Geography and History of the World © 2010 Indiana Edition

Chapter 14: Physical Geography of Russia

Chapter Overviews

The vast and varied landscape of Russia stretches over the continents of Europe and Asia, covering 6.6 millionsquare miles. The Russian climate is a story of extremes, ranging from the subzero temperatures of eastern Siberia to the humid continental climate of the North European Plain.

The Land Russia is the world's largest country, with vast plains spanning nearly half of its surface. Mountain ranges punctuate an otherwise flat landscape. The Caucasus Mountains contain Mt. Elbrus—Russia's highest point, and the Ural Mountains mark the traditional border between European Russia and Asian Russia. About 75 percent of Russia's population live on its North European Plain. This region is home to Russia's major cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The country contains some of the world's largest lakes and Europe's longest river. Russia has ample supplies of natural resources. Mineral and energy resources are large but often difficult to tap. Only 10 percent of Russia's land can support agriculture, but the Black Earth Belt with its rich soil called chernozem supports high yields of wheat, barley, rye, and other crops that feed much of Russia. Forests supply much of the world's timber, and fishing remains an important industry.

Climate and Vegetation Russia is a country of climate extremes. On the northern fringes of Russia's high-latitude climate lies the tundra, where average temperatures remain below zero. Vegetation is limited to mosses, lichen, algae, and dwarf shrubs, due to the region's permafrost and very short growing season. Russia's dominant climate, the subarctic, spans across European Russian and parts of Siberia. This climate supports the taiga, a densely wooded region that contains the world's largest boreal forest. A humid continental climate with milder winters and longer summers dominates the mid-latitudes, where most people live and the majority of Russia's agriculture is located. In a small area between the Black and Caspian Seas is Russia's steppe climate. This temperate grassland area has dry summers and long, cold, dry winters with swirling, sparse snow.

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