ECONOMY: AGRICULTURE, LIVESTOCK AND FISHING
The contrasts between the various parts of the country are manifested with immediate evidence in the forms of land use and in the cultivation orientations, within the primary sector: the extension of the arable land, modest percentage, is obviously concentrated in the western regions, while in the eastern regions falls as a result of climatic and pedological conditions (large extent of permafrost), replaced by a cover prevalent in taiga and tundra. As mentioned, the Russian agricultural sector is going through a difficult phase of reconversion, which still sees the legislative measures to liberalize land ownership not fully completed in 2005: the basic law was approved in 2002 but part of the implementation measures are still missing. and guarantee, and resistance from local authorities and managers of collective farms continues. Moreover, lacking the large investments necessary for infrastructural adaptation – roads, fast transport networks, modern warehouses – it is clear that the repercussions on the marketing of products and, therefore, on the satisfaction of domestic food demand are still heavy. Despite this, in the fundamental cereal sector, for several years there have been positive harvests, which often leave margins also for export: alongside wheat, there are also crops of barley, oats and rye, well adaptable to high latitudes, and that of corn. Potatoes are widespread everywhere, constituting the main caloric reserve of the population (even on a psychological level: there is no Russian who does not keep a small field of potatoes “just in case” somewhere, even far from where he lives) while horticultural crops are obviously concentrated in the western section of the country and benefit from the corporate reorganization (cabbage, peas, tomatoes, carrots, onions, watermelons). Among industrial crops, sugar beet and oilseeds prevail, while textiles are reduced to modest quantities of flax, hemp and jute, with evident repercussions on the processing industry. The consistency of the livestock patrimony, once particularly rich, decreased by 40% from 1990 to 2000 and then gradually recovered; the country remains (if only for its size) one of the world’s largest producers of milk and meat, but it is also a net importer. In the upper latitudes hunting and breeding of fur animals are widespread and itinerant herding forms linked to the presence of the reindeer also survive. The vast areas of taiga of the northern belt, which constitute the largest forest reserve in the world, have given rise to significant wood processing activities and a considerable paper production, in which Eastern Siberia has now surpassed the region of the oldest exploitation of the Urals. Fishing, which boasts a leading international fleet active in various parts of the globe, makes an important contribution to food needs and supports the canning industry; the national front richest in fish resources is that of the Pacific. Overall, demonstrating the long way to go in terms of efficiency and productivity, the primary sector still occupied approx. 10% in 2003. of the active population, contributing only about 5%. to the formation of the GDP. demonstrating the long way to go in terms of efficiency and productivity, the primary sector still occupied approx. 10% in 2003. of the active population, contributing only about 5%. to the formation of the GDP. demonstrating the long way to go in terms of efficiency and productivity, the primary sector still occupied approx. 10% in 2003. of the active population, contributing only about 5%. to the formation of the GDP.
ECONOMY: COMMUNICATIONS AND COMMERCE
The transport infrastructures reflect in a very clear way the territorial dualism between the European and Asian sections of the country, appearing rather densely and homogeneously distributed in the first and reduced instead only to some axes of penetration, grafted onto the Trans-Siberian railway, in the second. Of particular importance is the extension of the river transport system, 96,000 km in 2004, of which 72,000 in the European part, mainly articulated around the Volga. Main seaports in the northern European seas are those of St. Petersburg, Archangel, Murmansk ; Vladivostok, Nahodka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski on the Pacific; on the Black Sea, the port of Novorossiysk is very important. A fundamental tool is the railway network, whose function becomes even more clearly dominant in the Asian regions, for which it constituted a primary instrument of colonization: a role of this kind has also been proposed, N of the Trans-Siberian route (Moscow-Vladivostok)., the Bajkal-Amur line (BAM or Bajkal Amur Magistral), the most demanding construction in the sector. Relevant, especially for the more isolated areas of Siberia, was the development of air links, organized in a rather extensive network of airport stations. Of primary interest for the Russian economy is the gigantic system of oil and gas pipelines (239,000 km in total, in 2004), which allow the transport of hydrocarbons from the most isolated regions to large industrial centers as well as their export to European countries. Finally, the road network, although extended for over half a million km (1996, of which over 360,000 are asphalted), is in fact undersized, both because of the obstacles placed in the way by physical conditions and very long distances, and because of the lack of relevance that the model Soviet political-economic had given to the development of automobile transport. International trade, in a first phase at the beginning of the nineties, continued to take place mainly within the states that were already part of the USSR.anti-dumping provisions of the GATT ( General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). Today the main trading partners are Germany, China, Italy and Ukraine. Other trade agreements have been signed with the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and, in Europe, with Belarus. Russian exports mainly concern energy and mineral products, but also extend to a very wide range of industrial products; among imports, machinery, food and chemical products prevail. The trade balance manages to achieve large margins of activity, mainly linked to the high prices of oil and gas. The domestic tertiary sector is, in turn, booming, even though the persistence of a strong public apparatus has to be considered. Private services, from distribution to communications, literally “exploded” after 1998: today retail sales are almost completely privatized, and in 2004 there were over 1000 telephone companies. Tourism is a sector of great potential and relatively new: the traditional state structure that dealt exclusively with the management of foreign tourists in the USSR has been broken up, with channels completely separate from those of domestic tourism, today many private structures are growing with great dynamism and speed without distinguishing between foreign and “national” tourists. The sector is in full swing in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other major cities, but there are signs of rapid progress even in smaller towns and areas with natural attractions. On the other hand, tourism services – agencies, charter airlines, etc. are growing even faster.