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Russia has enormous energy resources and deposits of many different minerals. Most, if not all, of the raw materials required by modern industry are found within the country.
FUEL AND POWER
Russia has by far the largest coal reserves among the former Soviet republics. The biggest fields lie in the remote Tunguska and Lena basins of East Siberia and the Far East, but these are largely untapped, and the bulk of output comes from more southerly fields along the Trans-Siberian Railroad. About three-fourths of Russia's coal is produced in Siberia—some two-fifths from the Kuznetsk Basin alone and the remainder from the Kansk-Achinsk, Cheremkhovo, and South Yakut basins and numerous smaller sources. The production of hard coal in the European section is mainly in the eastern Donets Basin and, in the Arctic, in the Pechora Basin around Vorkuta; the large Moscow Basin (entirely) and the small Urals fields (mainly) are sources of lignite.
The Russian Federation is one of the world's leading producers of oil and natural gas. The great bulk of the supply comes from the huge fields that underlie the northern part of the West Siberia region. Another significant source is from the Volga-Ural zone, and the remainder is derived mainly from the Komi-Ukhta field (North region); the North Caucasus region, once the U.S.S.R.'s leading producer, is now of little importance. Extensive pipeline systems link the producing districts to all regions of the federation, the neighbouring former Soviet republics, and, across the western frontier, numerous European countries.
Much of the fuel produced in Russia is converted to electricity, about three-fourths of which is generated in thermal stations; some two-thirds of thermal generation is from oil and gas. The remaining power output is produced by hydroelectric and nuclear plants. Most of the hydroelectricity comes from huge stations on the Volga, Kama, Ob, Yenisey, Angara, and Zeya rivers. Nuclear power production expanded rapidly before development was checked by the Chernobyl accident. Much of Siberia's electricity output is transmitted to the European region along high-voltage lines.
Russia produces large quantities of iron ore, mainly from the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly (Central
Black Earth region), Kola Peninsula, Urals, and Siberia. The largest steel-producing plants are located mainly in the Urals, Central Black Earth region, and Kuznetsk Basin, but there is some steel production in every economic region.
Nonferrous metals are available in great variety from many districts, but by far the most
important are those of the Ural region, which is the republic's main centre of nonferrous metallurgy. Russia is a major producer of cobalt, chrome, copper, gold, lead, manganese, nickel, platinum, tungsten, vanadium, and zinc. The country produces much of its aluminum from plants powered by the Siberian hydroelectric stations, but bauxite deposits are relatively meagre.
Russia's machine-building industry provides most of the federation's requirements for steam boilers and turbines, electric generators, grain combines, automobiles, and electric locomotives and fills much of its demand for machine tools, instruments, and automation components. Important automobile factories are located in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Miass, Yaroslavl, Ulyanovsk (formerly Simbirsk), and Izhevsk; the largest plants include the Zhiguli works at Tolyatti (near Samara) and the heavy truck factory at Naberezhnye Chelny (in Tatarstan).
Because of the complex history of the development of the chemical industries and the great variety of raw materials involved, chemical manufacture is widely dispersed. The industry initially utilized mineral salts, coke-oven and smelter gases, timber, and foodstuffs (mainly potatoes) as their raw materials. On this basis, synthetic rubber factories were built in the Central Black Earth and Central regions, areas of large-scale potato production; sulfuric acid plants were developed in the Urals and North Caucasus, where there was nonferrous metallurgy; and potassium and phosphatic fertilizer plants were constructed at sites in several regions, near deposits of potassium salts and phosphorites.
Since the end of the 1950s the massive increase in oil and gas output has provided new raw chemical materials and lessened the dependence on traditional resources. New chemical plants have been built both in the oil- and gas-producing areas of the Volga-Ural and North Caucasus zones and in other regions at points served by pipelines. Chemical industries requiring large quantities of electric power, such as those based on cellulose, are particularly important in Siberia, where both timber and electricity are plentiful.
Russia's textile industries are heavily concentrated in the European sector, especially in the Central region, which produces a large share of the federation's clothing and footwear. The dominant branch is cotton textiles, with the raw cotton coming mainly from the Central Asian states. In the zone between the Volga and Oka rivers, east of Moscow, there are numerous cotton textile towns, the largest of which are Ivanovo, Kostroma, and Yaroslavl. Durable consumer goods—refrigerators, washing machines, radios and television sets, and the like—are produced
primarily in areas with a tradition of skilled industry, notably in and around Moscow and St. Petersburg.
As part of the U.S.S.R., the Russian republic traded extensively with the other Soviet republics, from which it “imported” a variety of commodities that it was unable to produce in sufficient quantities itself. These included cotton (from Central Asia) and other high-value agricultural products, grain (mainly from Kazakstan), and various minerals. In return Russia “exported” oil
and gas to republics with a weak energy base such as Belorussia (now Belarus) and the Baltic states and sent its skilled engineering products and consumer goods to most of its partners. By the mid-1990s, trade relations among the former union republics had not been established in any systematic manner, one problem being agreement on the prices to be charged for goods exchanged in place of the artificially low ones that prevailed during the Soviet period. It was clear that the former union republics remained heavily interdependent and that some kind of free-trade grouping was necessary if the economies of the new states were to flourish. A move in this direction occurred in late 1993, when Russia and nine other republics signed a treaty of economic union.
International trade by the U.S.S.R. remained at a rather low level until the 1960s, most of it being based on bilateral and multilateral arrangements with the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) states. As Soviet economic expansion slowed during the 1970s and '80s, it became apparent that further growth required large quantities of high-tech equipment from the West. To finance these imports, increasing amounts of hard currency were needed, and this could be obtained only by increasing exports to the West. In this expanding trade, oil and gas were of particular importance.
With the collapse of Comecon and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself, individual republics began to develop their own trading relations with the outside world, but no clear pattern had emerged by the mid-1990s. Russia, with its large resources of oil, gas, and minerals, seemed well placed to continue the type of trading relations with the West already developed by the former Soviet Union. In June 1994 Russia signed an agreement that strengthened economic ties with the European Union.
Russia's vast size and the great distances that often separate sources of raw materials and foodstuffs from consuming areas place a heavy burden on the transport system. One result has been the continuing dominance of the railways, which account for about 90 percent of the country's freight turnover (60 percent if pipelines are included) and half of all passenger movement. Nevertheless, the rail network is a very open one, and its density varies regionally: highest in the Northwest, Central, and Central Black Earth regions; lowest in Siberia and the Far East. Indeed, east of the Urals the term “network” is a misnomer, since the system consists of only a few major trunk routes (e.g., the Trans-Siberian Railroad and Baikal-Amur Mainline) with feeder branches to sites of economic importance. Russian railways are among the world's leading freight carriers, the line from the Kuznetsk to the Urals being especially prominent.
Apart from highways linking the major cities of European Russia, the road system is underdeveloped and carries only a tiny fraction of the freight. A much greater volume, in fact, is
carried by inland waterways. Although the greatest volume is carried on the Volga system, river transport is most vital in areas devoid of railways.
In addition to its vital role in foreign trade, maritime transport also has some importance in linking the various regions of Russia, particularly those that face the Arctic seaboard. Traffic on the Arctic Ocean route is seasonal.
Air transport plays an increasingly important role. Russian airlines carry only a minute fraction of all freight, chiefly high-value items to and from the remote parts of Siberia, where aircraft are sometimes the only means of transport. Airlines are responsible for nearly one-fifth of all passenger movement. Aeroflot, the largest airline in the world, formerly the state airline of the Soviet Union, carries more than 80 million passengers a year.