Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures
Physical Geography of Russia
Russia is the world’s largest country. Its northern and western regions are mostly plains. The eastern and southern regions are covered with mountains and plateaus. Most of Russia’s long coast lies along waters that are frozen for many months of the year. However, inland waterways are important for transporting goods through the country although they, too, freeze in winter in the northern areas. The Caspian Sea in southwestern Russia is the largest inland body of water and is about the size of California. About three quarters of Russia’s population lives in the Northern European Plain, a fertile area with Russia’s mildest climate where much of the country’s industry and agriculture are located.
The Ural Mountains divide the European and Asian parts of Russia. Asian Russia lies east of the Urals and includes Siberia, which has one of the coldest climates in the world. On the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula, tectonic plates meet and cause many volcanoes. Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake, is in the southern part of Asian Russia.
Russia is rich in natural resources, but their locations make them hard to obtain. Russia has great reserves of fossil fuels and major deposits of iron ore. Russia’s forests cover most of Siberia, but the climate there has limited the development of the roads and railroads needed to transport timber. Most of Russia has a cool to cold climate; it receives very little heat from the sun and does not benefit from ocean currents or the flow of warm air because of its geography.
Because the Communist government of the 1900s stressed economic growth, Russia’s environment has suffered. Smog blankets much of Russia’s cities, and many Russians suffer from lung diseases. Its water pollution problem is caused by chemicals used in agriculture and industry and by poor sewer systems. Other countries are providing help to Russia to clean up the environment.