7.1 Regions: Core and the Eastern Frontier

The Core Region

Most of Russia’s population and its major industries are located west of the Ural Mountains on the Russian Plain. Known as Russia’s geographic core, this includes the Moscow region, the Volga region, and the Ural Mountain region.

Russian Plain
Russian Plain

Moscow, Russia’s capital city, anchors a central industrial area that is home to more than fifty million people. Moscow alone has more than ten million residents, with about thirteen million in its metropolitan area, making it slightly smaller than the Los Angeles, California, metro area. A ring of industrial cities surrounding Moscow contains vital production centers of Russian manufacturing. During the Communist era, Moscow expanded from its nineteenth-century core (although the city dates from at least the twelfth century) and became an industrial city with planned neighborhoods. This world-class city has an extensive subway and freeway system that is expanding to meet current growth demands. Although rents, commodities, and domestic goods had fixed prices during the Communist era, the Soviet Union’s collapse changed all that. Today Moscow is one of the most expensive places to live in the world, with prices based on supply and demand. Many want to live in Moscow, but it is financially out of reach for many Russians.

Moscow Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia

Russia’s second-largest city, with a population of about five million, is St. Petersburg. Located on the Baltic Sea, it is western Russia’s leading port city. The city was renamed Petrograd (1914–24) and Leningrad (1924–91) but today is often called Petersburg, or just “Peter” for short. Peter the Great built the city with the help of European architects in the early eighteenth century to rival other European capitals, and he made it the capital of the Russian Empire.

Peter the Great book

If you want a quick read about Peter the Great, this is a good book! It’s a children’s book but has some good info. in it.

” Peter the Great, crowned tsar of Russia at the age of ten, believed that whatever he wanted he should have — and the sooner the better. What he wanted most was to bring his beloved country into the modem world. He traveled to the West to learn European ways — the first tsar ever to leave Russia — disguised as a common soldier. He explored the West with excitement and curiosity and returned home ready to undertake a series of momentous social reforms. And to satisfy his boyhood dream of a Russian naval port, he began to build, on a freezing swamp, a glittering new capital to be named St. Petersburg

Named after St. Peter in the Bible (not Peter the Great), it is a cultural center for Russia and a major tourist destination. It is also known for shipbuilding, oil and gas trade, manufacturing, and finance. Its greatest tragedy took place when it was under siege for twenty-nine months by the German military during World War II. About one million civilians died of starvation or during the bombardment, and hundreds of thousands fled the city, leaving the city nearly empty by the end of the siege.

St. Petersburg Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia

To the far north of St. Petersburg on the Barents Sea are the cities of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. Murmansk is a major military port for Russia’s navy and nuclear submarine fleet. Relatively warm water from the North Atlantic drift circles around Norway to keep this northern port city fairly free of ice. Arkhangelsk (which literally means “archangel”), used as a port for lumber exports, has a much shorter ice-free season than Murmansk. Both of these cities are in Russia’s far north, with long winters and exceedingly brief summers.


The Volga River flows through the core region of Russia, providing transportation, fresh water, and fishing. The Volga is the longest river in Europe at 2,293 miles, and it drains most of Russia’s western core region. This river has been a vital link in the transportation system of Russia for centuries and connects major industrial centers from the Moscow region to the south through an extensive network of canals and other waterways. The Volga River flows into the Caspian Sea, and a canal links the Volga with the Black Sea through a connecting canal via the Don River.

The Volga River is the longest river in Europe.
The Volga River is the longest river in Europe.
The Volga River is the longest river in Europe
The Volga River is the longest river in Europe and runs through Russia with its delta flowing into the Caspian Sea just south of the Kazakhstan border.  Notice the river delta (the triangle-shaped area).

At the eastern edge of Russia’s European core lie the Ural Mountains, which act as a natural divide between Europe and Asia.

These low-lying mountains have an abundance of minerals and fossil fuels, which make the Ural Mountains ideal for industrial development. The natural resources of the Urals and the surrounding area provide raw materials for manufacturing and export. The eastern location kept these resources out of the hands of the Nazis during World War II, and the resources themselves helped in the war effort. Oil and natural gas exploration and development have been extensive across Russia’s core region and have greatly increased Russia’s export profits.

Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains

The Eastern Frontier

East of the Urals, in south-central Russia, is Russia’s Eastern Frontier, a region of planned cities, industrial plants, and raw-material processing centers. The population is centered in two zones here: the Kuznetsk Basin (or Kuzbas, for short) and the Lake Baikal region.

The Kuzbas is a region of coal, iron ore, and bauxite mining; timber processing; and steel and aluminum production industries. Central industrial cities were created across the Eastern Frontier to take advantage of these resource opportunities.

Mining in the Kuzbas region
Mining in the Kuzbas region

The most important of these is Novosibirsk, the third-largest city in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg and home to about 1.4 million people. The city is not only noted for its industries but it is also the region’s center for the arts, music, and theater. It is host to a music conservatory and a philharmonic orchestra, a division of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and three major universities.

Agriculture, timber, and mining are the main economic activities in the eastern Lake Baikal region, which is more sparsely settled than the Kuzbas. Lake Baikal (400 miles long, 50 miles wide) holds more fresh water than all the US Great Lakes together and about 20 percent of all the liquid fresh water on the earth’s surface.

Lake Baikal location
Lake Baikal location

Its depth has been recently measured at 5,370 feet (more than a mile).

Uncover the Mysteries of the Deepest Lake on Earth | National Geographic

Some of the longest river systems in the world flow through the Eastern Frontier. The IrtyshObYenisey, and Lena are the main rivers that flow north through the region into Siberia and on to the Arctic Ocean. To the east, the Amur River creates the border between Russia and China until it flows north into the Sea of Okhotsk. In addition to waterways, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the major transportation link through the Eastern Frontier, connecting Moscow with the port city of Vladivostok in the Far East.

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Next: 7.2 Regions: Siberia, the Far East, and Southern Russia

Additional information and image credits for Chapter 7:

Russia map
Russia info
Russia size comparison map
By Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). – Map from CIA World Factbook, 2015., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64316843
Trans-Siberian railway
By Stefan Ertmann & Lokal Profil – :wmc:Map_of_Russia_-_Time_Zones.svg, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22748147
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15824660
Tiaga forest
By xndr – Я автор этого фото, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5925502
Northern Asia map
By unknown, cut and additions by Ulamm 12:25, 18 April 2008 (UTC) – Via en:Image:Asia-map.png: cropped from https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/reference_maps/pdf/asia.pdf, rendered at 250% magnification in Acrobat Reader —Veliath 18:21, 17 August 2006 (UTC), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3900410
By © Vyacheslav Argenberg / http://www.vascoplanet.com/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78975685
Russian arctic
By Envisat satellite – http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2008/03/Arctic_Northwest_Russia, CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56883804
By Ivan Shishkin – artchive.ru, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76574453
Cape Stolbchaty
By Екатерина Васягина – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69960916
Amur River
By Kmusser – Own work using Digital Chart of the World and GTOPO data., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6077796
Disputed area
By Insider – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12267766
Topographic map of the Caucasus
By Bourrichon – fr:Bourrichon) – Own work ;Topographic data from the NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) (public domain) edited with 3DEM, reprojected in UTM with GDAL (GDAL), and vectorized with Inkscape ; UTM projection ; WGS84 datum ; shaded relief (composite image of N-W, W and N lightning positions) ;Reference used for the additional data :* Rivers, bathymetry : Demis add-on for World Wind (see the approval e-mail and the Demis forum) ;* coast : World data bank II ;Approximate scale of topographic data : 1:1,463,000 ;Note : The shaded relief is a raster image embedded in the SVG file., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5160199|
Caucasus Mountains map and Eastern Russia cities map and Russia physical map- Usage terms: https://www.freeworldmaps.net/about.html
Asia region map
By Cacahuate, amendments by Peter Fitzgerald, Globe-trotter, Joelf, and Texugo – Own work based on the blank world map, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22746259
European/Russian Plain
By PM / P – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5114637
By Separation51 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29439369
Volga River map
CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1122527
Ural Mountains
By ugraland [1] – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ugra/448118784/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3651439
Volga delta
By NASA – https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa2explore/48139665557/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80624490
Kuzbas coal mining
By Rvetal – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7600976
Vladivostok collagehttps://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10882980
Mt. Elbrus
By LxAndrew – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23286171
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53725
By Rasul70 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29712102
Ethnic groups in the Caucasus
By I, Pmx, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2430263
Grozny apartments
By Michal Vogt [1] from Warsaw, Poland – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2182389
Lake Baikal map
By Kmusser – Own work using Digital Chart of the World and GTOPO data., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4792956
Traditional dress Georgians
By ritingon – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ritingonthewall/1577238983/in/set-72157602059123702/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2940525
Georgia map
By OCHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32738325
Armenia map
By 517design – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84985541
Mt. Ararat
By Սէրուժ Ուրիշեան (Serouj Ourishian) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32500984
Russian cuisine