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oblast (province), western Russia, occupying an area that extends across the southern end of the Ural Mountains. It stretches from the limestone plateaus of the Obshchy Syrt in the west, across the low Urals ridges, to the flat Turgay Plateau in the east. Most of the oblast lies in the feather-grass and fescue steppe; in the north and northwest are groves of birch and pine, especially in the Buzuluk pine forest nature reserve. Much of the steppe is plowed up, particularly as a result of the Virgin and Idle Lands Campaign of the 1950s, and agriculture is important, principally spring wheat, corn (maize), millet, and sunflowers. The economy is dominated, however, by the mining and industrial area at the southern end of the Urals, centred on Orenburg city, the oblast headquarters. Many minerals are exploited, and heavy industry-iron and steel, petrochemicals, and engineering-is highly developed. Area 47,900 square miles (124,000 square km). Pop. (1990 est.) 2,183,000.