Transcaucasian Economic Region

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Transcaucasian Economic Region


one of the major economic regions of the Soviet Union. It includes the Georgian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, and Armenian SSR. Area, 186,100 sq km. Population, 12.5 million (1971), 51 percent of which is urban. The average population density is 67.2 persons per sq km. The predominant peoples are Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Armenians, and Russians.

The modern economic profile of the Transcaucasian Economic Region basically took shape during the years of Soviet power, when the Transcaucasus was transformed from an economically backward, predominantly agrarian colonial frontier of the Russian Empire into a mighty industrial and agricultural complex. The place of the region in the nationwide system of territorial division of labor was determined with due regard for its specific natural and geographic conditions, the high population concentration, and historically established labor habits. In the national economy the Transcaucasian Economic Region stands out for development of its complex of petroleum extraction and petrochemical production, for the extraction of nonferrous metal and manganese ores and a number of nonmetallic mineral products, and for machine building. The cultivation of subtropical and heat-loving industrial crops is very important, as are grape-growing, fruit-growing, and industry for processing agricultural raw materials.

The power system of the region has developed rapidly. The main types of fuel resources are petroleum and gas (Azerbaijan SSR), the extraction of which ran to 20.2 million tons and 5.5 billion cu m in 1970. Despite a sharp decrease in the Transcaucasian Economic Region’s share in nationwide petroleum extraction (from 71 percent in 1940 to 5.7 percent in 1970), it continues to be an important center of the petroleum processing and petrochemical industry. Power and coking coals are extracted (Georgian SSR). The region (especially the western part of the Georgian SSR) is rich in hydroelectric power resources (potential resources are 191 billion kilowatt-hours); about 7 percent of the technically feasible resources have been developed. The production of electric energy has increased almost 200 times over the 1913 level, reaching 27.1 billion kilowatt-hours in 1970. The power stations with the highest outputs are concentrated in the Azerbaijan SSR, and electric power plants and hydroelectric power plants are found in the Georgian SSR and the Armenian SSR. A unified power system has been formed for the Transcaucasian Economic Region.

Ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy are developing on the basis of local raw materials (iron, manganese, copper, molybdenum, and poly metallic and other ores). There is a complete-alternation metallurgical plant (in Rustavi, Georgian SSR), a metallurgical conversion plant (in Sumgait, Azerbaijan SSR), and a ferroalloy plant (in Zestafoni, Georgian SSR). Cast iron production in 1970 was 0.8 million tons; and 2.1 million tons of steel, 1.7 million tons of finished rolled steel, and 0.9 million tons of steel piping were also produced.

The chemical industry relies on the use of hydrocarbon raw material (by-products of petroleum refining, coke chemistry, and natural gas), limes, by-products of nonferrous metallurgy, and other materials. It produces synthetic alcohol (Azerbaijan SSR), synthetic rubber (Azerbaijan SSR, Armenian SSR), synthetic fiber (Georgian SSR, Armenian SSR), chemical fertilizers, sulfuric acid, calcium carbide, plastics, lithopone, and other products. The production of building materials is well developed (cement, bricks, stone for walls, and so on).

In machine building the region stands out for production of electrical engineering equipment, instruments, machine tools, equipment for the petroleum and food industries, farm machines, electric locomotives, and motor vehicles. Machine-building enterprises are found in all the republics, mainly in Tbilisi, Baku, Yerevan, and a number of other cities.

Light industry and the food industry are developing on the basis of processing both local and imported agricultural raw material. The tea, wine, fruit-canning, cotton-cleaning, and silk-spinning sectors play the leading role in the region’s specialization. In 1970, 14.3 million decaliters of grape wine, 660 million standard cans of canned goods, 131,000 tons of cotton fiber, and 880 tons of raw silk were produced. The location of enterprises in this group is closely tied to the location of the corresponding agricultural sectors. Enterprises of the cotton fabric, silk, wool, knitted goods, and leather footwear sectors are concentrated primarily in Tbilisi, Baku, Yerevan, Kirovabad, Kutaisi, Gori, and Leninakan. In 1970 the production of cotton fabric was 291 million m; wool, 20.2 million m; silk, 68.8 million m; and leather shoes, 35.6 million pairs.

Because of the predominance of mountain relief, the area of agricultural land is relatively small—8.3 million hectares (ha), just one-third of which is cultivated land (arable land and perennial plantings). The Transcaucasian Economic Region has less cultivated land per resident than almost any other region of the USSR. Most of the cultivated land is on the plains and in the foothill regions. In the western part of the Georgian SSR (the Kolkhida Lowlands), work is under way to drain lands. Artificial irrigation is required in most of the other farming regions. There are 1.7 million ha of irri-gated land in the region. Water management construction is under way on a particularly large scale in the Kura-Araks Lowlands and the Ararat Plain. A high percentage of perennial plantings is typical for agriculture. Among feed-lands the system of seasonal high-mountain (summer) pastures and semidesert (winter) pastures is important.

The cultivation of subtropical crops has a leading place in agriculture. Subtropical farming has actually been created from nothing during the years of Soviet power and is particularly developed in the regions of the Kolkhida (Georgian SSR) and Lenkoran’ (Azerbaijan SSR) lowlands. The Transcaucasian Economic Region produces more than 98 percent of the USSR’s tea (the area of tea plantations is 73,000 ha, and the harvest in 1970 was 268,700 tons), as well as citrus plants, tung trees, bamboo, laurel, and other crops. Also important are grape-growing (with a field area of 276,000 ha and a harvest of 1,160,000 tons) and fruit-growing (with an area of fruit and berry plantings, including citrus fruits, of 370,000 ha and a harvest of 812,000 tons). The region produces 17 percent of the USSR harvest of fruits (including peaches, apricots, pomegranates, figs, and quinces) and wine and table grapes. Cotton growing is highly developed in the Azerbaijan SSR. In 1970, 193,000 ha were planted to cotton, and the gross harvest (state purchase) of raw cotton was 336,000 tons (5 percent of the USSR total). Other industrial crops cultivated include tobacco and essential oils.

The production of grain crops, potatoes, and vegetables and the raising of meat-dairy and meat-wool livestock are primarily of intraregional significance. In 1970, 1.2 million ha were planted to grain crops (wheat and corn), with 58,000 ha given over to potatoes and 76,000 to vegetables. The production of early vegetables for export to the northern and central regions of the USSR is developing. The livestock herd (as of Jan. 1, 1971) included 3.7 million cattle, 900,000 hogs, and 8.4 million sheep and goats. Silk farming and bee and poultry raising have been developed.

The region’s railroad network includes the Transcaucasian Mainline Railroad from Baku through Tbilisi to Batumi; this line connects with the Tskhakaia-Sukhumi-Tuapse, Baku-Makhachkala, and Baku-Dzhul’fa-Yerevan-LeninakanTbilisi lines and a number of branches. Maritime shipping moves on the Black and Caspian seas (the ports of Batumi, Poti, and Baku, among others). A network of motor-vehicle roads has been developed. Petroleum and gas are transported by pipeline (the Baku-Batumi petroleum pipeline; the Karadag-Akstafa-Tbilisi-Yerevan, Ordzhonikidze-Tbilisi, and other gas pipelines). Air transport is used for connections with other regions and for local needs.

The Transcaucasian Economic Region exports petroleum and petroleum products, manganese, molybdenum, polymetallic ores, ferroalloys, copper, aluminum, steel piping, chemicals, equipment, instruments, electric engines, motor vehicles, machine tools, tea, wine, tobacco, canned goods, fruits, and other products to other regions. It imports coal, rolled ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery and other equipment, chemicals, lumber, grain, and other food and industrial goods.

The Transcaucasian Economic Region is one of the most important regions for resorts, tourism, and mountain climbing in the USSR. Taking advantage of mineral springs, favorable climatic conditions, and sea beaches, a network of nationally important resorts (including Gagra, Tskhaltubo, Borzhomi, Pitsunda, Dzhermuk, and Novyi Afon) and of rereation and tourist centers with tourist bases, guest houses, and campgrounds has been created.


Kavkaz. Moscow, 1966. (Part of a series on natural conditions and resources of the USSR.)
Geografiia khoziaistva respublik Zakavkazia. Moscow, 1966.
Mints, A. A.Respubliki Zakavkazia. Moscow, 1969.


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