The Rivers of Siberia and the Russian Far East

Section 1

Subject: Social Studies/Geography
Themes: Rivers, Transportation, Economic and Political Development, Russia
Time: 4 (50 minute) class periods.
Target Audience: Advanced High School Students and Community College

Developed by: Devon Lechtenberg, Ph.D.
Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The major rivers of Siberia and the Russian Far East are a defining feature of Russia’s geography.  All four major river basins, including the Ob-Irtysh, Yenisei, Lena, and the Amur are home to important economic and population centers.  The Ob-Irtysh River Basin in western Siberia contains some of Russia’s largest cities after Moscow and St. Petersburg. The economic activity found in some of the cities within the Ob-Irtysh Basin forms an indispensable part of Russia’s overall economy. The Yenisei River Basin is home to cities such as Krasnoyarsk and Norilsk which are important mining centers.  The Lena River Basin, remote and sparsely populated, contains less industry but is home to many natural wonders such as the Lena Columns and the northern hemisphere’s lowest temperatures.  The Amur River Basin forms much of the border between Russia and China and thus plays a prominent geopolitical role in Sino-Russian relations.  As Russia expanded eastwards, it built settlements along these great rivers, which served both as a source of water and major transportation linkages.  They continue these functions today, although rail, road, and air transportation have replaced rivers as the main form of transportation for people.  Nevertheless, river transportation remains vital to economic activity throughout much of Siberia and the Russian Far East.  Additionally, the Northern Sea Route also plays an important role not only in the Russian economy, but it is beginning to be of international significance as well. 

With this in mind, a series of curriculum guides has been developed to bring awareness of the importance of transportation for socio-economic and political development in Siberia and the Russian Far East.  At present, there are four curriculum guides offered as part of this series.  More will be added in addition to supplementary materials such as translations of relevant Russian news articles.  The four curricula which are now available include: 1) a curriculum guide on river transportation in the Ob-Irtysh basin, 2) a curriculum guide on the Amur basin, 3) a curriculum guide on important rivers and cities of the Yenisei and Lena basins, and finally 4) a curriculum guide to the international politics of the Northern Sea Passage across the Russian Arctic.  The goal of this series is not only to introduce students to the basic geography of these regions as well as the role of transportation in shaping this geography, but to raise awareness of their importance to Russia and the rest of the world.

Material Access

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