Baltic Economic Region

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Baltic Economic Region


one of the major economic regions of the USSR. Bounded on the west by the Baltic Sea, the region includes the Lithuanian SSR, the Latvian SSR, the Estonian SSR, and Kaliningrad Oblast, RSFSR. Area, 189,100 sq km; population, 7,905,000 (1974), of which 62 percent is urban. The average population density is 41.8 persons per sq km. The population is composed of Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Russians, and other nationalities. The region occupies approximately 1 percent of the total area of the USSR and has 3.2 percent of the total Soviet population.

The Baltic Economic Region occupies part of the East European Plain, which contains morainic ridges and hills, including the Baltic Ridge and the Žemaitija, Latgale, Vidzemes, Haanja, and Otepää uplands, with elevations about 200—250 m. The greatest elevation is 317 m in the southern Estonian SSR. The ridges and hills are separated by glaciolacustrine lowlands and outwash plains, including the Central Lithuanian, Central Latvian, and West Estonian lowlands. The climate is humid, with moderately warm summers and mild winters. The forests are primarily of the mixed coniferous-hardwood type. The principal trees are pine, spruce, birch, aspen, and alder. Such broadleaf trees as oak and linden are encountered; ash and hornbeam grow in the south. There are many lakes, swamps, and meadows.

The region is important to the national economy for its processing industries, intensive agriculture (primarily animal husbandry), fishing, and highly developed maritime transport system. The main rivers, the Daugava and Nemunas, have high volumes of water; potential output of hydroelectric energy averages 14.2 billion kilowatt-hours annually, or 0.4 percent of the nation’s reserves. The Pļaviņi and Kegums hydroelectric power plants have been built on the Daugava. The Riga Power Plant, under construction since 1975, has a projected capacity of 384 megawatts. The Kaunas Hydroelectric Power Plant has been built on the Nemunas. Fuel resources include peat and combustible shales, found in the Estonian SSR. The shale, of which 31.1 million tons were extracted in 1973, is used by the shale-processing combine in Kohtla-Järve, the shale-chemical combine in Kivi-õli, the Baltic State Regional Hydroelectric Power Plant, and the Estonian State Regional Power Plant in Narva, which was completed in 1973 and has a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts. In 1973, 2.6 million tons of peat were extracted, of which 1.1 million tons were used for fuel and 1.5 million tons in agriculture. The Lithuanian State Regional Hydroelectric Power Plant in El-èktrènai operates on imported mazut and natural gas. To supply the needs of the Baltic Economic Region for mazut, gasoline, and kerosene, a large petroleum refinery is being built in Mažeikiai. It will receive petroleum from the Volga Region by pipeline. The leading industries are the production of instruments and electrical equipment, shipbuilding, light industry, and food processing.

The Baltic Economic Region is favorably situated on the coast and has access by sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Accordingly, fishing and fish processing are growing industries, as is shipping of goods for foreign trade, building and ship repairs, and port operations. Since the late 1940’s, fishing has been done primarily in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Baltic.

Machine building is one of the leading branches of industry in the Baltic Economic Region. The Liepāja Sarkanais Metalurgs Plant, which processes local scrap metal, provides nearly 15 percent of the region’s requirement of rolled ferrous metals. Most of the metal, however, is imported from the Ukraine and the Urals. For this reason and because the region has highly skilled workers, the nonmetal-intensive, precision branches of machine building are most developed. These include radio engineering, electronics, and the production of electrical equipment, instruments, precision machine tools, and transport machinery. In 1973 the Baltic Economic Region produced about 80 percent of all energy meters manufactured in the Soviet Union and 53 percent of all telephones. It also produced 30 percent of the passenger cars for main-line rail transport, 29 percent of all streetcars, 28 percent of all radios and radio-phonograph combinations, and 14 percent of all tape recorders. Among the major machine-building enterprises are a railroad-car plant, the V. I. Lenin State Electrotechnical Plant, and the Radiotehnika Production and Technical Association in Riga. Vilnius and Tallinn have major plants that produce machine tools, instruments, and computer equipment. An excavator plant has been built in Tallinn, and a plant for the construction of small buses was under construction in Jelgava as of 1975.

The lumber industry and forestry are important to the region’s economy, as are the wood-products and pulp and paper industries. Forests occupy 32 percent of the region’s land area, and timber stocks amount to 695 million cu m or 0.8 percent of the national total. Logging yields more than 10 million cu m of timber a year. In 1973, 600,000 tons of pulp and 510,000 tons of paper were produced. A significant share of the timber is imported from the forested regions of the northern European RSFSR. There are pulp and paper combines in Kaliningrad, Sovetsk, Neman, Klaipeda, Jurmala, Tallinn, and Kehra. The region also has veneer mills, sawmills, and furniture factories.

A building-materials industry that uses local nonmetallic raw materials is being developed. In 1973 the Akmenè and Riga cement plants and the Broceni and Punane-Kunda cement and slate combines produced 4.1 million tons of cement and 290 million pieces of slate.

In Kaliningrad Oblast 400 tons of amber are extracted annually. A new quarry with an annual capacity of 1,000 tons was under construction as of 1975.

Light industry and food processing are highly developed in the Baltic Economic Region. In 1973, 332 million sq m of cotton fabrics were produced, as well as 52 million sq m of silk, 47 million sq m of linen, and 41 million sq m of woolen fabrics. The region produced 85 million articles of knit underwear, 45 million articles of knit outerwear, and 157 million pairs of socks and stockings. It also produced 113,000 tons of butter, 39,000 tons of cheese, and 584,000 tons of processed meats. The largest enterprises in light industry are the cotton-textile combines the Krähnholm (Krenholm) Manufactory in Narva, the Baltic Manufactory in Tallinn, and the Riga Manufactory; the Avrora Stocking Factory in Riga; a linen combine in Panevėžys; and a silk combine in Kaunas. A knit-underwear factory in Utena and a cheese plant in Vōru have been built, and construction is being completed on a cotton-textile combine and a meat-packing combine in Alitus and a knit-outerwear combine in Ogre. A combine that will produce clothing accessories and notions was under construction in Liepāja in 1975. A man-made fiber plant in Kaunas and a synthetic-fiber plant in Daugavpils have been built to meet light industry’s demands for chemical fibers. There are four sugar refineries in the Lithuanian SSR (Panevėžys, Kapsukas, Kèdainiai, and Pavenčiai) and three in the Latvian SSR (Jelgava, Liepàja, and Jēkabpils).

Most industry is located in the large cities—Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius, Kaunas, Kaliningrad, Klaipėda, Daugavpils, and Šiauliai. In the last decade, industry has begun to develop in small-and medium-sized cities. Thus, Alitus produces cotton fabrics and home refrigerators, Narva produces electricity and slate-ash building materials, and Panevėžys produces linen fabrics and glass. Kėdainiai produces phosphorous fertilizers, nutrient yeast, and sugar; Utena, knitwear; Plungė, artificial leather; Valmiera, fiberglass; Rēzekne, milking machines and canned milk; and Mažeikiai, petroleum.

The leading branches of the region’s highly intensive agriculture are stock raising for meat and milk, the raising of hogs for bacon, and (in the Lithuanian and Latvian SSR’s) the growing of flax. There were 2,126 kolkhozes and 752 sovkhozes as of 1973. The region has 8.8 million hectares (ha) of agricultural land: 5.4 million ha of arable land and 3.1 million ha of hayfields and pastures. There are drainage projects on boggy or swampy lands. By 1974 a total of more than 5 million ha of land had drainage systems. Most of the plowland is under grain and feed. Grains, primarily barley, rye, wheat, and oats, total 2.09 million ha; feed crops, comprising perennial and annual grasses and root crops, total 2.6 million ha. There are also approximately 400,000 ha of potatoes and 43,300 ha of other vegetables. Of the industrial crops, flax cultivation occupies 65,000 ha in the region, while sugar beets are grown on 44,500 ha in the Lithuanian and Latvian Soviet Socialist Republics. Fruit and berry plantings occupy 119,000 hectares. At the beginning of 1974 the region had 4.5 million head of cattle, including 1,932,000 cows, and 4,595,000 hogs and 705,000 sheep and goats. In 1973 milk production reached 5,803,000 tons, while 822,000 tons of meat (in slaughter weight) was produced. The region accounted for 6.6 percent of the country’s total milk production, 6.1 percent of the meat production, 6 percent of the potato production and 3.7 percent of the flax-fiber production. Nitrogen-fertilizer plants have been built at Ionava and Kohtla-Järve and phosphorous-fertilizer combines at Kėdainiai and Maardu to supply agriculture’s need for mineral fertilizers.

The region has a dense network of railroads and motor vehicle roads. The total length of railroads is 6,190 km, and there are 56,000 km of hard-surfaced motor vehicle roads and 2,000 km of navigable inland waterways (1973). Maritime transport is very important in import-export shipping. The principal seaports are Riga, Kaliningrad, Tallinn, Klaipėda, Liepāja, and Ventspils. There is navigation on the Nemunas and Pregel (Pregolia) rivers, on certain segments of the Daugava, the Lielupe, the Venta, the Ema, and the Narva rivers, and across Lakes Chudskoe (Peipus) and Pskovskoe. The Dashava-Vilnius-Riga and Vuktyl-Tor-zhok-Riga pipelines have branches to other industrial centers.

The Baltic Economic Region imports from other economic regions a large amount of fuel and raw materials, including petroleum products, natural gas, coal, rolled ferrous and nonferrous metals, saw-grade timber, lumber, cotton, and wool. It also imports tractors, combines, automobiles, and other machinery and equipment, as well as grain for food and forage. The region exports fish, radios, tape recorders, calculators, telephones, instruments, metal-cutting machines, passenger cars for electric-powered railroads, small buses, and motor bicycles. The region also exports electrical supplies, paper, veneers, furniture, textiles, knitwear, amber articles, butter, meat, and cheese. The Baltic Economic Region is one of the USSR’s major resort and tourist areas. A network of resorts and recreation centers takes advantage of the region’s mineral springs, sea beaches, and picturesque lakes and forests. Resort areas include Pärnu, Haapsalu, and Narva-Jõesuu in the Estonian SSR, Jurmala and Baldone in the Latvian SSR, and Palanga, Druskininkai, Birštonas, and Likėnai in the Lithuanian SSR. They also include Svetlogorsk and Zelenogradsk in Kaliningrad Oblast, RSFSR.


Pribaltiiskii ekonomicheskii raion. Moscow, 1970.
Sovietskaia Pribaltika. Moscow, 1966.
Gerbov, V. L., and M. B. Mazanova. “Osobennosti khoziaistva Pribaltiiskogo ekonomicheskogo raiona i problemy ego dal’neishego razvitiia.” In the collection Razvitie i razmeshchenie proizvoditel’nykh sil ekonomicheskikh raionov SSR. Moscow, 1967.
Sredniaia polosa Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR. Moscow, 1967. (Natural conditions and resources of the USSR.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.