Kamchatka

Kamchatka (kămchătˈkə) [key], peninsula, 104,200 sq mi (269,878 sq km), Kamchatka Territory, Russian Far East, separating the Sea of Okhotsk in the west from the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean in the east. Extending from lat. 51°N to lat. 61°N, it is 750 mi (1,207 km) long and terminates in the south in Cape Lopatka, beyond which lie the Kuril Islands. Petropavlovsk is the chief city. There are many rivers and lakes, and the eastern shore is deeply indented by gulfs and bays. The peninsula's central valley, drained by the Kamchatka River, is enclosed by two parallel volcanic ranges that extend north-south; there are about 120 volcanoes. The highest point is Klyuchevskaya Sopka (15,600 ft/4,755 m), itself an active volcano. Kamchatka is covered with mountain vegetation, except in the central valley and on the west coast, which has peat marshes and tundralike moss. The climate is cold and humid. There are numerous forests, mineral springs, and geysers.

Kamchatka's mineral resources include coal, gold, mica, pyrites, sulfur, and tufa. Fishing, sealing, hunting, and lumbering are the main occupations. The seas surrounding the peninsula are a rich Russian fishing area (notably for crabs, which are exported worldwide), and fur trapping on the peninsula yields most of the furs of the Russian Far East. Some cattle raising is carried on in the south and farming (rye, oats, potatoes, vegetables) in the Kamchatka valley and around Petropavlovsk. Reindeer are also raised on the peninsula. Industries include fish processing, shipbuilding, and woodworking. Russia's only geothermal power station is on the peninsula. There is some tourism, particularly in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, noted for its geysers.

The majority of the population is Russian, with large minorities of Koryak peoples. The northern part of the peninsula was formerly administered as the Koryak Autonomous Area, but it was merged with the Kamchatka region to form the Kamchatka Territory in 2007. Its capital was Palana.

The Russian explorer Atlasov visited Kamchatka in 1697. The region's exploration and development continued in the early 18th cent. under Czar Peter I, and Russian conquest was complete by 1732. Heavy Russian colonization occurred in the early 19th cent. From 1926 to 1938, Kamchatka formed part of the Far Eastern Territory. The peninsula, subsequently part of the larger Kamchatka oblast [region], now is part of Kamchatka Territory, which includes offshore islands and areas of the mainland bordering the penisula. Petropavlovsk is the territory's capital.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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