Russian Geography

  1. Location
    Russia occupies a northern location. Odessa, a "resort" town in the southern Russia (on the Black Sea), has the same latitude as Fargo, North Dakota. Moscow is on the 55th parallel, which passes through the middle of Hudson Bay in Canada. Leningrad is on the 61st parallel, as is Anchorage, Alaska. Travel from Brest on the Polish border to Vladivostok on the Pacific ocean takes about 8 days (only one change in Moscow!)
  2. Rivers
    1. In European Russia: Don, Dniepr - empty into the Black Sea Volga - empties into the Caspian Sea Most of them flow north to south
    2. Siberian Rivers: Ob, Enisei, Lena, Kolyma - flow south to north into the Arctic Ocean Amur - flows eastward - border between RUSSIA and China Flooding in Siberia - vast swamps
  3. Coastline
    1. Essentially a landlocked country.
    2. Its longest coastline opens on the Arctic Ocean.
    3. Both Baltic and Black Seas must pass through narrow straights, to connect to broader expanses of water.
    4. The Caspian and Aral Seas are totally landlocked.
    5. No warm water ports
  4. Climate
    1. Severely continental
    2. Gulf Stream reaches only Murmansk in the north
    3. Because no mountain ranges, icy winds from the Arctic Ocean sweeping to the Black Sea
    4. Subtropical conditions in parts of the southern Caucasus
    5. In northern European Russia soil frozen 8 months a year
    6. Heat waves common in European Russia. Very short summers
  5. Vegetation
    1. Tundra - in extreme north, uninhabited frozen waste of swamps, moss and shrubs -15% of territory
    2. Taiga - south of tundra - coniferous forest
    3. Mixed forest - taiga and mixed forest 1/2 of territory of RUSSIA
    4. Steppe, or prairie - southern European Russia and Asia
    5. Semi desert and desert - most of Central Asia
    6. Problems in Agriculture:
      1. Only 1 million square miles can be tilled
      2. Large sections suffer from cold and insufficient precipitation
      3. Rapid melting of snow - quick run-off of water
      4. In Central Asia farming depends entirely on irrigation
      5. Black soil of the southern steppe - agricultural conditions comparable to plains of Canada, not Illinois or Iowa
  6. Role of Geographic Factors in History
    1. The old Moscow state spread to the east and west because no natural barriers.
    2. Russian distances brought defeat to many invaders.
    3. Governing - problems of administering enormous area, coordinating local activities. Is despotism, therefore, the natural form of rule in Russia?
    4. Southern Steppes - open to invasion by Asiatic nomads. Russia 200 years under the Mongols.
    5. Relative isolation leads to retardation - no Enlightenment in Russia. Russia always tries to catch up.