Geography, Transportation

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Geography, Transportation


a branch of economic geography that studies the spatial distribution and patterns of transportation networks and traffic flows and the conditions and characteristics of their development within the framework of the territorial-economic structure of countries and regions and in relation to the distribution of natural conditions and resources, population, and branches of the economy. Transportation geography reflects important features of transportation as a branch of production. These features include the specific ways in which elements of the natural environment are used as natural lines of communication or as a basis for artificial ones, the basically linear patterns of transportation’s spatial distribution, in which it differs profoundly from the prevailing types of distribution characteristic of industry (in focal centers) and agriculture (over areas), the universality of transportation’s technical-economic links with other branches of the economy, and the special role of transportation as a material foundation of the geographic division of labor. In contrast to industry and agriculture, which are divided into branches that differ in their products, raw materials, or stages of processing, transportation is divided into modes, such as land, water, and air transportation, which are related to the use of different natural and artificial roadways and to the specific character of price formation (tarriffs and freight charges), which affects the geographical distribution of the entire economy.

Methods for studying the transportation geography of capitalist and socialist economic systems take into account the profound differences in the principles of transportation development under the two systems. The transportation geography of socialist countries studies geographic aspects of the problem of optimal proportions between transportation development and the development of the entire national economy and between separate modes of transportation. It studies the geography of international and interregional freight and passenger flow under conditions of the socialist division of labor, geographic problems of a unified transportation system, and coordination of various modes of transportation. In addition to other problems, the transportation geography of the capitalist countries studies the influence on transportation of the unplanned and antagonistic spatial structure of the economy, economic crises, competition between monopolies controlling various modes of transportation, and various forms of economic enslavement (colonialism and neocolonialism).

Transportation geography may be divided into general transportation geography, the geography of individual modes of transportation, and regional transportation geography. Soviet scholarship has made a major contribution to developing and investigating the fundamental problems of transportation geography. For example, in general transportation geography, Soviet scholars have studied the laws governing the development and the typology of the transportation systems of countries and regions, and the influence on transportation of individual components of the natural environment (relief, rivers, and climate) as well as entire landscape systems. Soviet scholars have worked on the role of transportation, its share in the economy of countries and regions, the ways in which it reflects various types of spatial economic structure, and the intensity of the geographical division of labor and regional specialization. They have studied spatial economic interaction by means of transportation links, the geographic problems of freight and passenger traffic flows, and problems of transportation regions.

The geography of individual modes of transportation treats problems of land (railroad, automobiles, carts, and pack-trains), water (river, lake, and ocean), and air transportation, as well as uninterrupted transportation by pipeline or conveyor. Energy transmission by wires is sometimes also regarded as a special type of transportation—so-called electronic transportation. The sharp distinction between land, water, and air transportation has been obliterated by the development of the most recent “hybrid” means of transportation (ships and automobiles on air cushions), which are able to move over land and water surfaces.

Regional transportation geography studies the transportation systems of large regions, countries, and entire continents. It also studies individual transportation routes and their hinterlands, suburban networks and the fields of influence around major cities, junctions and ports with their hinterlands, and the internal location of transportation facilities in junctions, ports, urban transportation systems, and plants. As a result of studies of the transportation systems of countries and regions, Soviet scholars have developed a typology that takes into account the socioeconomic structure, the volume, composition, and geography of traffic, the network density and the degree to which the network meets the needs of the population and the economy, and the proportion of the various modes of transportation and their level of development.

Based on the density of the transportation networks, the technological level of various modes of transportation, and the magnitude of traffic flows, three types of transportation systems are distinguished in the socialist countries: those of the USSR, the other European socialist countries, and the Asian socialist countries. In developed capitalist countries the transportation systems are divided into two major types: the North American and the West European, to which the systems of Japan, the Republic of South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia are similar. Given the versatility and high level of development of several modes of transportation in each country, the West European type is characterized by greater density of railroad and highway networks and more frequent movements of trains, whereas the North American system is distinguished by a higher technological level of all modes of transportation and greater freight flows. In developing countries two major types of transportation systems may be distinguished. In the first type, railroad transportation prevails, with relatively dense networks and high volume of traffic (for example, India and Argentina). In the second type of system, highway or river transportation prevails, the density of the transportation networks is low, and the volume of traffic is small (for example, Afghanistan and most countries of tropical Africa).

Transportation geography came into being as an independent branch of economic geography in the 20th century. Many scholars from capitalist countries regard it and the geography of trade as part of the so-called communications geography of circulation. In the USSR the foundations of transportation geography were laid in the works of N. N. Baranskii, S. V. Bernshtein-Kogan, N. N. Kolosovskii, and T. S. Khachaturov. Soviet research in the field has been reflected in a number of published works on transportation in the USSR, particularly the works of E. D. Khanukov, I. V. Nikol’skii, M. I. Galitskii, and S. K. Danilov. Among those who have done transportation studies on foreign countries and the entire world are G. A. Agranat, S. A. Vyshnepol’skii, and L. I. Vasil’evskii.

Abroad, transportation geography is most highly developed in the German Democratic Republic (H. Sendler, H. Keller, and K. Klaus), Poland (S. Berezowski and J. Zaleski), France (R. Clozier and A. Vigarié), the Federal Republic of Germany (E. Otremba), the USA (E. Taaffe and E. Ullman), Great Britain (A. O’Dell and K. Sealy), Sweden (G. Alexandersson), and India.


Khachaturov, T. S. Razmeshchenie transporta v kapitalisticheskikh stranakh i v SSSR. Moscow, 1939.
Khanukov, E. D. Transport i razmeshchenie proivodstva. Moscow, 1956.
Nikol’skii, I. V. Geografiia transporta SSSR. Moscow, 1960.
Zarubezhnyi transport. (Kapitalisticheskie i razvivaiushchiesia strany). Spravochnik. Moscow, 1966.
Vasil’evskii, L. I. “Osnovnye problemy issledovanii po geografii transporta kapitalisticheskikh i ekonomicheski slaborazvitykh stran.” In the collection Ekonomicheskie sviazi i transport. Moscow, 1963. (Voprosy geografii, No. 61.)
Vasil’evskii, L. I. “Transportnaia sistema SShA: sravnitel’nyi ekonomicheskii analiz.” In the collection Sorevnovanie dvukh sistem. Moscow, 1963.
Vyshnepol’skii, S. A. Mirovye morskie puti i sudokhodstvo, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1959.
Galitskii, M. I., S. K. Danilov, and A. I. Korneev. Ekonomicheskaia geografiia transporta SSSR. Moscow 1965.
Transport SSSR: Itogi za 50 let i perspektivy razvitiia. Moscow, 1967.
Tendentsii i perspektivy razvitiia transporta i perevozok SShA. Moscow, 1968.
Otremba, E. Allgemeine Geographic des Welthandels und des Weltverkehrs. Stuttgart [1957], Ullman, E. L. American Commodity Flow. Washington, D.C., 1957.
Berezowski, St. Geografia transportu. Warsaw, 1962.
Alexandersson, G., and G. Norstrom. World Shipping, an Economic Geography of Ports and Seaborne Trade. New York-London-Stockholm, 1963.
Clozier, R. L’Économic des transports terrestres (Rail, route et eau). Paris, 1964. (Geographie économique et sociale, vol. 3, part 1).
Vigarié, A. La Circulation maritime. Paris, 1968. (Géographie economique et sociale, vol. 3, part 2.)
Sealy, K. R. The Geography of Air Transport, 3rd ed. London, 1966.
Zaleski, J. Ogólna geografia transportu morskiego w zarysie. Warsaw, 1967.
Jane’s World Railways. Edited by H. Sampson. London, 1968.


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