Murmansk Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Murmansk Oblast


part of the RSFSR. Formed on May 28, 1938. Bounded on the west by Norway and Finland. Area, 144,900 sq km. Population, 854,000 (1973). Murmansk Oblast is divided into four administrative raions and has 11 cities and 23 urban-type settlements. The administrative center is Murmansk. The oblast was awarded the Order of Lenin on Mar. 2, 1966.

Natural features. Situated in Northwest European USSR, Murmansk Oblast occupies the Kola Peninsula and the mainland areas adjoining it. It is bordered by the Barents and White seas. The terrain is very rugged. The climate is cold, but the warm Nordkapp Current has a moderating effect. In the southwest the Barents Sea is not frozen all year. The winter is long but not harsh. The average January temperature ranges from —8° to —13°C. An unusual aspect of life in Murmansk Oblast is the polar day and polar night. At a latitude of 68° the polar day lasts from May 27 to June 18, and the polar night from December 10 to January 8. The summer is short and cool, with an average July temperature of 8°-14°C. The average annual precipitation is 350–1,000 mm (in mountainous regions). The growing season is 80–130 days.

The dense river system is made up of rivers belonging to the Barents and White sea basins. The rivers have many rapids and are rich in hydroelectric power (11.7 billion kilowatt-hours).

Podzolic, boggy, and tundra soils prevail. In the north the tundra occupies 20 percent of the area; farther south lies the forest tundra. More than 30 percent of the oblast is covered with forests, chiefly pine, spruce, and birch. Up to 37 percent of the area of Murmansk Oblast is swampy.

Among the most common mammals are wild reindeer, elk, wolverines, and bears. The chief fur-bearing animals are the squirrel, marten, fox, arctic fox, muskrat, mink, ermine, and hare. Commercial fish include cod, perch, halibut, smelt, flounder, and herring. The Lapland and Kandalaksha preserves are located in Murmansk Oblast.

Population. The population of Murmansk Oblast includes Russians (about 85 percent), Ukrainians (7 percent), and Byelorussians (about 4 percent), as well as Lapps and Komi in the central and eastern regions and Karelians in the southern regions. The average density is 5.9 inhabitants per sq km. The most densely populated area is along the Murmansk-Petrozavodsk main railroad line. Eighty-nine percent of the population is urban (1973). The largest city is Murmansk. Under Soviet power a number of new cities have been built: Kirovsk, Apatity, Monchegorsk, Severomorsk, Olenegorsk, Kovdor, and Zapoliarnyi.

Economy. Murmansk Oblast is a developed industrial region, with industry accounting for the greatest output of the economy. In 1973 the gross output was 12 times as high as in 1940. Mining, nonferrous metallurgy, and fishing are the most highly developed industries. The oblast’s demand for energy is met by imported petroleum products and coal and local hydroelectric resources. Hydroelectric power systems have been built on the Niva, Tuloma, Paz, Kovda, and Voron’ia rivers. The USSR’s first experimental tidal electric power plant—the Kislaia Guba Tidal Electric Power Plant—was built in Murmansk Oblast. The largest steam power plant in the oblast is the Kirovsk State Regional Electric Power Plant. In 1973 the Kola Atomic Power Plant was opened.

Mining and nonferrous metallurgy include the extraction and processing of apatite and nepheline, copper and nickel, and iron ores. Apatite and nepheline ores are mined in the Khibiny Mountains and refined at the Apatit Mining and Chemicals Combine. In Pechenga Raion copper and nickel ores are mined, and dressed, semifinished products are manufactured. Copper, nickel, and cobalt ores are smelted in Monchegorsk at the Severonikel’ Combine. In Olenegorsk and Kovdor iron ores are mined and dressed for the Cherepovets Metallurgical Plant in Vologda Oblast and for export. In addition, muscovite, phlogopite, vermiculite, and pegmatites are mined. There is an aluminum plant in Kandalaksha. Sulfuric acid is produced.

Fishing produces more than a third of the oblast’s gross industrial output. There is fishing in the Barents Sea and especially in the North and central Atlantic. Cod accounts for much of the catch. Canned fish, fresh-frozen and refrigerated fish, lightly salted herring, fillets, smoked fish, cured fillets, and dried fish are produced on ships and at coastal processing enterprises. In the inland waters salmon is caught. Murmansk Oblast ranks high in the USSR for its salmon catch. Also caught in inland waters are whitefish, salmon trout, grayling, char, trout, pike, and perch. Associated with the fishing industry are ship repair and the production of various kinds of equipment and packing materials.

There is a lumber industry in Murmansk Oblast. Much of the timber comes from the south. In 1972, 1,751,000 cu m of timber were produced, including 1.5 million cu m of commercial timber. There are sawmills and packing materials and furniture factories in Kandalaksha, Murmansk, Umba, Poliarnye Zori, and Zeleno-borskii. Building materials enterprises produce reinforced-concrete construction units and parts, silicate wall materials, bricks, and lime.

The chief branch of agriculture is animal husbandry, which produces more than 90 percent of the gross agricultural output. Arable farmland amounts to about 0.1 percent of the area of the oblast, or 12,000 hectares (ha; 1972), of which 8,000 ha are plowed. Reindeer pastures cover 9 million ha. There are 12 sovkhozes and seven fishing kolkhozes in Murmansk Oblast, as well as large subsidiary farms run by industrial enterprises. Most of the sown area is given over to perennial and annual grasses and cabbage for fodder. About 1,000 ha are planted with potatoes and vegetables. Hothouse farming is developing near the large cities. Dairy cattle, pigs, poultry, and reindeer are raised. At the beginning of 1973 there were 18,100 cows, 39,800 pigs, 5,300 sheep and goats, 425,000 poultry, and 75,000 reindeer (raised primarily in the northern half of the oblast).

There are 903 km of railroad track, of which 341 km are electrified. The main line is the Petrozavodsk-Kandalaksha-Murmansk. Maritime transport is important. The chief port is Murmansk. There are more than 2,000 km of roads. Regular air routes link Murmansk with Moscow, Leningrad, Arkhangelsk, Petrozavodsk, and other cities.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. In the academic year 1973–74, 153,000 pupils were enrolled in 292 general education schools of all types, more than 8,000 pupils were enrolled in 22 vocational-training schools, more than 7,000 pupils were enrolled in seven specialized secondary educational institutions, and 4,700 students were enrolled at the Higher School of Marine Engineering and the Pedagogical Institute in Murmansk. There are two evening departments of the Leningrad Mining Institute (382 students). In 1973 about 62,000 children were enrolled in 519 preschool institutions.

Located in Apatity is the S. M. Kirov Kola Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, which has five research institutes specializing in mining, polar geophysics, geology, the chemistry and technology of rare elements and minerals (all in Apatity), and marine biology (in the settlement of Dal’nie Zelentsy). The N. M. Knipovich Polar Scientific Research and Planning Institute of Marine Fishing and Oceanography is in Murmansk. The northernmost polar alpine botanical garden and other scientific institutions are located in the oblast.

In 1973 the oblast had 196 public libraries, with 4.7 million copies of books and magazines. There is an oblast museum of local lore in Murmansk. The S. M. Kirov House-Museum is in Kirovsk, and the oblast drama theater and puppet theater are in Murmansk. There are 138 clubs, 216 movie projectors, 14 Young Pioneer palaces and houses, three young technicians’ stations, 11 children’s sports schools, and various extracurricular institutions in Murmansk Oblast.

The oblast newspapers are Poliarnaia pravda (since 1920) and Komsomolets Zapoliar’ia (since 1926). All-Union Radio programs are rebroadcast, and local radio programs are broadcast for two hours and 30 minutes a day. The oblast receives the first program of Central Television and “Orbit” transmissions. Local television broadcasts are carried for six hours a day.

On Jan. 1, 1973, Murmansk Oblast had 59 hospital institutions with 10,100 beds (11.8 per 1,000 inhabitants). There were 3,700 physicians (one per 230 inhabitants). The Murmashi sanatorium for the treatment of diseases of the motor systems, the circulatory system, and the nervous system is located near Murmansk.


Rikhter, G. D., and A. G. Chikishev. Sever Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR. Moscow, 1966.
Severo-Zapad RSFSR. Moscow, 1964.
Sever Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR. Moscow, 1966.
Narodnoe khoziaistvo Murmanskoi oblasti za 50 let Sovetskoi vlasti. Murmansk, 1967.
Atlas Murmanskoi oblasti. Moscow, 1971.
Rossiiskaia federatsiia: Evropeiskii Sever. Moscow, 1972. (Sovetskii soiuz series).
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.