Central Chernozem Economic Region

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Central Chernozem Economic Region


a major economic region of the USSR, encompassing Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, Tambov, and Lipetsk oblasts. The region has an area of 168,000 sq km and at the beginning of 1975 had a population of 7.8 million. The inhabitants are almost entirely Russian. As of Jan. 1, 1977, the region had 48 cities, 16 of which had been founded in the Soviet period. The largest cities, in order of population, are Voronezh (779,000), Lipetsk (375,000), Kursk (373,000), Tambov (265,000), Belgorod (227,000), Elets (113,000), and Michurinsk (102,000).

The Central Chernozem Economic Region occupies the southern part of the Central Russian Upland and the part of the Oka-Don Plain adjacent to the upland on the east. It has a moderate continental climate. The region has relatively few rivers and lakes. The rivers belong to the Don, Dnieper, and Volga basins. The northern part of the region lies in the forest-steppe zone, which is gradually replaced by the steppe zone as one moves south. Podzolized and leached chernozems give way to typical chernozems in the south.

As a result of the unbalanced development of agriculture in the past, the old practice of extensive farming, and the high rural population density, the forests have been largely depleted, and the soil has been severely eroded. In 1975 approximately 10 percent of the region was forested; the expansion of reforestation and the battle against soil erosion are crucial to the economy of the region.

The region has iron ore reserves in the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly (KMA) and reserves of dolomites, chalk, refractory clays, molding sands, phosphorites, and natural cement raw materials. The overburden from open-pit iron mines provides valuable raw materials for the production of building materials. Two resources uncovered in the deposits of the KMA are assuming major importance: industrial reserves of bauxites and complex ores produced by extensive mineralization.

In the past, several factors combined to retard the region’s industrial development over an extended period. One factor was the region’s location between two highly industrialized zones: the Central Economic Region and the Donbas. Other factors included the scarcity of local fuel and energy resources and the high natural fertility of the region’s soil.

The region’s traditional role in the national economy has been based on the various areas of industry and agriculture associated with a highly developed agriculture and the processing of various agricultural products.

Not until the rich iron deposits of the KMA were developed did the region have, on a national and international scale, a complete pyrometallurgical production cycle, from the extraction and dressing of iron ore to various types of machine building that use large quantities of metal. The metallurgical industry is represented by the old metallurgical plant and the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant in Lipetsk; in addition, an electrometallurgical combine for the reduction of iron directly from metallized pellets is under construction near Staryi Oskol. The mining enterprises concentrated in the Staryi Oskol-Gubkin region (the Lebedinskoe and Stoilenskoe ore-dressing combines) and near Zhelezno-gorsk (the Mikhailovka Oredressing Combine) are producing increasing quantities of the nation’s cheapest and highest-grade iron ore and concentrates for delivery to metallurgical plants in the European USSR and for export.

As ferrous metallurgy developed in the region, specialization increased in areas of machine building that require large quantities of metal. Other well-developed industries include the production of tractors, agricultural machinery, equipment for the food-processing industry, metal-cutting machine tools, bearings, instruments, automation equipment, and electronic equipment.

The region’s chemical and petrochemical industry is of national importance, especially the production of synthetic rubber at Voronezh; initially, alcohol obtained from locally grown grain and potatoes was used to make such rubber, but nonlocal hydrocarbons came to be used as production expanded. Motor vehicle tires, industrial rubber goods, and footwear are produced in Voronezh and Kursk, and chemical fibers, thread, and plastic articles are manufactured in Shchigry, Kursk, and Belgorod. Phosphate and nitrogenous fertilizers are produced in Uvarovo and Lipetsk, and paints, varnishes, and synthetic dyes are produced in Kotovsk and Tambov. A large plant making acids and alcohols is located in Shebekino.

The building-materials industry produces cement, slate, wall materials, and refractories.

The region’s traditional orientation toward various branches of the food-processing industry stems from the rich local supply of raw materials. For example, the sugar, vegetable-oil, and canning industries are well developed. Both local and nonlocal raw tobacco are used to manufacture tobacco products.

Of particular importance in the region’s light industry is the production of woolen fabrics and knitted outerwear. Large hemp and jute enterprises are located in Kursk and Staryi Oskol.

The region’s electricity is supplied, for the most part, by the Volga Region, the Donbas, and the Central Economic Region through an integrated power grid. Two atomic power plants are in operation: the large Novovoronezhskii Atomic Power Plant in the settlement of Novovoronezhskii and the Kursk Atomic Power Plant in the settlement of Kurchatov. High-capacity district heat and power; ’ants exist in the principal cities and industrial centers.

Agriculture is primarily devoted to crop production. Plowland makes up 82 percent of the region’s agricultural lands; pasture accounts for 12 percent, and hayfields make up 4 percent. Agricultural production is heavily influenced by recurrent droughts. As agriculture has become more intensive, the total area of irrigated land has increased rapidly from 5,000 hectares (ha) in 1965 to 204,000 ha in 1975. Sugar beets, oil-bearing crops, and grains are cultivated. The structure of land use is stable. Of the 11.1 million ha of plowland, 6–6.2 million ha are planted to grain each year, 800,000–900,000 ha to sugar beets, and 400,000–500,000 ha to sunflowers.

Animal husbandry is devoted to the raising of cattle for meat and dairy products. At the beginning of 1977 cattle numbered 4.9 million head, including 2 million cows. Between 1965 and 1976 the number of hogs increased from 4.2 to 4.7 million; sheep and goats number 3.5 million. State purchases of livestock and poultry rose from 500,000 tons in 1965 to 800,000 tons in 1976; milk purchases increased from 2 million tons to 2.8 million tons.

In recent years livestock raising has developed more rapidly than other branches of agriculture; its share of agricultural output rose from 47 percent between 1966 and 1970 to 54 percent between 1971 and 1975. This increase resulted from the industrialization of livestock raising and the establishment of large livestock-raising complexes for the production of beef, pork, milk, and eggs. Agriculture is being oriented toward production for the urban market.

The economy of the Central Chernozem Economic Region and its transportation network are influenced by the region’s location on heavily traveled freight and passenger routes that link the Central and Northwestern economic regions with the Donbas, the Northern Caucasus, and Transcaucasia. The region is also crossed by major routes connecting the Baltic Region, Byelorussia, and the Central and Northwestern economic regions with Middle Asia and the Lower Volga Region.

Four north-south railroad trunk lines cross the region: Briansk-Kharkov, Orel-Kharkov, Elets-Valiuki, and Griazi-Millerovo. The three major east-west lines are Sukhinichi-Tambov, Elets-Povorino, and Vorozhba-Otrozhka. All these trunk lines have numerous junctions and branch lines. The Valiuki-Povorino line, which provides an eastern outlet for the Donbas, runs along the southeastern border of the region.

In 1975 the region’s rail network comprised 4,500 km of track and, with 26.9 km of rail lines per 1,000 sq km, was one of the densest in the country. In 1975 approximately 108 million tons of freight was dispatched by rail transport and 123 million tons was delivered by rail transport; 46 million tons of the freight shipped and received represented intraregional shipping. Inbound rail freight exceeds outbound rail freight: in 1975, 79 million tons was shipped into the region and 61 million tons was shipped out. The principal inbound shipments are coal, petroleum products, mineral building materials, and lumber; the principal outbound shipments are iron ore, cement, rolled ferrous metal products, and various agricultural products.

River transport is of local importance; the navigable sections of the Don River and its tributaries total approximately 1,200 km. The region has more than 11,000 km of hard-surface roads. Several national highways pass through the region: Moscow-Simferopol’ (via Kursk), Moscow-Caucasus, and Moscow-Volgograd (via Voronezh). Other highways that pass through the region include Kharkov-Volgograd and Briansk-Volgograd (via Voronezh).

Three large natural gas pipelines cross the region: Stavropol’-Voronezh-Moscow, Shebelinká-Kursk-Moscow, and Middle Asia-Ukraine. There are numerous spurs from these pipelines to the main industrial centers of the region.


Rossiiskaia Federatsiia: Tsentral’naia Rossiia. Moscow, 1970. (In the Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
Detina, S. I., N. V. Ovchinninskii, and O. T. Shakhova. Problemy razvitiia i razmeshchenüa proizvoditel’nykh sil Tsentra’nocherno-zemnogo raiona. Moscow, 1973.


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