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 Union (EU) members about to join the “Eurozone.” Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova pursue fairly independent political pathways from Russia, but Ukraine and Moldova remain technically part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and, in the case of Ukraine, continue to have strong economic ties to Russia. Belarus and most of the Central Asian republics (except Turkmenistan), in contrast, are much more engaged with Russia politically and especially economically. All are members of Evrazes, a new trade bloc set to encourage economic development, common customs, and better trade across Eurasia. Armenia and Azerbaijan have pragmatic, but more distant, economic relations with Russia. Turkmenistan is the most economically isolated country in the FSU, but is still engaged with Russia and Azerbaijan via the natural gas industry. Most of Part IV focuses on the economic geography of Russia, however. Several individual sectors of its economy are examined, starting with the most lucrative one, that of energy. As appropriate, examples from other FSU countries besides Russia are considered.

The Role of the Energy Sector in the Overall Russian Economy


Natural Gas


Nuclear Energy

Renewable Energy Sources

Review Questions

  1. What are the main energy sources in Russia? How do these compare to those of the United States in relative importance? Why?
  2. Which areas of Russia produce the most fossil fuels? What types?
  3. Is it true that the oil- and gas-producing regions of Russia are well-off now?
  4. What regions of the world are connected to Russia via oil and gas pipelines?
  5. What are the problems faced by the coal industry in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan?
  6. Which alternative energy sources, in your opinion, should be the first priorities for development in the FSU?


  1. Compare and contrast five leading petroleum companies in Russia. Use their Websites to find answers to these questions: Where do they operate? How much of their operation is international?
    What are their main assets? For example, do they own refineries or only oil fields? Which of them seem to have better strategies for reaching out to global markets? Which one would you invest in, and why?
  2. Analyze the energy resources of the five Central Asian states. Which of them seem to be most self-sufficient with respect to energy? Think of both conventional and alternative sources.
  3. Investigate any recent international news story involving Gazprom. What happened, where, and why? Does this story provide positive or negative coverage of the company?
  4. Speculate on the pros and cons of building a new petroleum pipeline from Angarsk to Asia. Explore two options: south to China, or east to the Pacific Ocean and then by tankers to Japan and other countries.