Maybe the only thing today’s generation knows about Russia is that the 2014 Winter Olympic games took place in the country. Not many can name one single fact about Russia other than “It’s cold.” There are many great things to learn about Russia, and this is a good place to start. Russia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with a population density (population/land area) of only 9. We can compare this to the United States’ population density of about 34. Russia has vast wilderness in the western side of the country, so that might explain why the density is so low. The eastern part of the country, where the capital, Moscow, is located, is much more densely populated than the bitter western half.
However, Russia and the U.S. share almost similar urbanization percentages. Urbanization is simply the increasing (or decreasing) number of people that migrate to urban areas. 73% of Russians live in urban areas, with a .13 rate of change. This means more and more Russians are slowly but surely moving into urban areas. Meanwhile, in the U.S., urbanization is at about 82% with a 1.2% rate of change. There are several factors as to why urbanization is rising. The main reason is economic growth. In today’s economy, there are simply more opportunities for money closer to cities. Someone who grew up in a rural area might want to experience a change for themselves.
This also explains the communication boom that is so lopsided across the country. As all the jobs move to the urban areas, the communication infrastructure has to be refitted to hold the demand needed for the economy. Areas like Moscow have state of the art telephone lines, internet connection and television broadcasts. The more rural areas, however, are almost isolated within themselves from the outside world.
This increase in connectivity is currently a welcome leap forward for businesses in larger urban areas, but leaves little room for economic growth in the rural countryside. Any international business needs to be done where international calls and internet connection is available. Unfortunately, this severely limits the potential for expansion into Russia to only urban areas, which leave most of the countryside (and its resources) out of that possible growth.
Russia’s transportation system has historically relied on the railways, which still has a large role in the country’s infrastructure today. In the past, demand for automobiles has never been very high in Russia, and while we see more cars being imported and roads being built today, road travel still does not compare to the railways. Air travel was very popular in the early 1990s, but quickly dropped off as the prices for airfare began to grow. This transportation sector has, however, been growing rapidly over the last few years, despite the relatively low passenger traffic, but it has not yet reached its previous popularity.
The issue with the Russian transportation system is that, while it is extensive, much of it requires maintenance, updates, and expansion to be efficient. Unfortunately, this is not possible for most of the transportation systems at this time, so, for now, Russia must deal with obsolete transportation.
Russia is a large exporter in both crude and refined petroleum products. There is also a good amount of metals and wood products going out of the country. The vast majority of these domestic goods are hauled via the railroads throughout the country and to bordering neighbors. With sea access, much of Russia’s exports are shipped out of the Black, Baltic, and Barents Seas and the Gulf of Finland through ports such as St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and Sochi. There are also around 3,000 airfields in Russia, though a good portion of them do not have fully paved runways. The top imports coming into Russia include automobiles, automobile parts, and medical supplies. Russia’s decaying infrastructure does have a negative impact on both foreign and domestic trade, and this can be seen in decreasing activity between Russia and its top fifteen trade partners.
You would think that Russia, as the world’s largest country -in terms of square mileage- would be able to exploit their huge landmass. However, Russia actually has an extremely unfavorable climate in the majority of its territory. It lacks the proper climate to take advantage of all but a few industries. Its climate is either much too dry or much too cold to sustain any type of agriculture, which is why the majority of Russia’s exports have to do with the mining industry. These include the exportation of oil, natural gas, coal and other rare elements. In addition, Russia has approximately one-fifth of all the forests in the world, so they are able to produce huge amounts of lumber. However, like what was previously stated, the Russian climate -with temperatures reaching in to the negative 80s- is not very conducive as a whole to industry.
Russia is the largest country by land mass but much of the country lacks proper soil or climate. It is typically either too cold or too dry to make it habitable. It contains a fifth of the world’s forests with 49.4% of land use attributed to it. Permafrost covers the much of the northern coast leaving barren and isolated. Only 7.11% of the land is arable and of that 0.1% as permanent crops. Agriculture has been bouncing back since the fall of the Soviet Union as small, private farms begin to see better profits than corporate farms. Russia’s largest agricultural exports include grain and sunflower seed, which is used for oil. It is the 3rd largest exporter of grain.