Arkhangelsk Oblast

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Arkhangel’sk Oblast


part of the RSFSR. It was formed Sept. 23, 1937, and is situated in the northern European part of the RSFSR, bordering on the White, Barents, and Kara seas and Pechora Bay. It includes Nenets National Okrug and islands of the Arctic Ocean: Franz Josef Land, Novaia Zemlia, the Solovetskie Islands, and others. Its area is 587,400 sq km, including the area of the Nenets National Okrug (176,700 sq km) and the sea islands (104,400 sq km.) It had a population of 1,402,000 in 1970. It is divided into 19 administrative raions and includes 11 cities and 37 urban-type settlements. Its center is Arkhangel’sk.

Natural features. Arkhangel’sk Oblast is located on the northeastern outskirts of the East European plain. In the oblast’s central region (between the Timan Ridge and the Onega River) there is a rolling plain, which is dissected by the broad valleys of the Northern Dvina, Pinega, Mezen’, and other rivers. Individual sections of the swamped watersheds of the rivers are plateau-like or hilly and have altitudes of 150–270 m (the Konosha and Niandoma heights, the Belomorsk-Kuloi plateau, and others). In the interfluvial area of the Onega and Northern Dvina and in the basin of the Kuloi, karst forms of relief are developed. The vast, swamped Pechora lowland, much of which is occupied by the Bolshaia Zemlia and Malaia Zemlia tundras, is situated to the east of the Timan Ridge; in the central part of the Pechora lowland there is a series of morainic chains with altitudes of 250–275 m. The Vetrennyi Poias mountain ridge (altitudes to 344 m) stretches out in the northwest of the oblast; further to the east are the Timan Ridge (altitudes to 303 m), Kanin Kamen’ (to 242 m), and the Pai-Khoi range (to 467 m). The climate is inclement. Winters are cold; the mean January temperature is -18.4°C in Amderma, -12.5°C in Arkhangel’sk, and - 14.0°C in Kotlas. Mean July temperatures decrease from 16.5°-17.0°C in the south to 8°-10°C in the northeast. On the coast of the White Sea, fogs are frequent (40–60 days a year) and unstable weather is characteristic. The average annual precipitation is 300–400 mm in the Nenets National Okrug and 500–550 mm in the southern part of the oblast. The growing season varies from 50–60 days in the northeast to 150–155 days in the south; the total growing temperatures are 350°-600°C and 1500°-1600°C, respectively. In northeastern sections, to 66°N lat., permafrost is prevalent.

Littoral areas of the seas are shallow, with numerous sandbanks or spits. Arkhangel’sk Oblast has a dense network of rivers and lakes. All the rivers except for the Ileksa belong to the basin of the Arctic Ocean. The largest rivers are the Northern Dvina (with its main tributaries—the Vychegda, Pinega, and Vaga), the Onega, Mezen’, and lower Pechora. The rivers give off 50–65 percent of their yearly discharge during the spring flood period, and during their low-water period they become much shallower. There are about 2,500 lakes in Arkhangel’sk Oblast, concentrated primarily in the basin of the Onega and in the extreme northeast. The largest are Lacha, Kenozero, and Kozhozero.

In places where the relief is flat, latitudinal zonation of the soil and vegetative cover is manifested relatively clearly. The northeast of the oblast is a tundra zone, divided into subzones of arctic, mossy-lichenous, and (further south) low brush tundra. The soils are tundra-gley and tundra bog. The forest-tundra zone is characterized by a combination of thin forest with treeless tundra sections and a predominance of peat gley and slightly podzolic soils. Wooded areas cover about half the territory of the oblast. Most of the oblast is located within the boundaries of the northern and central taiga. The chief timber-forming varieties are spruce and pine; in the east, larch is widespread and fir is found. In the northern taiga (approximately to 64° N lat.) forests are low in productivity, huge areas are occupied by peat moss bogs, and soils are podzolic gley and bog. In the middle taiga, forests form more closed stands; their productivity is higher. Soils are podzolic, podzolic boggy, and in places (in the southwest) podzolic sod. In the valleys of the taiga rivers much area is occupied by flooded meadows.

Animal life has retained great industrial importance. Polar fox, reindeer, alpine ptarmigan and willow grouse, squirrel, blue hare, fox, bear, wolf, and game birds (hazel hen, black grouse and wood grouse) are found here.

Population. Arkhangel’sk Oblast is one of the least populated regions of the country. The average population density in 1969 was 2.4 persons per sq km; most people live in the southern section adjoining the railroad (about a third of the total population), in the lower reaches of the Northern Dvina (almost two-fifths), in the basin of the Vaga River, and along the middle course of the Northern Dvina (over one-tenth). The basins of the Mezen’ and Pinega and the Nenets National Okrug are very sparsely settled. In 1959, Russians comprised 91.6 percent of the population, Komi 0.5 percent, and Nentsi 0.4 percent. In 1970 the urban population was 66 percent. The most important cities are Arkhangel’sk, Severodvinsk, Kotlas, and Onega. There are two therapeutic bathing resorts in the oblast, Sol’vychegodsk and Solonikha.

Economy, INDUSTRY. In the national economy of the USSR, Arkhangel’sk Oblast stands out as a region of complex, developing wood industry, timber export, fish industry, a growing machine-building industry, trapping, and fur trade; agricultural production specializes in raising dairy livestock. Industry accounts for 93–95 percent of the oblast’s gross output. Numerous new branches of industry have taken shape under the Soviet regime, and local natural resources are exploited ever more extensively. In 1968, three production groups accounted for more than 90 percent of the industrial output: timber (45.5 percent), machine building (30 percent), and food (14.8 percent). The oblast’s power economy is based primarily on the use of coal from the Pechora basin. Arkhangel’sk Oblast is one of the USSR’s leading regions for the wood industry. About 18.5 million hectares are covered with forest, and reserves of wood are 2.2 billion cubic meters. Logging is primarily in the railroad belt and along the Northern Dvina; the importance of the eastern regions (the basins of the Pinega and the Mezen’) is increasing. In 1965, Arkhangel’sk Oblast accounted for about one-third of the timber export of the USSR, 17.2 percent of the total production of pulp, 4.5 percent of paper, 6.5 percent of lumber, and 8 percent of wood felling. The main centers for sawmilling are Arkhangel’sk (20 of the 32 enterprises), Onega, Kotlas, Permilovo, Mezen’, Shangaly, Shalakusha, and Nar’ian-Mar. The Kotlas, Arkhangel’sk, and Solombala paper and pulp combines are the largest. Arkhangel’sk, Severodvinsk, and Kotlas are the main centers for machine building (ships, road machines, equipment for logging, sawmilling, and the like. The fishing industry has developed considerably (the catch in 1968 was 233,300 tons). The Barents and White seas are the main fishing regions; the importance of fishing expeditions in the North Atlantic is growing rapidly (one-third of the catch in 1965). Cod and herring are the main catches. The oblast yields over one-half the salmon caught in the USSR. Arkhangel’sk, Pertominsk, and Nar’ian-Mar are among the centers for fish processing. Marine hunting and processing of seaweed are developed. Butter and cheese production (over 160 plants) is important in the oblast’s economy. Mineral building materials are extracted in the oblast (gypsum, limestone, and building stone). The Savinsk cement plant was built in 1968. The North Onega bauxite deposits are being developed.

AGRICULTURE. The main branch of agriculture is raising dairy livestock, which is combined in suburban areas and areas along the Dvina with commodity production of potatoes and vegetables and in the south of the region with flax cultivation. Livestock raising accounts for four-fifths of the commodity production of agriculture. In 1968 the oblast had 139 kolkhozes (including 21 for fishing) and 74 sovkhozes. Agricultural land makes up 1.8 percent of the total area; cultivated land, 0.5 percent. The oblast is famous for valuable water meadows (142,000 hectares—31 percent of all haymaking). Reindeer breeding is developed in the Nenets National Okrug: almost one-third of its territory (19.1 million hectares) is used for reindeer pasturing. The livestock population (1969) includes cattle (278,000), swine (43,000), sheep and goats (137,000), and reindeer (191,400). Arkhangel’sk Oblast is the home of the Kholmogor variety of dairy cattle. In 1968, 56.8 percent of the sown area was occupied by fodder crops, 31.5 percent by cereals, 9.8 percent by potatoes and vegetables, and 1.9 percent by flax. A large proportion of the sown area and livestock population (except for reindeer) is concentrated in the south. The fur trade is developed; arctic fox, squirrel, marten, and ondatra are the main sources.

TRANSPORTATION. In 1968 the length of railroads in Arkhangel’sk Oblast was 1,500 km. The main lines are the western portion of the Konosha-Kotlas-Vorkuta trunk line, the Vologda-Arkhangel’sk line, and the Obozerskii-Belomorsk railroad. The Arkhangel’sk-Karpogory railroad is under construction (1970). River and sea transport play important roles in oblast and external communications. The total length of navigable rivers is about 3,800 km, of floatable routes, over 9,000 km. In volume of freight, the Northern Dvina with its tributaries is one of the leaders in the USSR. The seaports are Arkangel’sk, Onega, Mezen’, and Nar’ian-Mar. The length of motor vehicle and freight roads is 11,000 km. There are about 16,000 km of intraoblast air lines.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. In 1914 about 70 percent of the population of modern Arkhangel’sk Oblast was illiterate; among the Nenets population in the tundra, the figure was 98 percent. There were 60,200 students in general education schools and about 400 in the three specialized secondary schools; there were no institutions of higher education. Fundamental changes took place during the Soviet period, including the creation of a written Nenets language. In the 1968/69 school year, there were 1,462 general education schools (294,700 pupils), 26 specialized secondary schools (21,800 students), and three institutions of higher education (wood technology, medical, and pedagogical institutes) with 13,300 students. There were 86,700 children in 1,032 preschool institutions in 1968. Four theaters were active, including the Arkhangel’sk Oblast Dramatic Theater (founded in 1846), and there were 740 popular libraries (8.7 million copies of books and periodicals), 936 club institutions, and 1,529 cinema units. There are 11 museums in the oblast. The Solovetskii Monastery—a priceless monument of Russian architecture of the 16th-17th centuries—enjoys wide renown.

In the Nenets National Okrug, there were 9, 100 pupils in general education schools during the 1968/69 school year. In Nar’ian-Mar, the pedagogical school and the veterinary science technicum had 423 students. In 1967 there were 42 popular libraries, 55 club institutions, and 68 cinema units.

Two oblast newspapers are published. Pravda Severa (since 1918) is the organ of the Arkhangel’sk Oblast committee, the city committee of the CPSU, and the oblast Soviet of Working People’s Deputies; and Severnyi komsomolets (since 1920) is the organ of the oblast committee of the Leninist Young Communist League of the Soviet Union. The newspaper Nar’iana vynder (Red Tundraman) has been published in the Nenets National Okrug since 1929.

Broadcasting in the oblast is carried on over one radio station and two television channels. Transmissions from Moscow are also relayed; the television program “Orbita” is received. The television station is in Arkhangel’sk.

On Jan. 1, 1968, there were 2,953 doctors in Arkhangel’sk Oblast (one doctor for every 475 residents) and 15,400 hospital beds (110 per 10,000 residents).


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Polezhaev, A. A., and A. N. Semakov. Arkhangel’skaia oblast’ v piatiletke. Arkhangel’sk, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.