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Epilogue: Engaging with Post-Soviet Northern Eurasia

In a book titled Russia 2010, Yergin and Gustafson (1993) attempted to predict what the country would be like after 15 years of reforms. They envisioned four broad scenarios: (1) “Chaos” (dissolution and an all-out civil war); (2) “Two-Headed Eagle” (the restoration of an authoritarian state, albeit with a capitalist economy); (3) “Russian Bear” (the rise of anti-Western security or military forces, which […]

Central Asia: The Heart of Eurasia

In this chapter I focus on the five independent republics of Central Asia, the five “-stans” (stan means “state” in Turkic). Collectively known as “Turkestan,” they have much in common: an arid physical environment, Turkic languages (except for Tajikistan), Sunni Islam, and Asian cultural traditions. All five are also landlocked, if one discounts access to the inland Caspian Sea for Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Whereas […]

Eastern Europeans: Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova

The three independent states discussed in this chapter have strong historical links with Russia. The first two are, like Russia, Eastern Slavic nations with Slavic languages and an Orthodox Christian religious tradition; they share much of their history, and were tightly economically integrated during the Soviet period. Moldova has the same Orthodox religion, but is culturally and linguistically Romanian. Nevertheless, it too has at […]

The Baltics: Europeysky, Not Sovetsky

The three Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—share a history of having forcibly been made part of the Soviet Union in 1940. They were the first among the 15 Soviet republics to proclaim their independence from the U.S.S.R. in 1990, and they gained it the following year. Since then, they have eagerly sought integration into European political and economic structures. In 2004 they were […]

The Far East: The Russian Pacific

Across the Pacific Ocean from the United States, the giant Far East federal district of Russia is the largest unit in the country (6.2 million km2). It includes huge Sakha (Yakutiya), which alone is bigger than the European Union (EU) in area, at about 3 million km2. The Russian Pacific in the narrow sense includes only the units that border the ocean: […]

Vignette 27.1. Profile of Biysk

Biysk (52°31’N, 85°10’E) is a typical medium-sized industrial city in Siberia. It is located near the confluence of the Biya and Katun Rivers, which form the Ob; it is about 160 km southeast of Barnaul, the capital of Altaysky Kray. Biysk is a city of 220,000 people, about the size of Olympia, Washington. It was established as a […]

Siberia: Great Land

The greatest Russian scientist of the 18th century, Mikhail Lomonosov, famously said that “Russia will increase through [the use of] Siberia.” In the early 21st century, his words have proven prophetic: Siberia is pivotal to Russia’s economic might. It is part of Asiatic Russia and is usually defined as the land east of the Urals and west of the Lena River, sometimes […]

The Urals: Metallurgy, Machinery, and Foss il Fuels

The Urals economic region of the Soviet Union included four subjects of federation (Bashkortostan and Udmurtiya Republics, Permsky Kray, and Orenburg Oblast) that have already been discussed in Chapter 24. It also included Sverdlovsk Oblast around Yekaterinburg, as well as Chelyabinsk and Kurgan Oblasts, all of which are discussed here. The federal districting scheme of 2000 has added Tyumen Oblast, and the Khanty-Mansi and […]

The Caucasus: Cultural Divers ity and Political Instability

The Caucasus is located at various crossroads: those between Europe and Asia, north and south, east and west. The Black and Caspian Seas are separated by 500 km of high mountains. To the north is European Russia; to the south is Asia. The main Caucasus range is the highest in Russia. It provides a natural barrier to cold air masses from […]

Vignette 24.1. Profile of Kazan

Kazan (established 1177 A.D.; population 1,105,000) is the most important Tatar city in Russia. The city was founded by the Volga Bulgars, who had become part of the Golden Horde under Genghis Khan, and later became its own khanate in 1438. Kazan Khanate was conquered by Ivan the Terrible’s troops in 1552. Today Kazan is a large industrial […]

The Volga: Cars , Food, and Energy

If you are familiar with U.S. geography, it may be helpful to think of the Volga region as Russia’s Midwest. The region is located in the middle of the country, along the longest river in Europe, the Volga. It is rich in agricultural lands and hydropower resources. It is also home to some of the largest factories of the former Soviet […]

The Northwest federal district of Russia

Russia’s Northwest: Fishing, Timb er, and Culture

The United States has its own Pacific Northwest. Russia’s Northwest borders the seas of the Atlantic Ocean and is much farther to the north, but it does have some similarities to its American counterpart; for example, both have a maritime climate, are highly dependent on timber and fishing, and house large navy fleets. Russia’s Northwest, however, has St. Petersburg—the second largest city […]

FIGURE 22.2. The Central federal district of Russia. Map: J. Torguson.

Central Russia: The Heart of the Country

This chapter begins this book’s section on the regional geography of Northern Eurasia. “Regions” in this context have been defined as “human constructs … of considerable size, that have substantial internal unity or homogeneity, and that differ in significant respects from adjoining areas” (Hobbs, 2009, p. 4). In the United States, examples of regions include the Midwest and the South; in Europe, they […]

Retail and Leisure Services

Besides transportation and telecommunications, services include medical care, education, retail, and leisure. Medical care has already been covered in Chapter 12, and science and education in Chapter 15. Tourism-related leisure services have been covered in Chapter 16. Here I discuss retail and some other leisure services. The Soviet-era retail sector was dreadful: There were not enough stores, few available goods, and plenty of […]

High-Tech Russia

A cartoon from the 1990s depicted a Russian bogatyr (ancient warrior) on horseback, incredulously poking with his spear at a computer keyboard in front of Baba Yaga’s (a witch-like Slavic folklore character’s) log house. The keys on the keyboard were made out of tree stumps, cut to various sizes. A sign on the house proudly said, “The first ancient Russian computer.” Such […]

Transport Near and Far

It takes over 10 hours in a passenger jet to cross Russia’s airspace from west to east. The famous Rossiya train takes about 6 days to travel the length of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Moscow to Vladivostok. Moving people and freight has always been one of the biggest challenges and top priorities for the Russian government. Ukraine and especially Kazakhstan are also […]

Infrastructure and Services

After industry and agriculture, the service sector is the next step in our survey of post-Soviet economic geography. In the developed countries of the West, services account for over 60% of the gross domestic product (GDP), because with high productivity and mechanization fewer people are needed for production in industry and agriculture. In Russia’s case, the sector accounts for a little less […]

Timber Production

Russia is about 50% forest-covered and has 20% of the world’s timber supply. An average Russian has 5.2 ha of forests and 548 m3 of timber available, as compared to the world’s average of 0.9 ha (65 m3) per person. Only Canadians have more forest acreage or timber per capita. Unfortunately, half of Russia’s forest consists of larch, a hardy but scraggly […]

Marine Fisheries

Russia has one of the longest coastlines on the planet (about 37,000 km, mainly along the Arctic Ocean). However, its two main marine fishing areas are limited in extent: the Barents Sea in the European north, and the Bering and Okhotsk Seas of the Pacific. During the Soviet period, heavy investments were made in harvesting ocean fish: Salmon, cod, pollock, hake, sardines, herring, […]

Hunting and Freshwater Fishing

Domestic food production in Northern Eurasia is frequently supplemented by game and fish gathered in the wild. Siberia and the north have traditional hunter-gatherers and fishermen, for whom the game and fish of the taiga and tundra are their primary source of protein. Elsewhere, villagers hunt and fish to obtain extra protein because food from stores is expensive. There is a tradition of […]

Food Imports and the Future of Russian Agriculture

Despite massive production of grains, oil, sugar, fiber, fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry, Russia and most of the other FSU countries remain net food importers. In 2005 over $16 billion was spent by Russia to import food—almost 17% of all imports for the year. The cost went up to $35 billion by 2008, boosted by a national program (Wegren, 2009). Although for […]

Patterns of Agricultural Production Today

This section describes the current production patterns in Russia (and, where relevant, other FSU nations) of the main agricultural products: grain; sugar and oil; potatoes; tobacco and tea; vegetables and fruits; and meat and poultry. Grain Before the Bolshevik Revolution, three grain crops were primarily grown in Russia: wheat, rye, and oats. Rye and oats can grow all the way to the […]

Soviet Agriculture and the Post-Soviet Transition Period

Agriculture is one of the three main sectors of the economy, along with industry and services. It is indispensable for any country. Even if some food must be imported, it is always a good idea to rely on local sources for most staples—grain, milk, and meat. Agriculture includes farming and ranching, along with some less important areas, such as beekeeping and aquaculture. […]

Fruits of the Earth: Agriculture, Hunting, Fishing, and Forestry

Although only about 5% of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is produced by agriculture and another 5% by forestry, these two activities are strategic. These primary sectors of the economy are sometimes dismissed as “primitive” or even “irrelevant” by sophisticated postindustrial economists. Yet all of us need to eat. We need lumber and paper provided by forestry. In Russian society 100 years ago, […]

Light Industry and Consumer Goods

«Light industry» includes production of clothing, shoes, textiles, appliances, and other retail items. It was never a strong part of the Soviet economy. For example, although some clothing and footwear had to be produced, much of it was of abysmal quality. To get a pair of decent shoes, one had to shop at one of the hard-currency (Beriozka) stores, or beg a […]