Population Geography

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Geography, Population


the branch of economic geography that studies the composition and location of the population and populated points. Some specialists consider population geography an independent branch in the system of geographic sciences.

Population geography studies the formation of the population in different territories in terms of structure, density, specific clustering (cities and rural communities), and the conditions that determine the particular forms of settlement. Population geography has a special place in economic geography because people, as the main productive force, are employed in all economic sectors and, up to a point, their location has an all-encompassing significance. The population is at one and the same time the producer and consumer of material goods. The sphere of study of population geography also includes many phenomena that are not directly related to the production sphere but are significant from the point of view of reproduction of the population itself (such as maintenance of health or production training for young workers).

Population geography receives important primary data from demography, which reveals the geographic aspects of natural and migration population change. Population geography also uses field teams for observation and investigation. It studies the physical forms of inhabitance (types of residences according to spatial differences, the nature of planning and engineering for populated points, and so on), because all of these features are reflected in the regional characteristics of the physical makeup of cities and rural settlements. The location of the population both throughout the country and within its regions and the territorial organization of the population are basically determined by the nature and geography of production. The population density of individual populated points is usually related to their national economic functions, and the population density of regions reflects the degree of their economic development. At the same time the established location of population exerts in its turn an influence on the geography of production. The natural environment’s influence on settlement occurs primarily through production.

Population geography studies systems and structures—the forms of settlement in relation to the spatial nature of production, the characteristics of the geographical environment, the economic-geographical condition of population employment, and population migrations. Together with differences in the natural growth of population, migrations determine the course of territorial redistribution of population. A prominent place is given to the classification and typology of populated points.

Under the planned socialist economy, the practical tasks of population geography include quantitative and qualitative assessment of labor resources and a search for the forms of settlement most responsive to the requirements of production and the cultural and domestic needs of the population. A study of the conditions of habitation in different natural-geographic regions reveals the connections between population geography and medical geography. Research on ethnography and the economics of labor is closely associated, and sometimes intertwined, with population geography. The development of methods of making population maps is very important.

In the USSR population geography typically has close relations with practical work in territorial planning and regionalization and in planning and exploratory work related to city planning, developing and settling new regions, and rationalizing land use and the territorial organization of cities and rural settlements. It also has close contacts with regional planning. Within Soviet population geography the following directions of research have developed: general problems of population geography (the work of R. M. Kabo and V. V. Pokshishevskii) and special problems, such as the geography of cities (D. I. Bogorad, V. G. Davidovich, O. A. Konstantinov, and G. M. Lappo), the geography of rural settlements (S. A. Kovalev), ethnogeography (S. I. Bruk and V. I. Kozlov), population mapping (V. P. Korovitsyn), the geography of the population of large regions (V. V. Vorob’ev and V. Sh. Dzhaoshvili), and the application of mathematical methods to population geography (N. I. Blazhko and Iu. V. Medvedkov). All these areas have been reflected in the work of two interagency meetings on population geography (1962 and 1967).

In the other socialist countries population geography in principle accomplishes the same tasks as in the USSR. The geographers of these countries participate actively in solving national economic problems. For example, Polish geographers took part in the major planning task of strengthening the economic development of the small cities, one-time villages which in terms of functions were not sufficiently developed during the first years of socialist building.

Bourgeois works on population geography typically slur over the social aspects. The development of questions of population geography by bourgeois scientists is often greatly influenced by the concept of geographic determinism, or biologism, which creates an analogy between socioeconomic relations and the relationships existing in the plant and animal communities. However, some works by bourgeois geographers contain valuable factual material and some questions are treated from a progressive point of view. The French “human geography” school is the best known.

The major institutions in the USSR studying the problems of population geography are the Institute of Geography and the Institute of Ethnography, both of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. These questions are also studied in the geographic departments of a number of universities and pedagogical institutes.


Voeikov, A. I. “Raspredelenie naseleniia Zemli v zavisimosti ot prirodnykh uslovii i deiatel’nosti cheloveka.” Izv. Russkogo geograficheskogo obshchestva, 1906, vol. 42, nos. 2-3.
Voprosy Geografii, collection 5, Moscow, 1947; collection 14, Moscow, 1949; collection 38, Moscow, 1956; collection 45, Moscow, 1959; collection 56, Moscow, 1962; collection 66, Moscow, 1965; collection 71, Moscow, 1966.
Geografiia naseleniia v SSSR: Osnovnye problemy. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Pokshishevskii, V. V. Geografiia naseleniia v SSSR. Moscow, 1966. (Itogi Nauki: Seriia Geografiia, no. 10.)
Geografiia naseleniia i naselennykh punktov SSSR. Leningrad, 1967.
Nauchnye problemy geografii naseleniia. Moscow, 1967.
Kozlov, V. I. Dinamika chislennosti Narodov. Moscow, 1969.
Maryańskii, A. Sovremennye migratsii naseleniia. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from Polish.)
Kovalev, S. A. Sel’skoe rasselenie. Moscow, 1963.
Beaujeu-Garnier, J. Géographic de la population, vols. 1-2. Paris, 1956-58.
Kiełczewska-Zaleska, M. Geografia osadnictwa: Zarys Problematyki. Warsaw, 1969.


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