After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia remains
the largest country in the world. The other republics of the FSU (former Soviet Union) are all independant countries
Discussion here will include all former Soviet republics -- allowing the entire region
to be dealt with without individual notes for each former unit.
The FSU stretches almost halfway around the world and crosses 11 time zones. Positioned
at a high latitude, this makes the region difficult to map.
The Soviet Union was the first country to adopt a communist form of government.
In 1991 that government was abolished and a move toward democracy and free enterprise was made.
Tremendous progress was made by the communist regime -- at the expense of living standards
for the people.
The dominant landscape feature of the FSU is plains -- vast areas. The
North European plain covers much of the western part of the region, to the east of the Ural Mountains lies the world's flattest
area -- the West Siberian Plain. The Turan Lowland lies east of the Caspian Sea.
Mountains lie in the south and east of the region. The Pamir Plateau of Tajikistan
is among the highest in the world.
Large rivers cross the plains -- but flow either to the Arctic coast or inland seas.
Transportation systems on the rivers are disrupted when the rivers freeze in the winter months. Some Siberian rivers
become 'ice highways' for trucks.
The climate zones of the FSU range from Tundra along the Arctic coast to Deserts
in the central asian region. The greatest climatic region is that the the Subarctic (also known by its Russian name
Taiga). Taiga is the Russian word for forest lands -- and this climate supports the largest forested area in the
world. Trees range from conifers in the north to mixed deciduous in the south. Humid continental climate occurs
in the western part of the region -- a continuation of the Continental zone of Europe. Another zone of Continental is
in eastern Siberia. Lands in the western Continental zone are extensively used for agriculture. Deserts and Steppes
are found north of the Black Sea and extending eastward into southern Siberia. Irrigated agriculture here allows the
growing of cotton and other long growing season crops such as melons and fruits. The warmest climates are near the shores
of the Black Sea -- Mediterranean in the Crimean Peninsula, and Subtropical in the eastern region in the Republic of Georgia.
Industry and Agriculture
The communist government of the Soviet Union concentrated on delevoping the industries
-- Heavy Industries. The consumer good sector was of secondary importance. Throughout the communist rule, the
emphasis was building the infrastucture of the country with an eye toward the later development of Light Industry. The
overall standard of living for the population suffered as a result.
Agriculture too, was modified to fit the communist format. All lands were government
owned and divided into huge Collective and State farms. Motivation and production from these farms remained low -- farmer
were allowed private plots for their own use, and these soon began to supply significant amounts of food. Farming today
is privatized, as are the industries.
Poor soil and severe climate limit farmlands. The Fertile Triangle extending from
the western part of the region to Lake Balkhash is the most productive agricultural area -- including the district known as
the Black Earth Belt north of the Black Sea and eastward.
Major crops are wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, flax, cotton,
tobacco, tea, and livestock -- including dairy, beef, and sheep.
Among the greatest reasons for interest in the FSU is the vast amount of natural
resources. Incredible amounts.
Water Power is developed in the western parts of the region -- the greatest hydro potential
in is Siberia, where some of the world's greatest hydroelectric dams are located. Industrial cites have been built here
to take advantage of the energy available.
Forests cover most of the country and lumbering is an important activity -- limited
by great distance to market and transportation systems.
Fishing supplies a great deal of food -- Russian trawlers and 'factory ships' sail the
Perhaps the greatest of resources is the mineral wealth. The FSU is a leading
producer of coal, iron, manganese, petroleum, and many other metal ores, including platinum, gold, chromite, bauxite, copper,
lead, and zinc. Every mineral needed by industry is in the region -- remote location and transportation limit the usefulness.
Rail transportation is vital to the economy. The FSU has far fewer roads
and vehicles than the United States. Severe winters and snow hamper road transportation -- increasing the importance
of the railroads. Many highways are not paved. Efforts have been ongoing for many years to correct this situation.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the world's longest and connects Moscow with the Pacific
port of Vladivostok.
Water transportation has been developed by connecting rivers and lakes with canals --
this system is limited by the freezing weather of the long winter -- again, increasing the importance of rail.
Air transportation links the FSU with the rest of the world. Also important in
linking Siberia to western Russia.