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3.6: The Modern Russian Landscape

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    21065
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    The collapse of the Soviet Union had far-reaching effects on the Russian landscape and even today, Russia is affected by the legacy of the Soviet Union. The remnants of Soviet bureaucracy, for example, affect everything from the cost of road building to the forms needed to get clothes dry cleaned. After the immediate collapse of the Soviet Union, the government transitioned to a market economy. In many cases, those who had positions of power within the Soviet government gained control over previously state-owned industries creating a wealthy class often called a Russian oligarchy. Despite some setbacks and global economic downturns, Russia’s economy has improved significantly since the end of the Soviet Union and Russia now has the sixth-largest economy in the world. Poverty and unemployment rates have also fallen sharply in recent decades. Although Russia’s population fell sharply following the Soviet Union’s collapse, it has rebounded somewhat in recent years.

    Abandoned industrial towns and work settlements built by the Soviet Union dot the landscape, evidence of the Soviet government’s ill-fated attempt to decentralize its population and development (Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)). The Trans-Siberian Railway, completed in 1916 to connect Moscow with Russia’s eastern reaches in Vladivostok, continues to be the most important transportation link in Russia, but Russia’s highway system remains largely centralized in the west. In the east, the decentralization of settlements and difficult physical conditions has made building and maintaining road networks difficult. The Lena Highway, for example, nicknamed the “Highway from Hell,” is a federal highway running 1,235 km (767 mi) north to south in eastern Siberia. It was just a dirt road until 2014, often turning into an impassible, muddy swamp in summer.

    clipboard_ece626d928289159f632cd5102b52947b.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Abandoned Apartment Buildings in Kadykchan, Russia (© Laika ac, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s 2nd and 4th president, Russia’s economy has grown consistently, aided by high oil prices and global oil demand. Putin also instituted police and military reforms, and persecuted some of the wealthy oligarchs who had taken control of private enterprises. Critics also note that Putin has enacted a number of laws seeking to quiet political dissent and personal freedoms. There have been numerous documented cases of the torture of prisoners and members of the armed forces as well as a number of suspicious killings of journalists and lawmakers.

    Although the Cold War officially ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, tension between Russia and the West remains high. Military conflict in the former Soviet states, like Ukraine, has often reignited simmering hostilities. Still, there is some evidence of cooperation. In 2015, Putin told fellow world leaders that climate change was “one of the gravest challenges humanity is facing” and backed the United Nation’s climate change agreement. Previously, Putin had stated that for a country as cold as Russia, global warming would simply mean that Russians would have to buy fewer fur coats. The U.S. and Russian space agencies also continue to work together, announcing plans to cooperatively build a new space station.

    Trans-Siberian Highway:

    an east-west rail line completed in 1919 that stretches across Russia, connecting Moscow in the west with Vladivosktok in the east


    3.6: The Modern Russian Landscape is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Caitlin Finlayson.

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