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 […]

The Chemical Industry

Production of chemicals is critical for any economy. One of the earliest chemical industries to appear in Russia was the production of sulfuric and nitric acid, needed to make fertilizers and gunpowder. The production of potassium hydroxide for glass making was another early chemical industry. Some of Russia's earliest chemical factories were built in the early 1800s, mainly around Moscow, along the Volga, […]

Heavy Manufacturing

In Russia, the common term for heavy manufacturing is “machine building” (machinostroenie). It includes production of motors, boilers, tractors, agricultural and mining combines, industrial machines, manufacturing equipment, and their components. It also includes the manufacturing of some high-tech goods (e.g., electronic equipment, avionics and robots); some of these are discussed in Chapter 21. It includes some components of the military complex as well, such […]

Nonferrous Metals

Nonferrous metals are called “colored metals” in Russia, as opposed to iron, which is “black metal.” These metals can be divided into a few groups: heavy (copper, lead, zinc, tin, nickel), light (aluminum, magnesium, titanium, sodium, potassium), noble (gold, silver, platinum), rare (zirconium, indium, germanium, gallium), and high-temperature (tungsten, molybdenum). Many of these metals are found in mixed polymetallic ores and are mined together. […]

Iron Ore and Steel

Russian iron ore production started in the 18th century. The earliest factories appeared in Tula (1712) and the Urals (the Demidov plant in Nizhniy Tagil, 1721), during the time of Peter the Great. The process of smelting iron ore requires a lot of cheap energy, and charcoal provided that in the Urals at first. When anthracite coal became available in the Donbass […]

Secret Nuclear Cities

The Soviet Union was the second country in the world to detonate a nuclear device in 1948, and the first to launch a civilian nuclear station in 1954. Much of the 1950s–1970s was spent on achieving nuclear parity with the United States during the Cold War. The Soviet Union had to build facilities for research and development (R&D) of nuclear weapons and […]

Heavy Industry and the Military Complex

Perhaps the heaviest legacy (both literally and figuratively) of the Soviet economy was its military–industrial complex, called in Russian the voenno–promyshlenny kompleks or VPK. Its presence was pervasive: Entire cities were built around steel mills, aluminum smelters, tank manufacturers, chemical factories, or nuclear weapons facilities. Over 50% of the country's industrial output in the 1980s was generated by this sector. The Soviet Union produced […]

Renewable Energy Sources

With the largest territory in the world, Russia should be able to capitalize on the use of wind, solar, and biomass power, which are more evenly distributed over large areas than coal, oil, or gas deposits are. However, at present the country is far behind the United States, Germany, or even Denmark in the use of renewables. According to the International Energy […]

Nuclear Energy

Russia was the first country in the world to start producing “peaceful” nuclear energy; the first small station, in Obninsk near Moscow, was opened in 1954 and is still operating today. Russia currently has 10 functioning stations with over 30 reactors. This is fewer than the United States has (105 reactors), but it still represents a lot of energy production capacity. In […]

Coal

Coal was the first fossil fuel to be used by humans. It is also the most abundant, the cheapest, and by far the dirtiest. Coal industry has a long history in Russia. Some of the oldest mines in the FSU are over two centuries old; they are located in Ukraine today, mainly in the Donbass basin (Lugansk and Donetsk Oblasts), which […]

Natural Gas

Natural gas is mainly methane that occurs in bogs. Fossil natural gas deposits exist in many of the same places where oil does. Basically, when oil is produced underground from the remains of the microscopic marine plankton, some of the shortest molecules escape and remain trapped underground in gaseous form right above the liquid oil. In cases where oil-producing rock has sunk very […]

Petroleum

Petroleum is the most convenient and widely useful fuel known to humankind. It is liquid, so it can be piped long distances for a relatively low cost overland, or carried by tankers overseas. It is much cleaner than coal and gives off more energy per unit of weight. It is extremely versatile: Hundreds of products can be made from it, including not […]

The Role of the Energy Sector in the Overall Russian Economy

Everywhere in modern Russia today, the energy industry has left its mark upon the landscape. Obvious signs include new office buildings, such as the Lukoil and Gazprom skyscrapers in southwestern Moscow; Western-style gas stations with colorful logos along rural highways; large, freshly painted railroad cars carrying petroleum products; and the names of new city streets, school buildings, and soccer stadiums. This is not […]

Oil, Gas, and Other Energy Sources

Having considered the cultural and social geography of the former Soviet Union (FSU), let us turn our attention now to its “economic geography”—that is, its patterns of production, consumption, and trade. The post-Soviet reforms discussed in Chapter 8 have dramatically altered the economic geography of the entire FSU and of each post-Soviet state. Three of them, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are full European […]

Tourism

This chapter discusses the tourism and heritage preservation issues of Northern Eurasia/the former Soviet Union (FSU). As Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson famously said, “Each nation has three kinds of wealth: material, cultural, and biological.” Cultural and biological features attract visitors, both domestic and foreign. Unquestionably, the FSU has a treasure trove of both natural and cultural landmarks; however, the tourism potential of […]

Education, Arts, Sciences, and Sports

Education, together with its outcomes in arts, sciences, and sports, is an important subject of geographic research. Each country and region has its own distinct style of education and its own educational system. Comparisons among countries, and among regions within each country, must be made if we are to understand the particular nature of each place. It is impossible for us to comprehend […]

Religion, Diet, and Dress

This chapter focuses on other cultural elements, besides languages, that are important in the geography of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Cultural geographers are frequently interested in learning about the influences of religious beliefs on the organization of space in human societies (Park, 1994). The major religions of the world have left an indelible mark on many cultural landscapes and facets of human […]

Cultures and Languages

Culture” is an elusive concept that is hard to define. A good working definition is “a shared set of meanings that are lived through the material and symbolic practices of everyday life” (Knox & Marston, 2007, p. 29). Culture is learned primarily in early childhood, but also throughout one's life. It includes nonmaterial items, such as language and beliefs; material objects called […]

Social Issues: Health, Wealth, Poverty, and Crime

Social geography” looks at many aspects of people's daily lives as expressed in their engagement with and movements through space. It encompasses both traditional customs and modern developments. At the outset, it is important to note that social issues can be understood both objectively (as, for example, when one looks at statistics on health or crime) and subjectively (when one perceives things in […]

Cities and Villages in Other Countries of the FSU

The urbanization from levels of the other FSU republics range 73% in Belarus to 26% in Tajikistan; all these are below the levels of either Russia or any Western country. The republican capitals are large: Kiev has over 2.5 million people; Minsk, Tashkent, and Baku have about 2 million each; and Tbilisi, Yerevan, and Bishkek have about 1 million each. The capitals […]

Rural Settlements: The Woes of the Russian Village

Russian village life has always been hard. For centuries, peasants formed the majority of the country's population. The old village life focused on the extended family, with husband, wife, many children, grandparents, and frequently also younger siblings living under the same roof. The land was owned communally, with specific parcels allocated each year to households, depending on the size of families. A […]

Post-Soviet Changes

The carefully planned Soviet cities have been undergoing rapid transformation as the new post-Soviet economic realities have set in. The literature in the Further Reading list at the end of this chapter provides more details about specific patterns and processes. Here I am only briefly going to mention several tendencies that are discussed in the current research on the topic. Soviet-style […]

Urban Structure

Historically, Russian cities were centered around a kremlin—a fortified settlement high on a river bank, frequently on an easily defensible hill at a confluence of two rivers. For example, the Kremlin in Moscow is located high on Borovitsky Hill between the Moscow and Neglinnaya Rivers, and the kremlin in Nizhniy Novgorod is situated between the Oka and the Volga. Such locations made sense, […]

Urban Demographics

The FSU/Northern Eurasia is a fairly urbanized region. The average level of urbanization in the FSU (64%) is above the world's average (50%), but is considerably below the European (74%) or North American (79%) levels. Russia and Belarus are the two most urbanized countries in the region, while Tajikistan is the least urbanized. In some republics there is only one major city, and […]

History of Urbanization and City Functional Types in Russia and the U.S.S.R.

As in the rest of Europe, many cities in European Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova are old. Although none approach Rome or Marseilles in age (2,600+ years), some are over 1,000 years old, with an unmistakably medieval core (a fortified kremlin) and a more recent periphery. The oldest cities, however, are in Georgia (Tbilisi, Batumi), Armenia (Yerevan), Uzbekistan (Samarkand, Bukhara), and other parts […]

Vignette 11.1 Typical Daytime Travels of a Sixth-Grade Student in a Large Soviet City in the 1970s

Alexander gets up at 7:15 A.M. He lives with his mother and father in a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a typical nine-story building in the microrayon Zvezda located 15 km away from the city center. His mom is getting his breakfast ready. He leaves home at 8:05 A.M. and walks to his school, across the […]

Cities and Villages

This chapter examines settlements of Northern Eurasia, with the main focus on Russia as usual. A major distinction must be made between urban (city) and rural (village) settlements. In the United States, urbanized areas generally have over 1,000 people per square mile (400 per square kilometer). An informal way to think about the urban–rural distinction is to look at the services available to […]

Vignette 10.2 Brides and Adopted Children from the FSU in the United States

I have met more than a dozen American men who have married Russian wives over the past few years. I also know a few people who have adopted children from one of the FSU. Most of these families are genuinely happy, and I am very glad for them. They reflect the widespread post-Soviet phenomenon of connecting American and […]

Vignette 10.1 Portrait of a Typical Russian Family Today

Vladimir and Olga are a typical Russian couple. (Although they are fictitious characters, their story is based on many real ones and represents a common narrative of family life in Russia today.) They are in their late 30s, have been married for 16 years, and have a son who is 15 years old. They live in an […]

Demographics and Population Distribution

“Demography” is the study of populations. The population of a country can be classified by age, gender, occupation, health, and so on. We can look at where people tend to live, and at how and where they move. We also might be interested in the long-term prospects of a given society: Will it have enough resources to sustain its population growth, for […]

Vignette 9.1 Strategic Kaliningrad

If you look at a map of present-day Russia, you may wonder why a triangular piece of its territory is isolated between Poland and Lithuania, right on the Baltic Sea coast. Historically, this was part of the now extinct country Prussia, populated by the Baltic people of the same name. However, the ethnic Prussians were absorbed over several […]

The Geopolitical Position of Russia in the World

Now that we have considered the main economic and political reforms of the last 20 years, it makes sense to look at the Russian Federation and the other countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) with respect to their geopolitical position. Although Russia is a successor to the Soviet Union, it only has half of the U.S.S.R.'s population and 70% of its […]

Is Russia Asian or European?

The perpetual question of Russian foreign policy is where the country fits within Eurasia: Is it a European or an Asian state? This question began to be asked at the time of the Mongol invasions, when Russian princes such as Alexander Nevsky had to choose allegiances between western (Germanic) and eastern (Mongol) realms. Nevsky generally chose the Mongols over the Germans, but he […]

Russia’s Neighbors

Table illustrates the position of Russia vis-?vis other nations in the world today. It remains an important player worldwide: It is still the biggest country by size, with plenty of natural resources, one of the largest military complexes on the planet, thousands of nuclear warheads, and brisk arms sales to other countries. It is far less significant in cultural and “soft” economic endeavors. […]

Other FSU Republics

The pattern of economic transition in other FSU republics followed broadly the same path as Russia's. The Baltic states were the earliest adopters of the Western free market, with large proportions of their economies privatized by the mid-1990s. By the turn of the century they were already well off enough to be considered for membership in the EU, which they successfully joined […]

The Kremlin Corporation and Putin Forever?

In December 2007, The Wall Street Journal published a story suggesting that Putin's personal wealth, if measured by the value of the assets that he is believed to control personally, may approach $40 billion. This would have been about double the net worth of the officially richest Russian at the time, Roman Abramovich. This may be either an overstatement or an […]

Putin Rising: The Beginning of New Order

After the 1998 default, a new prime minister was brought in to restore some credibility to the country's image: a former Middle East career diplomat and spymaster, Yevgeny Primakov. He managed to stabilize the situation within a few months, but was abruptly dismissed by Yeltsin in the spring of 1999, when it was discovered that Primakov had formed an alliance with the powerful […]

Hitting Bottom: The Default of 1998

The period between 1996 and 1999 was characterized by continued privatization, growth in the big private companies, some political maneuvering over the passing of new legislation, a few high-profile assassinations, and (very importantly) the rapid growth of government short-term bonds. The so-called GKO bonds were issued for a few months each, and typically had an interest rate just ahead of the inflation rate, […]

Privatization and the Rise of the Oligarchs

One of the notorious results of privatization ? la Chubais was the emergence of new wealthy private owners, dubbed “oligarchs.” In Greek, oligos means “few” and archon means “power.” Basically, then, an oligarchy is a system in which a few people control a lot, and an oligarch is one of these people. A typical oligarch of the mid-Yeltsin period was a […]

A New Political Structure: The Russian Federation

Besides economic reforms, a great deal had to be done politically by Yeltsin's government. The Soviet constitution no longer worked and had to be replaced. The roles of the president of Russia, the Congress of People's Deputies, and the executive branch had to be redefined. An independent system of courts had to be established. Virtually all Soviet laws—including the civil and penal […]

Yeltsin: “Painful, but Quick” Reforms?

Yeltsin called Gorbachev's ambiguity irrelevant and dangerous, and promised that real political and economic reforms would be made quickly. It was clear, he stated in the fall of 1991, that the country had to move toward a democratic state and a free-market economy. He had overwhelming public support for this at first. Ordinary people were tired of the long lines, absence of products, […]

The End of the Soviet Union

It is sometimes stated that the Soviet “empire” collapsed in 1991. Although the U.S.S.R. was a multiethnic entity, it was not an “empire” in the same sense as the British or French colonial holdings were. The Soviet Union's dissolution was a result of a deliberate political act by a few republican leaders, not of a popular revolt by the oppressed indigenous masses. […]

Gorbachev’s Perestroika

As discussed in Chapter 7, Gorbachev inherited a deeply entrenched, but increasingly dysfunctional, totalitarian political system and a sickly staterun economy. On the one hand, even the party elite was getting tired of the old-fashioned, inefficient command economy and other methods of running the country. On the other, the economy stopped growing. Much of the country's foreign earnings came from exports of petroleum […]

Vignette 8.2 The New and Old Regional Units of the Russian Federation

Russia, like the United States, is a federation of regional units. They are called “subjects of federation,” not “states,” but the idea behind them is similar: Each has its own governor, legislature, flag and seal, borders, and so on. Overall there were 89 subjects of federation in 2000, but only 83 in 2010, including 21 autonomous republics, 4 […]

Vignette 8.1 The Evolution of Retail Establishments on a Typical Moscow Street

To give you a better sense of the pace of post-Soviet reforms, we could take a walk through time on any Moscow street and look for clues. One such street, Borisovsky Proezd in southeastern Moscow, is near the flat where I grew up. The district of Orekhovo-Borisovo was founded in 1974, and 10 years later it had a […]

Post-Soviet Reforms

The 1985 election of Mikhail Gorbachev as a new leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (C.P.S.U.) ushered in a new era. The stagnation of the Brezhnev period had ended with his death in 1982. After two successors to Brezhnev died in rapid succession, the Communist elite wanted someone younger and healthier in the lead. Gorbachev was apparently chosen because […]

Vignette 7.1 The Moscow State University Building: One of the Projects of Stalinism

If you have been to Moscow, you probably have seen the main building of Moscow State University, with a spire soaring to 250 m (Figure 1). The building was completed in 1954, the year after Stalin's death. It looks like a wedding cake, and its neo-Empire design is rather similar to that of some New York skyscrapers of […]

The Soviet Legacy

The Soviet period started in October 1917, with the victory of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's Bolshevik party over the bourgeois Provisional Government in the political revolt later referred to as the “October Revolution.” It ended with the Communist hardliners' coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991. Thus the period covers 74 years of Russia's recent history. The word “Soviet” means “council” in Russian, and as […]

Vignette 6.2 Current Boundaries of Russia

Russia occupies 11.3% of the world's landmass. The total length of the land border is 20,097 km. The countries Russia borders, and the length of the border with each country, are as follows: Norway, 196 km; Finland, 1,340 km; Estonia, 294 km; Latvia, 217 km; Lithuania (Kaliningrad Oblast), 280.5 km; Poland (Kaliningrad Oblast), 232 km; Belarus, 959 km; […]

Vignette 6.1 Slavic Gods

Before the Eastern Slavs were converted to Christianity, they were animists. “Animism” is a belief in spirits as expressed in forces of nature. The ancient Slavs believed in a number of gods, both male and female. Each tribe had one most important god and a variety of others. Wooden totemic statues (idols) were commonly erected at prominent sacrificial […]

Formation of the Russian State

The Russian state has a long history, encompassing over 11 centuries. Archeological work in Ukraine points to the existence of settlements north of the Black Sea in the Paleolithic period, placing human presence in the Dnieper basin well over 10,000 years ago. The ancient Slavic tribes that gave rise to the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian people originated in the Dnieper basin shortly before […]

Vignette 5.1 Saving Nature … by Teaching Kids

My trip to Siberia in the summer of 2006 started with a long bus ride from the international Tolmachevo Airport in Novosibirsk. After about 2 hours of bumpy road on the national Trans-Siberian Highway (which in places resembles a local access road somewhere in Montana), I was relieved to get off on a curve somewhere in Bolotniki district […]

Environmental Degradation and Conservation

The Soviet Union was commonly perceived as one of the most polluted places on earth. A list of the major environmental disasters of the 20th century includes many that happened in the U.S.S.R.: the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine; the less publicized Kyshtym nuclear accident near Chelyabinsk in the Urals; the Aral Sea water loss; the Semipalatinsk and Novaya Zemlya nuclear bombing fallout; and […]

Other Biomes

Besides the main five biomes of Northern Eurasia, there are some rarer types, of which four merit mention here: mountainous ecosystems; the subtropical vegetation of the Black and Caspian Sea coasts; the unique forests of the Russian Pacific; and the azonal communities of the floodplains and marine coasts. All mountain ranges have their own zonation of ecosystems from bottom to top. For […]

Desert

With its spacious, rainless interior, Eurasia is home to the northernmost deserts in the world. Located entirely outside the tropics, the deserts of Central Asia have all the usual desert features, including sand dunes, desert pavement, rock formations, small saline lakes and playas, and very little vegetation. However, the northern, boreal elements of their flora and fauna are unique. The main deserts in […]

Forest–Steppe and Steppe

South of Moscow, the forest gradually gives way to the steppe. Across the Oka River, the first patches of steppe begin to appear. The Tula and Orel regions have forest–steppe, while the Kursk and Belgorod regions are primarily in the true steppe zone. The steppe stretches across much of Ukraine to the lower Volga, to northern and central Kazakhstan, and to the […]

Mixed and Deciduous Forests

South of the taiga zone, a narrow wedge of mixed and deciduous forests stretches from the Baltic republics to the Urals and beyond, to Novosibirsk and the Mongolian border. This zone is smaller than the taiga, but it has a warmer and generally wetter climate. Moscow is located in the middle of it, with pine and spruce being more common to the […]

Taiga

“Taiga” is a Siberian word; it has recently become better known through the efforts of the Taiga Rescue Network, doing important conservation work throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, taiga is known as the “boreal coniferous forest,” which is what covers much of Canada. Note that although the West Coast forests of British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington also have conifers, they have […]

Tundra

Treeless tundra is found in the north of Russia, generally above the Arctic Circle. In European Russia, it occupies limited space on Kola Peninsula and in the Arkhangelsk and Komi regions along the coast. In Siberia, the most extensive tundra is found on Yamal, Taymyr, and Chukotka Peninsulas. In North America, tundra covers much of Alaska's North Slope, as well as about one-quarter […]

Biomes

The nature of the former Soviet Union (FSU) is diverse and beautiful. It makes the most geographic sense to look at it from the perspective of “biomes,” the largest ecosystem units. The biomes of Northern Eurasia are similar to those of Europe or North America: tundra in the north; taiga and deciduous forests in the middle; steppe and desert in the south. […]

Vignette 3.2 Almaty, a City Designed with Climate in Mind

It is July in Almaty, the largest city of Kazakhstan and its former capital. The air is hot (it is 32?C in the shade), but the city feels cool. What's the secret? When you arrive at your hotel, you decide to leave the air-conditioned room behind and explore on foot. All streets are laid out in a […]

Vignette 3.1 Living with Permafrost

“Permafrost” is perennially frozen soil and subsoil material that exists in climates below a certain temperature threshold. Usually it is found everywhere in tundra (ET) and subarctic (Dfc) climates. In North America, it is found in much of northern Canada and Alaska. In Russia, it occupies an astonishing two-thirds of the territory, primarily in the north and in […]

Climate

“Climate” refers to the average weather conditions found over large territories. Climate is expressed in terms of daily, monthly, and annual values of air temperature and precipitation, as well as wind speed, moisture, seasonality, and other factors averaged over a standard period of observations, usually 30 years. Climates of the world are differentiated into five broad types, labeled with the letters A through E; […]

Relief and Hydrography

The term “relief” refers to all the landforms on the surface of the earth. It is basically the same thing as “topography.” “Hydrography” refers to the water features that produce some of the landforms. Every country has prominent features such as mountains, valleys, plateaus, and basins, which set the stage for climate types and biomes to develop, and these in turn determine to […]

Introduction Russia and Post-Soviet Northern Eurasia

Russia is a country unlike any other. It occupies much of the world's largest landmass, Eurasia; it stretches across 11 time zones and covers over 17 million km2. Its average climate is the coldest of any country on earth. Its land is extremely varied, with large plains and bogs, forests and deserts, rivers and lakes. Underneath its soil are thousands of tons […]

Russia’s Potential

At the end of World War I, distinguished British geographer Sir Halford Mackinder published a volume entitled Democratic Ideals and Reality. In it, he proposed a “Heartland Theory.” He contended that the country that controlled the “world island” (Eurasian continent) could control the world. He stated: “Who rules eastern Europe commands the Heartland. Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island. […]

Geopolitical and Global Economic Partnerships

Starting in the late 1940s, the United States and the Soviet Union clashed in political and economic conflict during the cold war. When the cold war ended, the Soviet Union disbanded. The United States gave token support to the Russian Federation. For 10 or so years, however, the United States paid little attention to Russia's socioeconomic problems. On September 11, […]

Russian Federation Integration

Some disorder and conflict has occurred within the Russian Federation.Many ethnic groups want independence from Russia. If that is not possible, they at least want more recognition and autonomy. Consolidation of power in the hands of Vladimir Putin nevertheless prevented major conflicts (other than the seemingly continuous unrest in the Caucasus region). During Boris Yeltsin's regime, many remote regions existed in semi-independence. […]

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) succeeded the Soviet Union. It was founded by Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus in December 1991. The CIS has a population of 280 million and an area of 8.5 million square miles (13.7 million square kilometers). All former Soviet republics except Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia joined the organization. The Baltic republics elected to tie their future […]

Attempts to organize the russian cultural realm

The Soviet Union was the successor to the sprawling imperial Russian Empire. Guided by Marxist ideology and the Communist Party, Soviet leaders attempted to remold the economy, cultural life, and settlement. Centralized national planning was their major tool. Soviet planners recognized the problems caused by Russia's size. During the Five-Year Plans, they constructed roads, canals, railroads, and air routes, and built […]

Merchant Marine Transport System

The spread of Communism and economic growth within the Soviet Union after World War II led to a large expansion of foreign trade. Turnover of goods at Soviet seaports increased five times between 1960 and 1975. Development of Siberian and Far Eastern resources also stimulated additional movement of goods on coastal shipping routes and between ports on different seas. The Northern […]

Air Transportation System

Air transportation played an important role in uniting the farflung and remote areas of the Soviet Union. It began to develop prior to the Russian Revolution. Growth continued during the years between World Wars I and II and it expanded greatly after World War II. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union claimed to have more scheduled airline service than any […]

Railroad System

Development of modern imperial Russia and of the Soviet Union depended almost entirely upon its railroad system. In a modern industrial society, where great distances separate resources from markets, transportation is extremely important. Compared with the problems faced in road construction and in river transportation, railroad construction problems were relatively slight. There were shortages of ballast stone for track beds and trees […]

Road System

Muscovite princes recognized that a reliable, all-weather transportation network was crucial for political control and economic development. Although the distances involved were immense, there were few physical impediments to overland transportation routes in the west. On the other hand, climate, permafrost, and relief combined to present major obstacles in Siberia. Initially, roads were constructed to bring goods and products to river ports […]

Inland Waterways

The Kievan state, Moscow, and Novgorod all became rich and politically powerful because of river trade. Every major city in imperial Russia and in the Soviet Union was initially located on a river or another major body of water. The Volga River system opened the way to the riches of the Middle East, central Asia, and China. It also led […]

Mineral resources

Russia is extremely well endowed in mineral resources. It is rich in coal and oil, and in most raw materials required by a modern industrial nation. A determined effort was made in the 1930s to survey and map mineral wealth. Vast deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas were discovered. Soviet geologists reported that the nation contained more than one-half […]

Russian Industrial Regions

The present pattern of industrial location in Russia was set during the early Five-Year Plans. Distinct industrial regions remain, based on their industrial history. They are old centers of market-oriented, labor-intensive industries; old centers of heavy industry; new energy-based industrial regions; and emerging industrial regions. These regions represent a decision-making struggle. Industrial planners wanted to locate new plants at […]

Industrial Historical Geography

Russia's Industrial Revolution began during the 1700s. Before this time, manufacturing was done at home by hand, using simple machines.Most pre–Industrial Revolution artisans and skilled laborers worked in rural areas. They made the products needed by their family, friends, and those who lived in their village. The use of complex, expensive, and large power-driven machines took manufacturing out of the home […]

Agriculture in Russia in the Early Twenty-First Century

              Russia is a major importer of food. In most years, at least 20 percent of all food consumed is imported. Russia buys food from the United States, western European countries, and the former Soviet republics. Agriculture in Russia faces severe climatic limitations. As a result, average productivity per acre is much lower […]

Yeltsin’s Plans to Privatize Agriculture in Russia

Boris Yeltsin, who led Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, directed all state agencies involved to submit suggestions on how to reform Russian agriculture. This was part of his effort to privatize agriculture. His 1991 decree guaranteed Russian farmers the opportunity to become independent of the state agricultural system. This decree led to a decline in agricultural production and […]

Gorbachev’s “New Food Program”

Mikhail Gorbachev, who became the Soviet leader in 1985, had a strong background in agriculture. He had served as the Politburo's member in charge of agriculture before he became first secretary of the Communist Party. The Politburo was the highest governing body of the Communist Party. Gorbachev attempted to increase incentives for farmers to produce more food and to improve the […]

Brezhnev’s “Nonblack Earth Program”

Khrushchev was removed from power and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev in 1964. Brezhnev had been secretary of the Central Committee of the Kazakhstan Communist Party during the initial years of the “Virgin Lands Project.” When he came to power, he immediately raised the prices paid to farmers for their products and guaranteed a wage for collective farmers. His main goal […]

Khrushchev’s “Virgin Lands Project”

Stalin's death in 1953 led to a period in which the members of the Communist Party inner circle decided who would lead the Soviet Union. The man chosen was Nikita Khrushchev, who became the leader of both the Communist Party and the country. Khrushchev had a sincere desire to substantially improve the Soviet people's diet. In order to increase the availability […]

Collectivization under Stalin

The Communist Party needed capital to finance its plans to industrialize the Soviet Union.Many Bolsheviks favored paying for the new factories and mines by forcibly taking agricultural products from the peasants. After much debate within the party, the method chosen to finance industrial growth was Stalin's policy of all-out socialization of agriculture. An institutional “revolution from above” was initiated in the […]

Lenin’s Agricultural Policies

To gain support of rural dwellers, in November 1917, the urban-based Bolshevik government nationalized all land in Soviet Russia. The expropriated land was not given to the farmers. It remained in the hands of the state. Huge state farms and state-directed cooperative farms were created. From World War I until 1921, successful farmers were discriminated against. Their produce was frequently confiscated. […]

Rural Russia under the Tsars

Agriculture under the tsars in the mid-1800s was exceedingly backward and very inefficient. A Russian farmer produced enough food for himself, his family, and two other people in a good year. An American farmer at that time produced enough food for himself, his family, and 10 other people. The freeing of serfs in 1861 failed to improve the quality of […]

Russia in the twenty-first century

Vladimir Putin became the acting president of Russia on December 31, 1999, and president on May 7, 2000. His election sidelined proposals to reduce the president's power. The people supported the new constitution. They wanted to eliminate the decision-making stalemate between the president and Parliament. Conflicts between the executive and legislative branches of government had paralyzed the nation's economy to […]

Russia after communism

Most of Russia's people were skeptical about adopting a Westernstyle democracy in 1991. Russian president Boris Yeltsin warned the people that the country had more problems than a parliamentary democracy could resolve.He advocated instead a “presidential government.”Keeping the old Soviet government model, Yeltsin attempted to reform Russian society. (The Russian Constitution, which had been rewritten in 1977, was amended in 1991 to […]

Communist dictatorship

Massive general strikes, hunger, and a loss of faith in Nicholas II led up to the Bolsheviks seizing control of Russia. Vladimir Lenin, the Communist Party leader, was a brilliant revolutionary. His leadership of the highly disciplined Communist Party, combined with the country-destroying events of 1917, enabled the Bolsheviks to overthrow the tsarist system. Immediately following their seizure of power, they […]

Tsarism

The peoples of Russia have been governed by some of history's most oppressive and authoritarian political regimes. One family—the Romanovs—governed Russia's diverse ethnic and linguistic groups for more than 300 years. Initially elected by the noble gentry during the “Time of Troubles,” the Romanovs developed a form of government called tsarism. The male who inherited the throne of imperial Russia was […]

Russia’s future population

Prior to the breakup, the Soviet Union had one of the fastestgrowing populations among the world's developed countries. Its annual population growth rate was approximately 0.9 percent, slightly lower than that of the United States. However, by the early 1990s, Russia's population began to decrease at a rate that alarmed government officials and economic planners. Low birthrates and higher death rates […]

Urban/rural contrasts

Throughout the history of the Soviet Union, and particularly during the first Five-Year Plan, Russians migrated from rural areas to urban areas in search of jobs and better lives. Today, Russians in large urban areas have a higher standard of living than those from rural regions. They also have better medical and social services, better schools, more interesting jobs, and pay […]

Migration and mobility

Russia's population began to decline shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, even though it had been growing since World War II. The current socioeconomic transition Russia is experiencing accounts for most of this decline. Russian leaders are worried that the slow population growth could create labor shortages in areas of economic growth. It also could lead to uncontrolled internal […]

Religion

Russian society has always depended upon a common set of beliefs to blend together its diverse members. These beliefs had a place of origin and entry into Russia, routes of diffusion, and patterns of distribution. Religions of Russia vary greatly, and include beliefs in one God, many gods, ancestor worship, forest glade spirits, magic, and idol worship. The majority of those […]

Ethnic groups

Beginning at the pivotal point of Moscow, Russian influence expanded continuously outward. In just more than 500 years (from 1462 to 1991), it spread to cover more than one-third of Europe and nearly half of Asia. The tsars and then the Soviet commissars brought much territory and many ethnic groups under their control. They governed large numbers of people from diverse […]

Regional distribution of population

Population distribution and redistribution in Russia has been managed by the government. Recently, it has been modified by the economic restructuring associated with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The population hub of imperial Russia was Moscow, which was the largest city in the Soviet Union. In 1724, Peter the Great ordered the first census taken in tsarist Russia. It covered […]

Population characteristics and trends

In the first half of the twentieth century, imperial Russia was transformed from a backward but powerful multiethnic nation into a major world superpower. Yet, from October 1917 until the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953, the people of the Soviet Union experienced one catastrophe after another. Millions of Russian soldiers died during World War I. At least […]