erosion under con- 
tinental conditions. 

METAMORPHIC ROCK. A rock the constitution of which has undergone pro- 
nounced alteration. Such changes are generally effected by the combined action 
of pressure, heat, and water, frequently resulting in a more compact and more 
highly crystalline condition of the rock. Gneiss, schist, and marble are common 

MINERAL Son,. A general term used in reference to any soil composed 
chiefly of mineral matter. 

MONOCLINAL. Having a single oblique inclination. 

MONSOON. A wind that blows steadily along the Asiatic coast of the Pacific 
over an extent of about 40 lat., in winter from the northeast (dry monsoon), 
in summer more violently from the southwest (wet monsoon). Hence, any 
wind tibat alternates annually in direction and force; a trade-wind. 

MORAINE. An accumulation of earth, stones, and so forth, carried and 
finally deposited by a glacier. 

MOUSE HARE. A pika- 


MUD VOLCANO. An orifice in the earth from which gas or vapor issues, 
either through a pool of mud, or with the ejection of mud, which accumulates 
in a conical mound. 

"MUSHROOM" ROCKS. Rock formations, characteristic of desert landscapes, 
which have been shaped by the cutting away of all projecting masses near 
their bases, due to the restriction of the more effective tools of erosion to the 
layer of air just above the ground. 

MYCOTROPHIC. Obtaining food by association with a fungus. 

NEVE. The partially compacted granular snow forming the surface part of 
the upper end of a glacier; firn. 

NICHE. A faintly etched amphitheater on the slope of a mountain, some- 
times produced by the hollowing action of snowdrifts. 

OBLAST (Russian). The terms oblast and kray are applied indiscriminately, 
according to local usage. But strictly speaking, an oblast is a newly established 
administrative district containing no autonomous area. Where an autonomous 
area peopled mainly by a national minority exists as an enclave within the 
district, the proper term is kray. The North Caucasian kray, for example, con- 
tains as many as seven autonomous areas. 

OKRUG (Russian). In the early days of the Soviet Union there was a tier 
of councils, in addition to the divisions of oblast or kray and raion, termed the 
okrug soviet, for an area roughly corresponding to that of the old volost (rural 
district) , in which both village Soviets and city Soviets were represented. This 
division was found inconvenient. It was decided by the Central Committee of 
the Communist Party by a decree of July 6, 1930, to "liquidate" the okrugs 
and to conclude by October 1, 1930. The decision was ratified by the Six- 
teenth Party Congress. But, in the vast area of the U.S.S.R., such changes take 
time to become universal. In 1934 there were still functioning twenty-two 

ORGANIC SOIL. A general term used in reference to any soil the solid part 
of which is predominantly organic matter. 

PANICLE. A loose flower cluster. 

PARENT MATERIALS. The unconsolidated mass from which the soil profile 

PARENT ROCK. The rock from which parent materials of soils are formed. 

PEAT. Unconsolidated soil material consisting largely of undecomposed or 
slightly decomposed organic matter accumulated under conditions of excessive 

PETIOLE. The footstalk of a leaf. 

PINNATE. With leaflets arranged along each side of a common petiole. 

PODZOL SOILS. A zonal group of soils having an organic mat and a very thin 
organic-mineral layer above a gray leached layer, which rests upon an alluvial 
dark-brown horizon, developed under coniferous or mixed forest, or under 
heath vegetation in a temperate to cold moist climate. Iron oxide and alumina, 
and sometimes organic matter, have been removed from the A and deposited 
in the B horizon. From the Russian for "like ash" or "near ash." 

PODOLEEATION. A general term referring to that process (or those proc- 
esses) by which soils are depleted of bases^ become acid, and have developed 


eluvial A horizons (surface layers of removal) and illuvial B horizons (lower 
horizons of accumulation) . Specifically the term refers to the process by which 
a podzol is developed, including the more rapid removal of iron and alumina 
than of silica, from the surface horizons, but it is also used to include similar 
processes operative in the formation of certain other soils of humid regions. 

POLYN (Russian). Species of Artemisia. In Standardized Plant Names (see 
Translator's Bibliography), species of Artemisia growing in the western United 
States are called "sagebrush," while those growing in the Old World are called 
"wormwood." However, this usage is not accepted by all authorities in this 
country. For this reason it was decided to retain the Russian word polyn 
throughout this translation. 

RAION (Russian). An area, formed mainly on lines of economic produc- 
tion, comprising a number of adjacent villages and hamlets, together with such 
small cities and urban settlements as are found in the area. The geographical 
extent and population of the raion differ from place to place according to local 
circumstances, and may be varied from time to time by decrees of any supe- 
rior authority. It may thus comprise any number of villages, from a few dozen 
to many score, with half a dozen times as many dependent hamlets, with or 
without one or more cities and urban settlements. 

RELATIVE ELEVATION. Elevation in local relief. 

RELICT, adj. Left behind in a process of change; n. a living remnant of an 
otherwise extinct type of plants or animals. 

RHACHIS. The axis of an inflorescence or compound leaf or frond. 

RHIZOME. Rootstock or dorsiventral stem, of rootlike appearance, prostrate 
on or under ground, sending off rootlets, the apex progressively sending up 
stems or leaves. 

RIFT VALLEY. See "graben." 

ROCHE MOUTONNEE. A knob of rock produced by the erosive action of 
gkciers; it has a gently inclined, striated and grooved, smoothed, or even pol- 
ished slope on the end against which the glacier impinged; the long axis is 
oriented in the direction of the ice motion; the lee end is steep, and has a 
rough, hackly surface. 

SAXAUL. A singular tree (Anabasis ammodendron and other species) with* 
out leaves, its thin boughs without branches, the stem growing in zigzag curves 
to the height o fifteen feet or more. It is common in western Asia. 

SEDIMENTARY ROCK, A rock composed of particles deposited from suspen- 
sion in water. The chief groups of sedimentary rocks are (1) conglomerates 
(from gravels), (2) sandstones (from sands), (3) shales (from clays), and 
(4) limestones (from calcium carbonate deposits); but there are many inter- 
mediate types. 

SEICHE. An oscillation of the surface of a lake or landlocked sea, varying 

- in period from a few minutes to several hours. It is thought to be initiated 

chiefly by local variations in atmospheric pressure, and perpetuated by the 

oscillations of the water surface, after the inequalities of atmospheric pressure 

have disappeared. 

SESSILE. Without a stem or stalk. 

SESQUIOXIDE. A binary compound of oxygen and a metal in the proportion 


of three to two. The two oxides, alumina (Al a O a ) and iron oxide (Fe a O s ) 
are the only two oxides in soils, in any considerable quantity, in which the 
elements are present in the ratio of two to three, or one to one-and-a-half; 
hence the term "sesquioxide." 

SHIBLYAK (Russian). Transition community between steppe and forest; 
such communities have arisen on the deforested soil of the Balkan Peninsula; 
they are composed of species which are not characteristic of forest; sibljak. 

SIEROZEM SOILS. A zonal group of soils having a brownish-gray surface 
horizon that grades through lighter-colored material into a layer of carbonate 
accumulation and frequently into a hardpan layer, developed under mixed 
shrub vegetation in a temperate to cool arid climate. From the Russian for 
"gray earth." 

SINKS. Funnel-shaped depressions dissolved from the surface of rock about 
the caverns of limestone formations. 

SKELETAL SOILS. An azonal group of soils having no clearly expressed soil 
morphology and consisting of a freshly and imperfectly weathered mass of 
rock fragments; largely confined to steeply sloping land; lithosols. 

SOIL. The natural medium for the growth of land plants on the surface 
of the earth. A natural body on the surface of the earth in which plants grow, 
composed of organic and mineral materials. 

SOLOD SOILS. An intrazonal group of soils having a thin surface layer of 
brown friable soil above a gray leached horizon which rests upon a brown or 
dark-brown horizon; developed under shrubs, grasses, or mixed grasses and 
trees, usually in a scmiarid or subhumid climate. From the Russian for "salt." 

SOLONCHAK SOILS. An intrazonal group of soils having a high concentration 
of soluble salts; usually light colored; without characteristic structural form; 
developed under salt-loving grass or shrub vegetation mostly in arid, semiarid, 
or subhumid climate. From the Russian for "salt." 

SOLONETZ SOILS'. An intraxonal group of soils having a variable surface 
horizon of friable soil underlain by dark hard soil, ordinarily with columnar 
structure; usually highly alkaline; developed under grass or shrub vegetation, 
mostly in a subhumid or semiarid climate. From the Russian for "salt." 

SOLONIZED SOIL. A soil which is affected by a process which ultimately 
leads to the formation of a solonetz. According to the extent of modification 
of the original material by such a process, one may recognize a weakly 
solonized, a moderately solonized, and a strongly solonized soil. The highest 
degree of solonization is represented by the fully developed or "mature" solo- 
netz. The most conspicuous characteristic of solonization is the development 
of a dark-colored impervious clayey B horizon or layer immediately below 
the surface soil. Thus, a solonized soil is a weakly or imperfectly developed 

SOLUM. The upper part of the soil profile, above the parent material, in 
which the processes of soil formation are taking place. 

STANITSA, A Cossack village or commune. 

SUBSOIL. Roughly, that part of the solum below plow depth. 

SUSLIK, A ground squirrel (Citdlus) of northeastern Europe and north- 
western Asia. 


SYNCLINE, A downward flexure in folded rocks, formed by strata dipping 
toward a common line or plane; a trough. 

TAKYH (Russian). The flat-floored bottom of an undrained desert basin, 
becoming at times a shallow lake, which, on evaporation, may leave a deposit 
of salt or gypsum; playa, salt pan. 

TALUS. Fragments of rock and soil material collected at the foot of cliffs 
or steep slopes, chiefly as a result of gravitational forces. 

TARPAN (Russian). A small feral horse (Equus gmelini] of the steppes of 
Russia and Central Asia, dun-colored and with a short mane. 

TECTONIC. Designating the rock structures and external forms resulting 
from the deformation of the earth's crust. 

THEBMOPHILE. An organism growing at a high temperature. 

THRUST. A compressive tangential stress in the earth's crust or the effect 
of such stress. Thrust faults are faults produced by horizontal compression, 
in which the vertical displacement of one block relative to the other is inci- 
dental to the horizontal shortening of the mass as a whole. 

TRAP. Any of various dark-colored, fine-grained, igneous rocks. Gabbro 
and diabase are often called trap rock. 

TUFF (TUFA). A rock composed of the finer kinds of volcanic detritus, 
usually more or less stratified and in various states of consolidation. There are 
many varieties. Tufa applies to similar rocks, but more especially to a kind 
of porous rock formed as a deposit from springs or streams; usually applied 
to calcareous deposits (travertine) in the phrase, "calcareous tufa." 

UNDERSHRUB. A low shrub; a low woody plant, whether growing beneath 
trees or in open ground; a subshrub. 

URMAN (Russian). A dense coniferous forest with fir predominating. 

VODORAZDELNY (Russian), adj. Watershed. 

XEROPHILOUS. Drought-resistant or drought-tolerant; able to withstand the 
absence or scarcity of moisture, as a desert plant. 

XEROPHYTE. A plant which can subsist with a small amount of moisture, 
as a desert plant. 

ZONAL SOIL. Any one of the great groups of soils having well developed 
soil characteristics that reflect the influence of the active factors of soil genesis 
climate and living organisms, chiefly vegetation. 

Russian Transliteration Table 

(Based on the new Russian orthography) 

This scheme is designed for the convenience of readers who do not 
know Russian. It is intended primarily for the rendering of personal and 
place names mostly nouns in the nominative case. 

The aim is to produce words as "normal" in appearance as possible, 
without the use of diacritical marks, superscripts or apostrophes, but at 
the same time to approximate the sounds of the Russian words, so that 
if spoken by an educated American they would easily be identified by 
a Russian. 

Names which arc a part of English cultural tradition, such as Moscow, 
Archangel, Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, are given in their customary English 

Extended phrases or entire sentences involving verb forms and case 
endings, which occur in footnotes for the convenience of students who 
know Russian, are given in a somewhat more complex transliteration 
which is reversible. 


A a a 

B f> 6 

B B v 

T n \ exce Pt * n genitive singular where it is ?>, 

I r * ( as in Tolstovo. 

fl R d 

f (1) ye j when initial, and after J>, %, and all vowels, 

J5 c J ( except H, H: Yekaterina, Izdanie, Nikolayev. 

< (2) c elsewhere, as in Lenin, Vera, Pero. 

K S yo but after JK and m o. 

3K oc zh 

33 Z 

H H i but after B yi, as in Ilyich. 

p|. tt ( in terminal diphthongs, but * medially, as in 

II * ( May, Kochubey, Kiy, Tolstoy, but Khozyaistvo. 
K K k 

JI Ji I 





M M 


H H 



H n 


P P 


C c 


T T 


y y 


$ $ 


X x 

kh as in Kharkov. 

D; n' 



tj q 


Chapayev, Vaigach. 

HI m 



nj m 



t t 


tl H 


Mys, Tsaritsyn. 

B B 


9 a 



E) ro 


a a 


Adjectival Endings 


Llfi, Hfi 

wfl Htt 1 both siir 

BIM, H^ j Qrozny> 



BIC, He both siixi 

The English letter y serves both as vowel and as consonant (as it docs 
in English) : (1) as a vowel within words, as in Mys, Tsaritsyn, and also 
(2) as an adjectival terminal vowel, as in Khoroshy, Razumovsky, May, 
Kochubey, Tolstoy, and (3) with consonantal force to soften vowels, 
as in Istoriya, Bratya, Yug. 

Index of Plants 

Abelia (Abelia corymbosa), 183 
Abelia corymbosa (abelia), 183 
Abies (fir) 
A.gracilis, 342 

A. Jiolophylla ( Manchurian fir), 65, 325 
A. nephrolepis (Khingan fir), 323, 326 
A. nordmanniana (Nordmann fir), 220, 


A. sachalinensis (Sakhalin fir), 332 
A.sibirica (Siberian fir), 35, 37, 58, 

A.sibirica semenovi (Turkestan fir), 


Australian, 215 
Lenkoran, 216 
"sand" (saxaul, Ammodendron conol- 

lyi), 151, 152 

Acantholimon (prickly thrift), 185 
A. diapcimoides, 186, 187 
A. hofienackeri, 240 
A. marmoreum, 183 
Acarithophyllum, 185 
Acanthopanax senticosus ("wild pep- 
per"), 323, 325, 332 
Acer (maple) 
A. campestre (hedge muplc), 80, 210, 

A. caudatum ukwunducnse (ukwvndu 

maple), 332 

A.&innala (Amur maple), 64 
A. 7u/rcanuw, 255 
A. insigne [A. vdutimwi glabrcsccns] 

(Persian velvet maple), 225, 239 
A, mono (mono maple), 323, 325 
A.monifpe$$ulanum 9 186 
A. platanoidcs (Norway maple), 54, 

56, 80 

A. pseudo-sieboldianum, 324 
A. tataricurn (Tatarian maple), 80, 103 
A.trautvetteri (redbud maple), 221, 

223, 224, 226 
A.turketfanicum (Turkestan maple), 

180, 181 

A,vclutinvm glabrettcens (Persian vel- 
vet maple), 225, 239 
Aconite, Siberian, 47 
Aconitum (monkshood) 

A. excelsum, 282 
A. krylovii, 282 
A. orientate, 226, 230 
Actinidia (Actinidia) 

kolomikta (A. kolomifoa), 323, 325 
Actinidia (actinidia) 
A. arguta, 325 
A. kolomikta ( kolomikta actinidia ) , 

323, 325 
Adonis (Adonis), 85, 99, 282 

spring (A. vernalte), 85, 99, 258 
Adonis (adonis) 
A. sibiricus, 282 
A. vernalis (spring adonis), 85, 99, 


A. volgen&is, 99 
Aegttop$ (goat grass), 238 
Aegopodium podagraria ( bishop Vgout- 

weed), 80, 271 

Aeluropus litoralis (azhrek), 157 
Agave, 216 

A. caninum (wheat grass), 219 
A. cnstatum ( crested wheat 

101, 280 
A. ferganense (wheat grass), 187 
A. popovii (wheat grass), 178 
A. pseudagropyron (wheat grass), 307 
A. rcpens (quack grass), 105 
A.swiricum (Siberian wheat grass), 

122, 150 
Agrostis canina (velvet bent grass), 84, 


Ak'dzhusan (white polyn), 121 
Ak-kuray ( drupe scurf pea, Psoralea dru- 

pacea), 156, 178 
Lenkoran, or silk-tree (Mbfazia juli- 

brissin), 239, 252 

Albizzia julibrissin (Lenkoran, or silk- 
tree albizzia), 239, 252 
AkhemiUa (lady's-mantle), 256 
Alder (Mnus), 17, 23, 39, 44, 50, 83, 
103, 195, 196, 294, 333, 340, 341, 

Caucasian (A subcotdafa), 239 
European (A. dutinQsa), 40, 47, 55, 
103, 104, 195 



Alder (Continued) 
hairy (A. barbate), 195, 200, 211, 217, 

Manchurian (A. fruticosa), 267, 294, 

296, 316 

Manchurian (A. hirsuta), 333, 341 
speckled (A. incana), 47, 231 
Alectoria (Alectoria), 15 
Alectoria (alectoria) 
A. ochroleuca, 15 
Alfalfa, 63 
Algae, 100 

blue-green (Nostoc commune), 99, 122 
calcareous, 74 
Alhagi (earners-thorn) 

A.camelorum [A. pseudalhagi], 158, 

229, 234 

A. pseudalhagi, 158, 229, 234 
ALmd (apple), 181 

Almond, 177, 178, 186, 211, 215, 252 
Russian (Amygdalus nana), 86, 95, 

210, 280 
wild, 180 
Alnus (alder) 

A. barbata (hairy alder), 195, 200, 211, 

217, 228 
A. fruticosa (Manchurian alder), 17, 

267, 294, 296, 316 
A>glutino$a (European alder), 47, 55, 

103, 104, 195 
A. hirsuta (Manchurian alder), 333, 


A. incana (speckled alder), 47 
A. kamtschatica, 341, 342 
A.subcordata (Caucasian alder), 239 
Ammodendron (saxaul) 
A. conoUyi, 150, 151 
A. karelini, 150 
Amygdalus nana (Russian almond), 86, 

210, 280 

A.aphytta (itsegek), 157 
A. salsa (biyurgun), 122, 149, 153 
Andromeda, 21, 44, 45 
Andromeda polifolia, 44 
Andropogon ischaemum (East Indies 

bluestem), 211, 233, 235 
Androsace vtttosa (rock jasmine), 86, 183, 


Anemone (Anemone), 99, 281 
narcissus (A. narcissiflora), 283 
snowdrop (A* syloestris), 85 
Anemone (anemone) 
A.caerulea [A. nemorosa caerulea], 


A. narcissiflora (narcissus anemone), 


A. nemorosa caerulea, 281 

A. nigricans, 99 

A. patens (spreading pasqueflower), 85, 

99, 281 

A. sylvestris (snowdrop anemone), 85 
Angelica, 282 

A. ursina, 341 

Apocynum venetum (dogbane), 158 
Apple (Pyrus), 103, 176, 177, 180, 181, 

189, 209, 218, 222 
Vernensk Aporta, 181 
wild, 181 

Apricot, 177, 180, 181, 189, 211, 215 
Aqutteeia (columbine) 

A*glandulosa (Altay columbine), 283 
A. olympica [A. vulgaris olympica], 226 
A. vulgar is olympica, 226 
Aralia, spiny (Aralia mandshurica) , 323, 

324, 325 
Aralia mandshurica (spiny aralia), 323, 

324, 325 
Araliaceae, 323 
Araucarites, 286 
Arbutus (madrone) 
A.andrachne, 252 

A.unedo (strawberry madrone), 252 
Archd (juniper), 166, 181 
Archangelica decurrens [Angelica], 282 
Arctostaphylos alpina [Arctous alpinus] 

(alpine ptarmiganberry), 15, 309 
Arctous alpinus (alpine ptarmiganberry), 

15, 309 

Aristida (three-awn) 
A.pennata var. karelini, 151, 152 
A. pennata var. minor, 151 
Artemisia (polyn), 98, 121 
A. cina (Levant polyn), 156 
A. hanseniana, 235 
A. incana (white polyn), 121 
A.lehmanniana f 182 
A.maikara (black polyn), 149 
A.maritima (white polyn), 121, 156,' 

185, 228 

A.maritima taurica, 253 
A.pauciflora (black polyn), 121, 149 
A.rhodantha (high-mountain polyn), 


A. scopaeformis, 156 
A. skorniakovii (high-mountain polyn), 

A. terrae-albae (white poli/n), 121, 149, 

150, 157 

A. turanica (Turanian polyn), 149 
Arthrophytum (saxaul), 151 
A. acutifolium (white, or sand saxaul), 


A.aphyllum (black, or solonchafc sax- 
aul), 151 


A. haloxylon (black, or solonchak sax- 

aul), 151 
A.persicum (white, or sand saxaul), 


Arum (Arum orientale), 87 
Arum orientale (arum), 87 
Arundo donax (giant reed), 158 
Asarum europaeum (European wild gin- 
ger), 58, 80, 271 

Ash (Fraxinus), 54, 56, 60, 64, 65, 80, 

82, 103, 104, 186, 209, 210, 213, 

217, 218, 222, 224, 228, 231, 254, 

255, 257, 258, 322, 332 

Manchurian (F. mandshurica), 64, 

323, 326, 332, 333 

Aspen (Populus), 23, 39, 40, 41, 44, 47, 
50, 54, 64, 65, 73, 80, 81, 82, 83, 
95, 103, 104, 123, 181, 183, 210, 
231, 257, 258, 268, 270, 271, 281, 
282, 285, 295, 308, 309, 332 
"Aspen bushes," 73, 80, 81, 82 
Aaperula odorata (sweet woodruff), 58, 

Aspicilia (a lichen), 122 

A. alpino-desertorum, 149 
Aster, Italian (Aster amellus) 9 89 
Aster amellus (Italian aster), 89 
Astragalus (Astragalus), 101, 152, 233, 

Crimean-Balkan tragacanth (A. arna- 

cantha), 213 

Oweriu's (A. owerini), 227 
sand, 151 
spiny, 234 

spiny (A. marschallianus) , 223, 231 
spiny (A* nigricalyx), 182 
spiny tragacanth (A. aurcus) 9 240 
tragacanth, 185, 234 
Astragalus (astragalus), 20, 340 
A. ammodendron, 152 
A. amacantha (Crimean-Balkan traga- 
canth astragalus), 213 
A. aureus (spiny tragacanth astragalus), 


A. brevifolius, 280 
A.dilutus, 280 
A.liumilis, 238 
A. marschdlianus ( spiny astragalus ) , 

223, 231 

A* nigricalyx, 182 

A. owerini (Owerin's astragalus), 227 
Atragcne sibirica [Clematis alpina sibi- 

rica] (alpine clematis), 282 
Atraphaxis spinosa (a buckwheat shrub), 

234, 253 

Atriplex canum (saltbush), 122 
Atropis distant [Puccinellia distans] 9 87, 


Avena (oats), 238 
A. desertorum (desert oat), 187 
A. pubescens (hairy oat), 84 
Azalea (Azalea), 215, 218, 219, 220, 221, 

224, 225 

pontic (A. pontfca or Rhododendron 
flavum [R. luteum]), 58, 196, 210, 

Azalea (azalea) 

A. pontica [Rhododendron luteum] 

(pontic azalea), 58, 196 
Azhrek (Aeluropus litoralis), 157 

Bdyk-kuz (Salsola lanata), 156 
Bamboo, 194, 216, 329, 332 

Kurile (Sasa kurilensis), 333 
Banana, Japanese, 216 
Barberry, 180, 186, 229, 231, 282 

European (Berberis uulgaris), 223 
Barley, 25, 175, 185, 233 

bulbous (Hordeum bvlbosum), 178 
Bean, common bog (Menyanthes trifoli- 

ata), 197 
Bedstraw, yellow (Galium verum), 46- 

47, 233 

Beech (Fagus), 55, 58, 80, 81, 210, 218, 
219, 220, 222, 223, 224, 225, 229, 
230, 240, 249, 250, 251, 255, 256, 
257, 258, 260 
Caucasian, 222, 255 
European (F. sylvatica), 255 
oriental (F. orientalis), 196, 213, 217, 

221, 229, 240, 255 

milky (Campanula lactiflora), 220 
short, 227 
Bent grass, 184 

velvet ( Aerostis canina), 84, 85 
Berberis vulgarte (European barberry), 

Bcrgenia, 295 

leather (Bergenia crassifolia), 296 
Bergenia crassifolia (leather bergenia), 


Bermuda grass (Ct/nodon dactylon), 157 
Betula (birch) 

B.cajanderi (white birch), 15, 316 
B. costata, 65, 325 

B.dawrica (Dahurian birch), 63, S25 
B.ermani (Erman's birch), 309, 315, 

322, 326, 333, 340, 344 
B.exUis (East Siberian dwarf birch), 

14, 309 

B.japonica [B* platyphyUa japonica] 
(Japanese white birch), 326, 332, 
B.kusmisscheffii (Lapland birch), 17 


Betula (Continued) 

B.medwedtewii (Medvedev's birch), 

221, 226 

B.megrelica (Mingrelian birch), 221 
B.middendorffii ( Middendorff's birch), 

309, 315, 316, 322 

B.nana (dwarf arctic birch), 14, 20, 
. 268, 283 
B. platyphylla (Asiatic white birch), 

64, 309, 322 

B. platyphylla japonica (Japanese white 

birch), 326, 332, 333, 341 
B. pubescens (pubescent birch), 81, 221, 


B. pubescens var. glabra, 104 
B. raddeana (Radde's birch), 223, 226, 

B.rotundifolia (ground birch), 283, 


B. subtilis, 315 

B.tfanschanica (white birch), 181 
B.tortuosa (crooked birch), 17, 267, 

268, 270 
B.verrucosa (European white birch), 

81, 257 

Bilberry, 17, 40, 41, 42, 45, 82, 268 
bog (Vacdnium uliginosum), 14, 15, 

17, 40, 45, 295, 333 
Birch (Betula), 3, 12, 15, 16, 17, 23, 39, 

40, 41, 44, 65, 69, 73, 80, 81, 82, 

83, 88, 95, 104, 176, 210, 223, 224, 

225, 226, 231, 257, 258, 268, 269, 
270, 271, 272, 281, 282, 286, 294, 
295, 296, 307, 308, 309, 315, 325, 
332, 333, 340 

Asiatic white (B. platyphylla), 63, 64, 

65, 309, 322 

crooked (B, tortuosa), 17, 267, 268, 

Dahurian (B. davurica), 63, 64, 65, 

323, 325 
dwarf, 3, 45 
dwarf arctic (B. nana), 14, 15, 17, 20, 

268, 283 

East Siberian dwarf (B. exilis), 309 
Ennan's (B. ermani), 231, 309, 315, 

322, 326, 332, 333, 340, 341, 342, 

343, 344 
European white (B. verrucosa), 42, 81, 

83, 257, 294 

ground (B. rotundifolia), 283, 296 
Japanese white (B. japonica [B. platy- 
phylla japonica} ), 326, 332, 333, 341 
Lapland (B. kumisscheffii), 17 
Medvedev's (B. medwediew