Kamtchatka, a large peninsula of the Rus-sian empire, in the N. E. of Asia, about 800 m. long from N. to S., and of irregular breadth, the maximum, along the 56th parallel of latitude, being about 250 m.; area, about 100,000 sq. m.; pop. about 20,000. It is bounded N. by the country of the Tchuktchis, E. by the sea of Kamtchatka, S. by a strait separating it from the Kurile islands, and "W. by the sea of Okhotsk. Since 1856 it has been united with the Trans-Yablonic district and the recently acquired Amoor territory to form the maritime province of Eastern Siberia. The coasts are dangerous of approach on account of outlying reefs. A lofty range of volcanic mountains traverses the country in a S. W. direction, with many peaks between 7,000 and 16,000 ft. high. The snow line, in lat. 56° 40', is at an elevation of 5,260 ft. This range is a portion of the great volcanic chain extending from the Ya-blonnoi mountain range to the Kurile islands. Dittmar, a Russian traveller (1851-3), traced five successive formations and found 17 volcanoes still in active operation. Numerous rivers rise in the heights. The Kamtchatka, with its affluent the Yelovka, is navigable for 150 m. The most fertile portion of the peninsula for agricultural purposes lies along the valley of this river.
The Russian settlers here raise oats, barley, rye, potatoes, and garden vegetables, but the rest of the country is little adapted for culture. ' The climate is very severe; the winter lasts nine months, and frost is common at all seasons. The mean annual temperature at Petropavlovsk on the E. coast is 28.5°, while at Tigil on the W. it is 43°. The average temperature of summer at the former place is 55.5°, and that of winter 19°, but the thermometer has been known to fall as low as - 25°. Earthquakes are frequent and violent. Animal life is very abundant, and until recently the inhabitants supported themselves wholly on the products of the chase; but since the game has diminished they find plenty of aliment in fish, which swarm in the seas and rivers. The wild animals yet abundant in the more sequestered localities are bears, wolves, reindeer, argalis or wild sheep, black, red, and gray foxes, ermines, sables, and otters. Wild fowl are very numerous. The principal varieties of fish are herrings, cod, and salmon. Whales are often seen in the adjacent seas.
The mountains are covered with forests of birch, larch, pine, and cedar, of considerable size in the south, but diminishing northward until the northernmost portion of the territory is covered only with reindeer moss. - The Kamtchat-dales, the principal native tribe, are of diminutive stature, but stout, with flat features, small eyes, thin lips, lank black hair, and scarcely any beard. They are a peaceable, honest, lazy, and intemperate race. In winter they live in sunken huts, in summer in huts raised on poles some 13 ft. from the ground. Their dress is equally adapted to the changes of temperature, being of fur in winter and nankeen in summer. They are nominally governed by their own toions or chiefs, under the jurisdiction of the Russian ispravnik, or chief commissary. Dog trains are used as the means of transport. The other principal tribe are the Kodaks, who live north of lat. 58°. While the Kamtchatdales are hunters and fishermen, with fixed habitations, the Koriaks are a wandering tribe, subsisting on the produce of the reindeer, and differing from them in language and mode of life. The commerce of Kamtchatka is chiefly with Okhotsk. Its exports are furs, oil, etc.
Its imports are flour, sugar, dry goods, whiskey, rice, and coffee, almost all passing through the port of Pe-tropavlovsk, the capital, on Avatcha bay. The other ports are Bolsheretsk, on the W. coast, and Lower Kamtchatka, on Kamtchatka river, with 220 inhabitants. Kamtchatka is one of the principal places of deportation in the Russian empire. - See Kennan, "Tent Life in Siberia" (New York, 1870), and Bush, "Reindeer, Dogs, and Snow Shoes" (New York, 1872).