Geography, Natural Resources

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Geography, Natural Resources


the study of the distribution and makeup of separate types and territorial combinations of natural resources and the problems of their economic evaluation and rational economic use. The importance of natural resources geography has grown in the light of its study of the geographic aspects of the conservation and replenishment of natural resources and the environment and its attention to the problems of the sufficiency of these resources for mankind’s use. Natural resources geography includes divisions associated with the study of (1) land reserves, (2) forest and other plant resources, (3) climatic resources, (4) water resources of the land, (5) resources of the animal world, (6) resources in the interior of the earth, and (7) resources of the oceans of the world.

Within the geographic sciences, natural resources geography is usually related to economic geography disciplines; there is also an opinion, however, that places it in an intermediate position between physical geography and the natural sciences on the one hand and economic geography on the other.

Already in prerevolutionary Russia the resources aspect was a traditional characteristic of much geographic research (the works of P. I. Rychkov, V. N. Tatishchev, I. I. Lepekhin, S. P. Krasheninnikov, and A. I. Voeikov). From the very first years of Soviet power, when the demand for the study and harnessing of resources and the forces of nature increased sharply, the resources orientation of geographic work became particularly urgent. A scientific center for this research was established within the Commission for the Study of Natural Productive Forces (KEPS). The resolutions of the Third Congress of the Geographic Society of the USSR (1960) had an important role in the development of geographic research on natural resources, giving it a more purposeful transformational character and establishing natural resources geography as a complex scientific discipline.

In resolving scientific problems of natural resources geography, it is important to consider its close ties with the entire system of the geographic and other social and natural sciences (industrial economics, geology, and so on), since the study and use of natural resources is a multifaceted, complex problem. A whole arsenal of geographic research methods is used in natural resources geography; the use of such things as the latest mathematical methods, forecast modeling, and aerial and space surveying methods has expanded since the 1950’s.

Soviet geographers have collaborated with scientists in other specializations to create a series of fundamental works on natural resources. The general summaries include the collective monograph Natural Resources of the Soviet Union, Their Utilization and Reproduction (1963), the multivolume (by raions) publication Natural Conditions and Natural Resources of the USSR (since 1964), and Resources of the Biosphere in the Territory of the USSR (1971). There are also works on individual types of resources (especially on the water resources of the land), on methods for the economic evaluation of natural resources (water, land, and so on), and on the scientific basis of measures for conserving natural features for the more efficient use of natural resources. General and regional problems in the scientific prediction of the development and future use of the natural features and resource base are under intense study; also being developed is the optimization of the exchange of matter between society and nature, which, as K. Marx noted, is mediated, regulated, and controlled by man in the process of labor and social production.

The development of theoretical positions in natural resources geography was influenced greatly by the works of outstanding scientists in allied disciplines: V. I. Vernadskii, A. E. Fersman, and V. S. Nemchinov. Research specialists in the field of natural resources geography include I. P. Gerasimov, D. L. Armand, V. I. Botvinnikov, S. L. Vendrov, Iu. D. Dmitrevskii, K. I. Ivanov, K. V. Zvorykin, G. P. Kalinin, I. V. Komar, V. P. Maksakovskii, A. A. Mints, M. I. L’vovich, and Iu. G. Saushkin.

Natural resources geography in socialist countries develops methods for the most complete discovery, evaluation, and rational multifaceted exploitation of natural resources from a national economic point of view and in the interests of society as a whole. For all this, the planned development of the socialist economy opens up major possibilities in the natural resources area that have not yet been fully utilized by science or in practice.

In natural resources geography in capitalist countries, the interests of monopolistic capital play a decisive role in the resolution of problems related to the study, evaluation, and harnessing of natural resources; foreign monopolies wreak heavy damage upon nature in their plunder of natural resources from the countries subjugated by them. Since in certain regions the natural resources situation is precarious, major capitalist countries have begun to devote much attention to the study of the problems of conserving these resources (H. Bennett, E. Ackerman, C. Kellogg, R. Parson in the USA; L. D. Stamp in Great Britain; and J. Dorst in France). Much scientific and practical importance has been attached to natural resources geography in the developing countries.

New tasks are being given to natural resources geography by the modern scientific and technological revolution, which presents far-ranging possibilities for the fuller use of natural resources and the involvement of new types of resources in economic turnover. This revolution is expanding the resources and raw materials base available for the development of mankind and will lead to significant changes in the geographic distribution of the base.


Materialy III s”ezda Geograficheskogo obshchestva SSSR po probleme “Rol’ geografii v izuchenii, ispol’zovanii, okhrane i vosstanovlenii prirodnykh resursov SSSR.” Leningrad, 1962.
Gerasimov, I. P., and I. V. Komar. “Rol’ geograficheskoi nauki v izuchenii, okhrane i ratsional’nom ispol’zovanii prirodnykh resursov mira.” In the collection Sovremennye problemy geografii. Moscow, 1964.
Mints, A. A. Ekonomicheskaia otsenka prirodnykh resursov i uslovii proizvodstva. Moscow, 1968 (Itogi nauki series: Geografiia SSSR, issue 6).
“Otsenka prirodnykh resursov.” Voprosy geografii, 1968, collection 78.
Resursy biosfery na territorii SSSR. Moscow, 1971.


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