The Don, after curving east through the government of Ryazan, flows generally south through the governments of Tambov, Orel, Voronezh and the Don Cossacks territory, describing in the lastnamed a sweeping loop to the east, in the course of which it approaches within 48 m.
In its upper course, which may be regarded as extending to the confluence of the Voronezh in 51° 40', the Don flows for the most part through a low-lying, fertile country, though in the government of Ryazan its banks are rocky and steep, and in some places even precipitous.
(1) The Kazan Tatars, descendants of the Kipchaks settled on the Volga in the 13th century, where they mingled with survivors of the old Bulgarians and partly with Finnish stems. They number about half a million in the government of Kazan, about 100,000 in each of the governments of Ufa, Samara and Simbirsk, and about 300,000 in Vyatka, Saratov, Tambov, Penza, Nizhniy-Novgorod, Perm and Orenburg; some 15,000 belonging to the same stem have migrated to Ryazan, or have been settled as prisoners in the 16th and 17th centuries in Lithuania (Vilna, Grodno and Podolia); and there are some 2000 in St Petersburg, where they pursue the callings of coachmen and waiters in restaurants.
A crafty prince, with all the tenacity of his race, Basil succeeded in incorporating with Muscovy the last remnants of the ancient independent principalities, by accusing the princes of Ryazan and Syeversk of conspiracy against him, seizing their persons, and annexing their domains (1517-1523).
The western branch became russified, so that the Meshcheryaks of the governments of Penza, Saratov, Ryazan and Vladimir have adopted the customs, language and religion of the conquering race; but their ethnographical characteristics can be easily distinguished in the Russian population of the governments of Penza and Tambov.