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Economy of the Southern Russian Far East
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Economic development in the RFE has had three main goals since the Russian Empire first began to settle the Far East: 1) to create and strengthen a military presence to defend the eastern border of the country; 2) to develop natural resources; and 3) to develop ties with northeast Asia and the Asia Pacific Region. The focus of natural resource development changed over time from furs to agricultural lands to precious metals to timber to fish to non-ferrous metals.

There are four provinces in southern RFE: Primorsky, Khabarovsky, Evreiskaya Autonomous Region, and Amurskaya. But the Russian Far East Federal District, however, includes another six northern provinces outside the Amur-Heilong basin. By the early 1990s the main industries were raw material extraction (non-ferrous and precious metals and precious stones), timber production, and fishing (gradually shifting from regional waterways to international waters). Industry and infrastructure related to the military also had a prominent role. In parts of the RFE, resource use differed from these main trends. In the Khanka Lake lowlands and Zeya-Bureya plains, agricultural goods predominated.

RFE industry and agriculture play a modest role in Russia's total economy, though the RFE has the largest land area of any region in the country. The RFE accounts for less than seven percent of gross national product, less than five percent of agricultural production, and under five percent of industrial production despite more than 7,000 industrial plants registered on its territory in 2000. The four southern provinces of the RFE are the most productive, producing well over 50 percent of all major industrial and agricultural commodities in the RFE Federal District, which includes 10 provinces in total.

Natural resource use accounted for 31 percent of industrial production and 14 percent of the work force in the RFE in 1997. Industries based on natural resource exploitation support nearly half of the population. If all branches of industry that depend on raw materials are included in the calculations, this sector's share in the regional economy is even higher: 68 percent in Evreiskaya Province; 76 percent in Khabarovsky Province; 82 percent in Primorsky Province; and 90 percent in Amurskaya Province.

Natural resources have always been used extensively and inefficiently in the RFE. By the time of the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union , all suitable wildlands had been converted to agriculture, nearly all forests in the Amur-Heilong basin south of the Baikal-Amur Railroad had been logged, and almost all of the known gold and coal deposits had been developed. At the same time, the least efficient methods were often used in resource exploitation: clear-cutting remains widespread in forestry and open pit mining and dredging are still prevalent in the mining and fuel industries. Extraction of useful constituents from raw materials reaches only 20-30 percent in mining and 60 percent in forestry.

The economic reforms of the post-Soviet era have brought a decrease in the regulation and monitoring of resource use. The economic crisis and intensifying pursuit of profits have encouraged natural resource users to employ plundering methods of resource development. Industries cannot pay for natural resource extraction and, consequently, no funds are being devoted to the regeneration of renewable resources such as forests.

While the decline in industrial production has its benefits for nature conservation, the increase in unemployment and incentives for producers to use cheap and inefficient methods of resource exploitation have adversely affected biodiversity. The only way out of this economic crisis will be to modernize industrial practices and this will require large-scale investments.

To emphasize the profound differences between economies of neighboring provinces in Russia and China, we present data in a Table from a recent monograph by Ganzei (2004). In summary, while natural resources are much more abundant in the RFE, the intensity of use and production volumes are much higher in Heilongjiang Province.

In last few years Russia came up with a very ambitious “National Program for Development of Siberia and Far East”, which provides support to develop major industrial complexes largely based on massive natural resource extraction and domestic processing. The national “Investment and Stabilization Fund”, fed mostly by oil and gas profits, is being used to partner with major domestic corporations to establish new “private-public” partnerships that intensify economic development of remote regions. Socio-economic sustainability of this effort is questionable due to its clearly “colonialist” bias, while huge environmental costs are very evident . We welcome you to visit web-sites featuring these projects and current investment opportunities in Russia.( and atlas


Map collection: Environmental impacts of economic development



GLOBIO human impact assesment

Human footprint and ecoregions of Amur

Human footprint and protected areas coverage

Threats to biodiversity in Southern Russian Far East

Industrial Development in Songhua River Basin (ADB 2005)


GIS: Human footprint


Web-site: Programs “Development of Russian Far East and Transbaikalia” “Development of East Siberia and the Far East” and their environmental implications: link to projects and atlas

(LINK to Josh Newell RFE site)


Gold mining in Amurskaya Province (Photo by Yuri Darman)

Also look:

Economic development:

Sustainable future of Amur-Heilong

Northeast China - status of economy

Mongolia – status of economy

Russia-China cooperation

Mongolian Foreign Trade and Cooperation

Mongolian trade diagrams-2003

Comparison table on Eastern Mongolia and Xinganmeng China

Comparison table on southern RFE and Heilongjiang Province, China

Policy for Revitalizing Old industrial Bases in NE China


Cumulative impacts -how much is affected?

Human Impacts and Threats to Biodiversity

Threats to major ecosystems in the Russian Far East Ecoregion-table


"Strategic considerations on environmental issues of Revitalizing Old industrial Bases in NE China"

"Strategy Recommendations"

Our questions on "Strategy Recommendations"

Gloomy forecast of the future environmental impacts

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