a territorial component of a country’s national economy. It is characterized by a specific economic-geographical status, by an economic unity, by distinctive natural and economic conditions, and by a production specialization that is based on the territorial social division of labor and has developed overtime.
Under capitalism, economic regions form and develop spontaneously in the heat of competition. When certain industries develop in one region, they frequently decline in another.
Under socialism, the territorial division of labor develops, and economic regions form in a planned fashion based on the economic laws of socialism. Economic regions are developed in a systematic and integrated manner; their specialization is combined with the rational location of productive forces and with the development of regional complexes of industries and production facilities that increase economic efficiency and ensure both that the natural, human, and technological resources of the regions will be used fully and that the economic potential of the nation will show an overall increase.
Marxist methodology was first applied to the study of economic regionalization by V. I. Lenin, who in The Development of Capitalism in Russia analyzed in depth the formation of economic regions in Russia, a process he regarded as an integral part of the development of capitalist production relations. In New Data on the Laws of Capitalist Development in Agriculture, Lenin provided a scientific basis for the division of the USA into three large economic regions: the industrial North; the South, formerly a sla-veholding region; and the West, which was being colonized.
The scientific principles of socialist economic regionalization were first developed in the USSR. After the October Revolution of 1917 economic planning required that the country be scientifically divided into economic regions—parts of the national economy that would undergo systematic development. In 1920 the plan of the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia (GOELRO) established eight large regions.
With the organization of Gosplan (State Planning Commission) in 1921, the division of the country into economic regions was carried out by a special subcommission under the direction of G. M. Krzhizhanovskii and I. G. Aleksandrov; many directives on this question were issued by Lenin. In 1921, Gosplan drafted a plan that divided the country into 21 economic regions. The draft was revised by a commission (chairman, M. I. Kalinin) of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. “Regionalization,” the commission noted, “must be based on the economic principle. A region must be a distinctive and, as far as possible, economically complete, territory of the nation; it must have a specific combination of the requisite natural features, cultural heritage, and a population trained for production to become a link in the overall chain of the national economy” (Ekonomicheskoe raionirovanie Rossii, 1922, p. 55).
Specialization within the social territorial division of labor plays the principal role in the formation of economic regions. The general boundaries of a region are determined primarily by the range of action of specialized branches of the economy and major auxiliary facilities—the associated cooperative suppliers of raw materials, assemblies, and parts. In addition the formation of economic regions is influenced by natural conditions, such as the presence of large deposits of minerals, the hydroelectric potential, the natural fertility of the soil, and the climate. Also important is the nature of the work force, major considerations being population density, cumulative work experience, the ethnic composition of the population, and the extent to which the population is concentrated in large cities. Other factors influencing the formation of economic regions are technical and economic conditions, including the level of development of productive forces, the state of the production-related and social infrastructure, and the existence of such advanced forms of the social organization of production as concentration, specialization, and combination. The division of the country into administrative and political units also plays a part in the formation of economic regions, because of the important role of the socialist state in organizing economic construction. Territorial-production complexes constitute the material and technical basis for the formation of economic regions.
Given the vast expanses, varied natural conditions, and rich resources of the USSR and in view of the increased scale and complexity of the socialist economy, the country must be divided into both large and small economic regions in order to rationally organize the economy on a territorial basis. In practice, three levels of economic regions are distinguished: large (macroregions), administrative (mesoregions), and lowest-level (microregions).
Large economic regions comprise three types: Union republics, groups of Union republics, and groups of autonomous republics, krais, or oblasts of the RSFSR and the Ukrainian SSR. The large economic regions provide the framework for establishing national economic territorial proportions and for determining basic trends in the location of productive forces throughout the national economy.
Administrative economic regions, which form the basis of the country’s territorial makeup, include autonomous republics, krais, and oblasts, as well as Union republics that are not divided into oblasts. Such regions constitute the basic elements in the territorial planning and management of the national economy.
Lowest-level economic regions are low-level administrative regions that constitute the primary territorial elements in the classification of economic regions.
The rapid development of the country’s productive forces, the growth of the economic potential of the eastern and northern regions, the formation and development of new territorial-production complexes, and the implementation of large-scale integrated territorial programs make it necessary to revise periodically the network of economic regions in the USSR. These factors also require that the network be coordinated with efforts to improve the management and planning of the national economy for the purpose of accelerating the rate and increasing the efficiency of social production.
The network of economic regions has been revised several times, the number of large economic regions has changed, and the composition of some large regions has been altered. The first five-year plan (1929–32) was drawn up for 24 regions and the second five-year plan (1933–37) for 32 regions and the Northern Zone. The third five-year plan (1938–42) was compiled for nine regions and ten Union republics; at the same time, oblasts and krais were grouped into 13 primary economic units that formed the basis for planning the development of the national economy by region.
The system of classification approved in 1963 and updated in 1966 comprises, in addition to the Moldavian SSR, 18 large economic regions. Ten of these regions are in the RSFSR: Northwestern, Central, Volga-Viatka, Central Chernozem, Volga, Northern Caucasus, Ural, Western Siberian, Eastern Siberian, and Far East. Three regions are in the Ukrainian SSR: Donets-Dnieper, Southwestern, and Southern. The five remaining regions are formed from the other Union republics: Baltic (Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian SSR’s), Transcaucasian (Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian SSR’s), Middle Asian (Uzbek, Kirghiz, Tadzhik, and Turkmen SSR’s), Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan SSR), and Byelorussian (Byelorussian SSR).
Economic-geographical zoning—the establishment of economic-geographical zones, or consolidated regions—is used for the long-range forecasting of the placement of productive forces. Seven such zones were created during the drafting of Basic Trends in the Development of the National Economy of the USSR Between 1976 and 1990: Central and Northern European (Northwestern, Central, Volga-Viatka, Byelorussian, and Baltic large economic regions), Southern European (Central Chernozem, Northern Caucasus, Donets-Dnieper, Southwestern, Southern, and Transcaucasian large economic regions and the Moldavian SSR), Ural-Volga, Siberian, Far East, Kazakhstan, and Middle Asian.
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G. I. GRANIK