Chapter 5:
Northern Eurasia
Northern Eurasia
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Physical Geography
• West
• Immense Eurasian landmass
• No obstacles to movement of air masses or intrusion of cold air from
Arctic or Siberia
• Ural Mountains
• Up to a maximum of 6,250 feet in remote north
• Rarely exceeds 5,000 feet in settled areas.
• As a result, fairly uniform climatic conditions
• South
• Caucasus Mountains
• Between Black and Caspian Seas and Transcaucasian lands to the South
• Highly diverse
• East
• Rugged, eroded plateaus
• River valleys
• Most of the area east of the Yenisey River is isolated and inhospitable.
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Three Factors Affecting Continental Climate
• Formidable mountain systems
• Rise to the South in Central Asia and in the East
• Blocks Pacific’s influence from all but a small area of the Russian Far
East
• High-latitude location
• Little isolation in winter
• Long days in summer
• Great size of landmass
• Stretches 6,200 miles (10000 km) west to east
• 1,200 miles (2000 km) north to south
• Region marked by long, relatively dry, and very cold winters and
short, but surprisingly warm, summers.
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Natural Regions
• Exceptionally large bands of essentially uniform
vegetation and natural regions
• Tundra
• Taiga
• Mixed forest
• Deciduous broadleaf forest
• Forest steppe
• Steppe
• Semidesert
• Desert
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Tundra, Permafrost, Taiga
• Tundra
• Region stretches across Russia’s Arctic shore
• In places, extends southward to hundreds of miles in Siberia
• No trees grow in the tundra because of the short growing season, infertile
soil, and shallow active layer insufficient for tree roots.
• Permafrost–Permanently frozen Earth
• Taiga
• Russian word for boreal forest
• Northern forest dominated by conifers, which Russia has more than any
other country.
• Covers much of Northern Russia west of Urals
• Most of Siberia
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Steppe and Chernozem
• Steppe
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Areas below Baltic states
Bordering Central Asia (dominates much of Kazakhstan)
South of mixed forest region
Low levels of variability of precipitation makes agriculture
difficult.
• Chernozem–“Black Earth”
• Soil rich with organic matter
• Appears as dark as compost
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Tundra Summer Vegetation &
Summer in the Taiga
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Landform Regions of Northern Eurasia
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Natural Regions of Northern Eurasia
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Major Language Groups of Northern Eurasia
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From Kievan Rus to Tsarist Russia
• Kievan Rus–Common ancestor for Ukraine, Belarus, and
Russia
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Dnieper River–Area of extensive trade routes
Kievan Rus disintegrated and princes began to dominate.
Serfdom gradually devolved into slavery.
Greater emphasis on community
Orthodox church
Belief in the state
Antecedents for Marxism–Leninism
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The Russian Empire
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Tsar–“Caesar”
Big in landmass, but backward in
trade, technology, and modern culture
Tsar Peter
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Introduced new ideas and technology
from the West
Retained fundamental principle of
service to the state
Modernized the army
Created the navy
Canals and St. Petersburg
Catherine “the Great”
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Nurtured arts and education
Did not allow ideas and technology
from West to affect governance
Acquired land through conquest
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The Russian Empire (Continued)
• By 1800, Russia produced more iron and steel than any
other country in the world.
• Soon fell behind during Industrial Revolution
• Defeated in Crimean War in 1853
• Rural population more than doubled in 50 years.
• Industrial work and living conditions were harsh.
• 1860s–Embarked on Trans-Siberian Railway
• 1905 revolution
• Tsar allowed a Duma as a representative body.
• But overcame through further repression and violence
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Natural Resources
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Industrial Regions and Selected Cities
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The USSR: Lenin and Stalin
• Created as a result of 1917 revolution
• Bolsheviks
• Bread, peace, and land
• Led by Lenin
• Initially led to chaos.
• Leadership to be exercised by a hierarchy of “Soviets”, but was
dominated by the Communist Party.
• 1920s–New Economic Plan (NEP)
• Stalin
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Emphasized heavy industrial production
Control from the center by Great Russians (white Russians)
Fomented discontent amongst non-Russian ethnicities
Led USSR through World War II
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The USSR in the Cold War
• East/West global divide
• Soviet “client states”
• Eastern Europe
• Cuba
• Parts of Africa
• Major production of “arms race”–Essentially made the USSR go
broke.
• 1980s–Veneer begins to break.
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Gorbachev brings new attitude
Glasnost
Perestroika
A desire to preserve, not destroy, the USSR
• Demise of Berlin Wall begins eventual end of USSR.
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Chernobyl
• Major nuclear disaster
• A 30-km radius of Chernobyl,
Ukraine was abandoned.
• USSR took 20 days to formally
acknowledge the disaster.
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The Disintegration of the USSR
• Attempt to retain some measure
of union through the creation of
the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS)
• Loose confederation
• USSR breaks up into over two
dozen countries broken down
along ethnic lines.
• Some countries form unions
with Russia afterward.
• Some areas resist (Chechnya).
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The Gorbachev Attempt at “Reform”
• Causes of dissolution
• Attempts at “reform” within the Communist system spurred by
Gorbachev.
• Glasnost (openness)
• Demokratia (democracy)
• Perestroika (restructuring)
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After Effects
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Declining fertility rates in some countries
Quality of basic health care a major problem
Mortality rates
Environmental effects (i.e., Chernobyl)
Health issues (HIV/AIDS)
Safety standards
Crime
Erosion of the family unit
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The Countries of Northern Eurasia
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USSR Became Fifteen Countries
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The Russian Federation
Ukraine
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Georgia
The “Stans”–Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and
Kyrgyzstan
Baltic states–Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania
Moldova
Wide territory
Many cultures, languages, and ethnicities
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% of nonRussian Ethnic Groups
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The Russian Federation
• Successor to the USSR
• Created after USSR dissolution in 1991
• Wide swath of territory, ethnicities, cultures, and languages
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The Russian Federation: Economic Policy/Society
• “Shock therapy”–Transition from command and control communist
economy to market-based economy
• Strong support from International Monetary Fund (IMF)
• Slow recovery in mid-1990s
• Crash in 1998
• Ruble devalued
• Results
• Demoralization
• Corruption
• Privatization–Creation of oligarchs (New Russians) controlling vast
wealth
• Some wariness on foreign direct investment
• Lack of protections for private property
• Rule of law tenuous
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Russian Economic Geography
• Factors impacting production
• Harsh climatic conditions
• Distance to market
• Inadequate transportation and
communications
• Infrastructures
• Obsolescent technology
• Minerals and fossil fuels
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Fossil fuels
Natural gas
Coal
Iron ore
Aluminum
• Focus on Moscow and St.
Petersburg
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Economic Resources of the In-Between Countries of
Eurasia
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Agriculture
• 1930–Collective farms
• Very large scale
• Farmers supposed to be
owner–operators.
• State maintained strategic
control over them.
• Depended a lot on private-plot
production
• Sovkhoz & Kolkhoz
• Move away from collectivism
toward privatism
• Collective farms not
independent corporations
• Lack of sufficient assets
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Agricultural Zones
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Russian Political Geography & Economy
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Demise of USSR begets fourteen independent states.
Technically linked through CIS.
Russia is the largest landmass–the Russian Federation.
Yeltsin is the first president.
Vladimir Putin is successor.
• Not party affiliated; a party formulated around him
• There is some suggestion that he is moving Russia back toward
autocratic rule.
• Appointment of governors to maintain local control
• Control of vicissitudes of globalization
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Putin’s Recentralizing Government System
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Ukraine
• Size
• Smaller than Russia
• Larger than any country in Europe
• Almost as big as Texas
• Continental climate
• Tremendous agriculture potential
• Minerals for steel production
• Coal
• Iron ore
• Manganese
• Agricultural privatization in theory
• Orange Revolution–Tug to the West
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Belarus
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Size
• Two-thirds as large as Poland
• About the size of Kansas
Glaciers left 11,000 lakes and chaotic
drainage pattern.
Few natural resources
Dealing with aftereffects of Chernobyl
disaster
• Contaminated ¼ of country
• Briefly aroused nationalism
1999–Technical union between Belarus
and Russia
Political instability of late under
Lukashenko
• Eschewed shock therapy
• Curtailed civil liberties
• Hostile to the West
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Oil/Coal Production via Caspian Sea
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Ukraine: Between Europe and Russia
• Almost as big as Texas and larger than any country in Europe
• Mostly consists of rolling steppe land with extremely fertile
chernozem soil.
• Continental climate similar to the upper Midwest of US.
• A century ago, called the “breadbasket of Europe”.
• Better suited to grow wheat than Russia due to sufficiently mild
climate to permit fall planting.
• Industry was world-renowned before breakup of USSR.
• Coal, iron ore, and manganese–All essential for steel production.
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Ukraine: Post-USSR
• Post-Soviet industry and agriculture have declined and
stagnated.
• Attempted to avoid shock therap,y but gradualist approach
made little progress
• Orange Revolution in 2004
• Today, in political terms, Ukraine is freer than Russia; the
difference is striking per major media.
• Election of Yushchenko moved Ukraine to lean to the
West; not wholly embraced by citizenry.
• Similar economic developments as in Russia with
development of “New Ukrainians”
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Belarus: Stuck in Transition
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Two-thirds as large as neighboring Poland
About the size of Kansas
Soviets systematically developed Belarus for industry.
Country remained dependent–especially for industry.
Lukashenko election in 1994
• Hostile to West
• Deals with countries deemed rogue states by US
• 1999–Russia and Belarus agreed in principle to a union of
the two, but Russia has neither repudiated the agreement
nor moved to implement it.
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Chapter 5 - Northern Eurasia