How did Russia's geographic features influence the country's political, economic, and social development?

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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Russia has been significantly affected by its geography. Politically, Russia has long been in search for ports that could be used year-round. St. Petersburg was considered Russia's "window on Europe" as the port there could be used year-round. Russia has maintained a fleet in the Black Sea and has recently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in order to solidify its maritime position. This move is quite controversial. Russia is also quite large and used to be in constant danger of invasion, whether from Sweden, Poland, or the Mongols in the past or from Germany as late as the twentieth century. The Soviet Union maintained that it needed to occupy Eastern Europe as a buffer zone between itself and the West. Russia was initially considered weak in World War I as Germany thought that it would take the country a long time to mobilize, given its size and poor infrastructure.

Economically, Russia has many resources, given its size. Russian furs were and still are quite valuable as the nation's northern climates produce animals with heavy coats. Russian oil is a valuable commodity though the nation's dependence on oil exports has caused the ruble to fall in value lately. Russia also has significant coal and natural gas resources. Parts of Russia have moderately warm climates. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, Odessa on the Black Sea was a major tourist destination for Russians. Crimea and the Caucasus mountains are still valuable tourist destinations. Russia has a valuable port to trade with Asia in Vladivostok.

Russia's geography also has social implications. Before 1750 Russia shared an uneasy border with various khanates. Catherine the Great conquered many of these, but to this day Chechnya still resents being part of the Russian Federation. The short growing season has often created food shortages even during the twentieth century. The Russian and later Soviet Empire encompassed many different peoples, such as Armenians, Ukrainians, and Tatars. Many of these people were persecuted by Stalin during the collectivization era and the Reign of Terror. Russia has an uncertain relationship with many of its former satellite states as they start to look to the West for trading and military alliances. As the Russian Empire encompassed much of Eastern Europe at one time or another, the Russian language is quite common for millions of people. Even people who do not speak Russian use the Cyrillic alphabet. Many people also follow the Eastern Orthodox Church, which has strong ties to Russia.

teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! You asked how Russia's geographic features influence the country's political, economic, and social development.

Political

Russia is a vast country; in fact, it is the largest country in the world. Because of her size, Russia is faced with unique challenges in preserving its borders and with governing its multi-ethnic population effectively, even in this age of mass communication. Its vast areas present challenges to transportation infrastructure and to calculations in military strategy.

Economic

Russia boasts enviable natural resources; it has substantial oil reserves and gas deposits, making it one of the world's top producers of oil and gas. It also has numerous other mineral deposits (gold, silver, zinc, mercury, platinum), diamonds, and timber.Obviously, this is a strength to the Russian economy. The largest oil deposits are on Sakhalin Island and in Western and Eastern Siberia. Earlier in 2015, low oil prices and international sanctions (due to the annexation of Crimea) has forced Russia to rethink its approach to capitalism. In fact, it has entered into an oil-for-goods barter arrangement with the Iranians.

Social

The Steppes of Russia total a quarter of a billion acres from Hungary to Mongolia, and is home to rich, black soil which sustains Russian agriculture. However, the growing season is short (six months on the steppes), manure is scarce, decomposition is slow because of frigid winters, and frequent food shortages prove a challenge to the health of livestock. Stalin's uncompromising Five Year Plans to modernize the state of agriculture proved a brutal experiment in human suffering. The social cost of the modernizing operations has been staggering. Because of its large area and harsh continental climate, Russia has struggled to adequately feed its large population. With a substantial Muslim population, Russia also has to define its wars with Chechnya; she needs to outline an efficient military strategy against terrorism within its borders. Again, because of Russia's vast areas, social stability is highly impacted by famine, food shortages, terrorism, and corruption inherent in government.

Sources:

Russia, Iran and Oil

Putin, Diplomacy and Islam