Russia & Its Neighbors

by Rachael Brady

Defining the Region (Standard 1)

In general, most people live in the eastern half of the region. This is largely due to climate. In the north, it is very cold and the coastline and rivers are usually frozen over, making them unusable for fishing or transportation. In the east/southeast, the climate is warmer and more inhabitable. The flatter, arable land in the southeastern part of the region makes farming easier.

Distinctive Physical Geography (Standard 5)

The southeastern part of the region has grasslands. Farming is ideal in this area. As you move north, there are deciduous then coniferous forests, which support the timber industry. In the northernmost part of Russia it is a tundra. The Ural Mountains serve as a "divider" between the eastern and western potion of the region, and there are various other mountain ranges in the west/southwest.

Distinctive Human Geography (Standard 6)

In the more populated areas of Russia like the east/southeast, cultural barriers aren't much of a problem because people in these cities have more of a globalized culture. However, in the less-populated areas in the north and west, there are a number of indigenous tribes, each with their own language and culture. This creates a barrier between people who all live in the same country, but have very different cultures and languages.

Many ethnic Russians live outside Russia and compose a significant percentage of neighboring countries' populations. When the countries were still together as the Soviet Union, Russia strongly encouraged ethnic Russians to migrate to the surrounding countries in an attempt to have greater power over them. This has resulted in conflicts within these countries in recent years.

Geographic Diversity (Standard 2)

Russia and its surrounding countries are similar in that both have a relatively large percentage of ethnic Russians living there. Most of Russia's neighboring countries share the same problem of struggling to become more independent from Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, all countries experienced economic decline.

One significant difference between Russia and its neighbors is the access Russia has to a wide variety of resources. Other countries are dependent on it for things like water and natural gas supply. In this way Russia remains dominant over the region.

Contemporary Geographic Issues (Standard 3)

Russia has access to natural resources that surrounding countries don't have, which puts it in a powerful position. Neighboring countries are dependent on Russia for natural gas and water, so Russia uses its resources as a tool in foreign policy - it regularly cuts off gas supply to surrounding countries as a means of getting them to comply.

Russia has also recently become involved with the war in Syria and has made nuclear deals with Iraq. It has played a significant role in keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. This in particular is significant to the United States as it involves itself in the conflict in Syria, and tries to end the Assad regime.