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Ural region geography
Ural natural resources and infrastructure
Economy of the Ural region


 Ural region geography

(Russian Ural’skiye Gory), mountain chain in Russia, extending about 2400 km (about 1500 mi) from its northern boundary at the Arctic Ocean to its southern limits at the steppes of Kazakstan, traditionally separating the continents of Europe and Asia. The chain is divided roughly into four main divisions: the Polar, Northern, Middle, and Southern Urals. The Polar Urals (above latitude 64° North) are treeless arctic tundra. Northern Urals (latitude 64° North to latitude 61° North) constitute a distinct craggy, treeless, narrow range with crests averaging 305 to 460 m (1000 to 1500 ft) in height. This range contains the highest Ural crest, Gora Narodnaya (1894 m/6214 ft). Other Northern peaks include Mount Sablya, Telpos-Iz, and Isherim. The only trees in the area are sparse growths of larch (a type of pine tree).

Numerous plateaus, characterized by broad, flat, marshy valleys, extend in the southwestern direction from the southern limits of Northern Urals. The entire Middle Ural region (latitude 61° North to latitude 60° North) is covered with dense coniferous forests. A succession of northeastern mountain chains marks the northern boundary of Middle Urals. The southern boundary is marked by numerous hills of 305 to 610 m (1000 to 2000 ft) separated by deep ravines. The Konzhakovskiy Kamen, 1571 m (5154 ft) high, is the highest peak of both the northern and southern portions of Middle Urals. Dense forests, rich soils, and fertile valleys cover the entire area.

The south of Middle Urals (latitude 55° North to latitude 51° North) are three parallel mountain chains called the Southern Urals. The first of these, the Urals proper, is a low chain ranging in height from about 670 to 850 m (about 2200 to 2800 ft). To the west, a higher range, containing many rivers, reaches a height of 1594 m (5230 ft) and is paralleled farther west by an equally high range. All three ranges are heavily wooded with deciduous plant life and contain rich pasturelands. The Urals continue from latitude 51° North toward the Volga River and, under the name of Obshchiy Syrt, comprise a system of plateaus reaching 460 m (1500 ft) in the height and 322 km (200 mi) in the width. The south of the Ural River, the Ural chain appears as a group of independent ranges.

Geologically, the Urals are the worn-down stumps of an ancient range that rose toward the end of the Paleozoic era, 250 million years ago (see Permian Period), while the American Appalachian Mountains were forming. The divisions of the range reflect distinct episodes in this ancient upheaval, which squeezed thick sedimentary rock layers into large northern-southern trending folds, then faulted and intruded them with a variety of igneous rocks.

Ural natural resources and infrastructure.

The Urals region occupies an area of eight hundred and twenty thousand square kilometres (one and a half times the size of France), and encompasses the Urals mountains, which form the natural boundary between European Russia and western Siberia. The climate is continental, with an average winter temperature of -15o Celsius and summer temperature of +20o Celsius. The region, with a population of approximately twenty million people, lies about one and a half thousand kilometres east of Moscow.

The Urals economic region is the second largest in Russia and is known as the industrial heart of Russia. All main branches of the economy are well represented; agriculture and agribusiness, forestry, textiles, oil and gas, metal extraction and processing, light industry and the space and arms industries. The region has over thirty institutes or centres of research, mostly located in Ekaterinburg, where Boris Yeltsin was mayor. The city has a population of 1.4 million has historically formed the region's focal point.

The region itself is well served by rail links, and the main electrified line to Moscow takes approximately 27 hours travel time. Primary roads ranging from good to poor in quality connect all major cities. Secondary roads are generally of very poor quality. The main airport in the region recently began international flights, with Lufthansa airlines flying twice a week to Frankfurt.

The Urals region is one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources. Over a thousand types of minerals are found there, including rich reserves of oil and deposits of precious metals. The number of mines exceeds twelve thousand. Out of the fifty-five elements of the periodic table which are economically significant, forty-eight are present in the Urals. Significant investment was made by the Soviet Government in the exploitation of the region's rich deposits of iron, copper, chrome and nickel ores, potassium salts, precious metals and coal and oil fields.

Timber is also abundant and the soils are richer than in central Russia. The harsh climate has an adverse effect on the agricultural development of the region, with the growing season lasting only four to five months, resulting in crop failures, harvesting and storage problems. However this type of climate is well suited to the production of high quality durable soft woods.

Industry is dominated by Defense extractive industries, but also contains a diversified range of medium sized enterprises in electrical goods, precision engineering, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and food processing. The average industrial enterprise in the region employs about one thousand people. Many still function with excess labour forces, a result of communist "full-employment" policies.

In the extractive industries many of the processes and operations are uneconomical and were developed to exploit over-abundant resources on the basis of very cheap energy prices. The enterprises in the region mainly aim to serve the Russian market, but already possess the resources to serve the European if not the global market. Again enterprises are actively seeking Western assistance and involvement for this purpose.

The demand for consumer and food products is great and there are good opportunities available for prospective exporters to the region. Direct investment is also possible but is usually restricted to 49% of the company's stock, the other 51% must be Russian owned with certain exceptions. Russian companies are keen to purchase or lease Western production technologies. The financial service infrastructure of the region is relatively under-developed, but is improving all the time. A number of new and aggressive merchant banks have sprung up in the region which provide an adequate range of services. Recently Bank of Ireland set up a number of ATM's in the city of Yfa for a local bank, and all areas of banking are developing rapidly.

A number of companies are involved in direct trade with the region from Ireland. One of the first was Russtrade Limited in October 1992. Based in Dublin, with strategic alliances in Moscow, Ekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk, the company deals mainly in export to Russia of goods and equipment and also provides contact and consultancy services for Russian and Irish or other Western companies. The main problems the company has encountered are the relatively poor infrastructure of the region in terms of both physical links and telecommunications and the absence of any investment guarantee mechanism for potential investors. Local authorities are considering a proposed investment guarantee fund using as collateral a 10% tax on all precious metal and gem extraction, which it is hoped will increase the region's attractiveness to foreign investors.

Organised crime has not been a problem for foreign investors in the region. Unlike Moscow or Leningrad, very few outsiders have moved into the region in the past seventy years, so that gangs bound by family and ethnic ties, most famously the Chechens in Moscow, do not exist here. The vast security apparatus created to guard the Soviet Defense industries remains in place to protect business and government.

Economy of the Ural region.

Important industrial areas are located in Middle and Southern Urals. Intensive industrialization in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) began during World War II (1939-1945), when many industries were established to develop armaments production centers far from the military zone.

The Ural economic region consists of the Sverdlovsk, Perm, Cheliabinsk, Kurgan, Orenburg regions and two republics: Udmurtia and Bashkortostan.

The main railway roads from Europe to Siberia, Kazakhstan and Middle Asia pass through the Ural economic region. The total area of the region is more than 2 million square km (which is more than 1/10 of the whole territory of Russia). The population is more than 23 million people (more than 1/15 of the whole population of Russia). 17 million people live in cities. The biggest cities with population more than 1 mln are Ekaterinburg (Ekaterinburg), Perm, Ufa, Cheliabinsk. Also, among the important industrial cities are Magnitogorsk, Orenburg and Nizhny Tagil.

Rich mineral resources are considered to be the basis of the Ural industry: about 1000 kinds of minerals, more than 12 thousand deposits of mineral resources containing iron ore and coal in close proximity, as well as rich deposits of chromium, manganese, copper, zinc, bauxite, platinum, silver, gold, precious stones, diamonds. This area holds the leading position in Russia as the most rich in mineral resources. Just to the east of the Urals is a major oil-producing area.

Availability of unique mineral resources and favorable geographical position has contributed to creation of powerful economic and scientific basis. Almost all branches of economy are represented in the region. More than 10 million people work in these branches. The region’s specialization is production of items pertaining to heavy industry, consumer goods and food-stuff. More than 80% of products manufactured in the Ural economic region are means of production.

The region occupies the second place in export of Russia. The share of Ural region in the total volume of export production of the Russian Federation is about 22%.