Chapter 8, Commonwealth of Independent States

Faberge Renaissance Egg (1894) 

 Azova egg (1891)

Map of C.I.S.



  dissolution of XUSSR --> 
     - political & military breakup
     - "painful" shift from communist, state controlled economy to market based economy 
     - new trade relations, new standards
     - ethnic issues 
  "Second World" (USSR's political power was greater than economic power)
  Transition difficult not only for former members - also for satellites/ spheres of influence)
  Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) 


COMECON - intensely centralized, barter system
  State controlled land, raw materials, factories, transportation, 
management, labor, markets, production goals and standards, 
budgets, prices....
  incompatible systems: public vs private property ownership, 
monopoly of power by communist parties vs multiparty system, single 
bloc vs many countries, stationed enterprises vs multinational 
  focus on heavy industry, defense & space, rail & air industries
  little priority on consumer goods 

Reform requires:

  Price reform, financial reform, trade reform
  Institutional support
  New ways of thinking 


Rough times:
  Degraded and insufficient infrastructure
  Privatization of agriculture: slow process, low prices for farmers, 
tough competition from the US and EU, high costs for consumers
up against the US and EU
  Privatization of manufacture, etc.: also slow, need to find markets,
improve efficiency, become competitive
  Service sector needs development 
  Inexperience in banking 


  Dependence on Soviet reserves
  Oil for cash, nuclear power for domestic use 


  émigrés, defectors 
  exiles, purges    read about the Soviet GULAG
  Russians in former republics 


History of Russia

Rurik united nomadic tribes in Novgorod and Kiev (land of Rus') in 862

  Orthodox Christianity adopted 988 
1200-1450 Mongols (Tatar) control Russia 
much of Central Asia converts to Islam
late 1200s Teutonic Knights (Alexander Nevsky)
1300s Ottoman Turks
Ivan the Terrible 
(Ivan Grozny) 16th c.

right: Repin's famous painting 
portraying Ivan the Terrible after having dealt a deadly blow to his beloved son 

  mid-1600s Romanov dynasty ended isolation from Europe
territorial expansion of Russian empire 
Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg as a "forward capital" in 1712

1800s territorial expansion includes Central Asia; Fort Ross in CA
Map of Russian Empire 1895     Historical maps of Russian empire
  Trans-Siberian Railroad - finished early 1900s
1917 October Revolution

Karl Marx

my translation: "Comrade Lenin 
cleanses the Earth of scum"

  1922  USSR formed 
  Lenin dies 1924; Stalin era begins 
Stalin in power until death (1953)

Monument to Lenin

Joseph "Steel" Stalin 

Stalinist economic policy, 1930-1940

  post-WWII expansion of sphere of influence into Balkans, Eastern 
Europe, East Germany
Cold War
  late 1980s perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost' (openness)
  December 26, 1991: demise of Soviet Union
Early 1990s: 12 of 15 former republics join Commonwealth of 
Independent States

  huge land mass 
  northern location (above 40o, 50o N)
  vast plains, low plateaus 
  mountain systems in south, far east
  Urals - low; boundary between Europe and Asia
  midlatitude continental interior climates predominant
  hydrology: basins, rivers 
  diversity of environment (desert to tundra)

Life in northern Russia

Natural Resources 
  rich in minerals, fuels: especially Siberia (oil, natural gas, coal, minerals,
diamonds (1/4 of world's), gold (Sukhoi Rog), timber, fish)
  rich in fuels: Transcaucasus, Caspian Sea, Central Asia
  problems of extracting and transporting
  system depended on extensive use 
  political power linked to steel and fuel output
  taiga - world's largest forest area (2.9 mil. mi.2 vs Brazil's 2.12 mil. mi.2)
important in biodiversity and world climate change
  relatively little land suitable for commercial farming

Environmental Problems 

Environmental problems map

Natural problems:
  earthquakes in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asian states 

Anthropogenic problems - major environmental damage, especially 
during Soviet times:
  priority on heavy industry and goals of the government 
  "extensive" economic system
  faulty handling, storage of hazardous materials (e.g., North Fleet)
  weapons testing (i.e., Kazakhstan)
  over-excavation of minerals
  oil pipeline leaks, breaks (e.g., Pechora R.)

Chernobyl's Deadly Reactor 4

  Norilsk, most polluted place in Russia (?) (copper, nickel --> sulfur dioxide)
Map of Chernobyl Radiation Hotspots   Impact on Health 10 Years Later
Cesium 137  fallout map
Chernobyl Accident: A Brief Chronology
Chernobyl: Time Magazine
  Aral Sea
  Sumgait, Azerbaijan: petrochemicals
  Black Sea
  secret cities  Chelyabinsk, Most Polluted Place on the Planet
Novaya Zemlya



Russian cathedrals, folk art, fairy tales and more

  World's largest nation (in area)   Time zones map
  Russia is the northernmost large and populous country in world
  Russia is a "land empire"
  Few good ports; many areas landlocked
  history of autocratic leadership
  military prowess renowned from WWII
Complex political geography with 21 internal republics; republics and
autonomous districts established to reflect ethnic minorities
  Struggling to maintain status as world power, regain empire
  Russian core in west; dominated by European Russians
  Age-sex graph-- erratic due to WWII deaths, purges, famines,
enforced baby booms, migrations
  One of fastest rates of natural decrease in world 
  75% urbanized (1917- 17%) (Why the big increase?)

  main features of Stalin's regime: centralized control, focus on 
industrialization, resource self-sufficiency 
  some initial success (steel, military hardware)
  transportation costs, stuck in industrial rut
  economic system in disarray
  agriculture=7%, manufacture=38%, service=55%  BUT in Europe:
    agriculture=3%, manufacture=30%, service=66%  (1995)
  agriculture most productive in Ukraine ("breadbasket") and Central 
  foreign investment in oil, gas, minerals
  reprioritization - decline of certain industries (e.g., military 
  "brain drain"
  Western Europe - main trading partner

Russian Coal and Minerals Map        Soviet Machine Building Industries map (1982)
Soviet Machine Building Industries map (1982)    Petroleum/Pipelines Map
Petroleum Refining/ Chemical Industries Map  Land use map  Trans-Siberian Railroad 

Daryl Evans' Russia Home Page



Believe it or not but this is a Russian subway station (Moscow)

  Russia: 17% urbanized in 1917--> 48% in 1959 --> 70% in 1990s
  St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad)
  Volga Region

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

Uspensky Cathedral

Moscow Photo Tour        Tour of St. Petersburg         Virtual Tour of St. Petersburg
900-day siege of Leningrad during World War II

Russia Far East

Kluchevoi Volcano, Kamchatka
Russia Far East Interactive Map

  development as major link between Siberian riches and world economy on Pacific Rim


Lake Baikal -Deepest lake in the world 
the Gem of Siberia


to right: minorities in the USSR were allowed to express aspects of their cultural heritage as long as they satisfactorily performed their duties as Soviet citizens. 

Here, warriors from Central Asia show their loyalty to Stalin 

  USSR had contained 100s of distinct ethnic groups 
  after 1997 leaders in oblasts and territories elected (not appointed)
  in process of decentralization of decision-making, policy-making
  independence unlikely for many living in Russian-dominated regions
  Siberia: remnants of ethnic groups already in region or forced to move 
there; decolonization demands 
  tensions between Russians and titular populations

Russian flashpoints map
Ethnic Groups Map
Russia's Ethnic Republics
Caucasus Ethnicity Map
Ethnic Groups in Southern Former Soviet Region


  independent but close ties to Russia
  plains: Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova 
  Transcaucasus: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  Transcaucasus: region with most complex ethnic mix of languages
religions, and historic changes of control in the world
  under USSR, ethnic tensions subdued
  since 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh, Moldova, Muslims in Georgia
  oil woes

Armenia and nearby Nagorno-

Destruction in Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan


A Chechen memorial

Russian artillery hammering Chechen rebel positions, 1995

Widespread destruction in Grozny, capital of Chechnya

Outline of Events in Chechnya
1. Peter the Great annexes Caspian Sea region, 1722
2. Imam Shamil envisions the formation of Islamic proto-state, 1850s - 1864
3. Formation of Mountain Republic, 1922
4. Chechens declare independence from USSR, 1943
5. Massive deportation of Chechens by Stalin to Central Asia, 1944
6. Deported Chechens allowed to return home, 1957
7. General Dudaev declares Chechen independence from Soviet Union and Russia, 
August 1991
8. Russia attempts political reconciliation with Chechnya, 1992 - 1994
9. Yeltsin sends Russian troops to Chechnya, December 1994
10. Russian troops fail to conquer Grozny; Russian Yeltsin politically embarrassed
11. Russia renews war with Chechnya, 1999
12. Map of Russians attacking Chechnya, 1999
Geography of Chechnya Chechen people during the war ASF Chechnya Brief
Chechnya 1996 Review History of Chechnya Crime without punishment --Russians in Chechnya
Russia - Chechnya War (1994-1996) Chechnya, Land of Conflict  Photos of war in   Chechnya, 1999
Chechen Republic Online Why the Russian Military Failed in Chechnya Where rebellion is a tradition 



  Central Asian Republics Map

  Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan

Central Asian musicians
  landlocked, arid/ semiarid, Muslim
  strategic geopolitical position
  incorporated into Russia - 1880s
  under Russians & Soviets: Islam suppressed, nomadic pastoralism 
discouraged, Russian influx 
  since 1991: increased interaction with other Muslim nations
  fending off religious extremism

Samarkand, Uzbekistan,  famous stop along the Silk Road
  population growth
  Sunni Muslims, Turkic languages
  ethnic mix
  Soviet-imposed boundaries
  Russian outmigration

  least industrialized subregion
  low GDPs
  under Soviets: traditional herding economy --> raw materials, irrigation farming (iron, minerals, cotton (see "Aral Sea" link below))
  oil, natural gas... escape from Russian domination?
  Soviets promoted certain level of industrialization but not range 
  infrastructure - big impediment to reaching markets

Uzbek cotton workers

Disappearance of the Aral Sea - please click here

  under Stalin living standards second to national industrial goals
  Tsarist symbols, buildings, names replaced with Soviet ones
  after 1991: trends toward "de-Sovietization" 
  "de- Russification" in some republics (i.e., Central Asia)
  after 1985: Gorbachev attempts limited decentralization

out with Lenin

Secret Cities 
  approx. range of 10,000 to 100,000 inhabitants
  nuclear, biological, chemical, missile, other weapons R&D
  not on maps; special naming system
  environmental damage
Rural Landscapes
  collectivization of agriculture to support industrialization 
  traditional rural society destroyed
  food shortages, famine
  private plots supplied sizable amount of food for Russians

A Russian dacha (summer cottage)


  future predictions difficult
  transition process difficult
  continuing Russian interference in internal affairs of CIS and former 
satellite nations
  centripetal forces for CIS: Russian oil, natural gas
  centrifugal forces for CIS: ethnic issues, Russian hegemony
  foreign capital is key
  late 1990s: economic output 1/2 of 1989, prices rising, 
unemployment, unpaid workers and pensioners, understaffed 
schools & hospitals, death rates exceeded birth rates, lower life 
expectancy, corruption, lost life savings, mafiosi
  better life for younger generation, entrepreneurs