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Urals or Ural Mountains, E European Russia and NW Kazakhstan, forming, together with the Ural River, the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia and separating the Russian plain from the W Siberian lowlands. The Urals extend c.1,500 mi (2,400 km) north and south from the Arctic tundra to the deserts N of the Caspian Sea. The polar section (north of lat. 64°N) is covered by tundra. The northern section (between lat. 64°N and lat. 61°N), a rocky treeless range, has the highest peaks, Naroda and Telpos-Iz. The central Urals (between lat. 61°N and lat. 55°N) are also known as the Ore Urals and have many low passes. The southern section (between lat. 55°N and lat. 51°N), known as the Mugodzhar Hills, consists of several high, parallel ridges that rise to 5,377 ft (1,639 m) in the Yaman-Tau. The S Urals are drained by the Ural River into the Caspian Sea. The waterways in the west are the Kama and Belaya rivers, tributaries of the Volga, and, in the east, the Ob-Irtysh drainage system. The Trans-Siberian RR crosses the central Urals, and the Samara-Tashkent RR crosses the S Urals. To the west, the Ural foothills slope gradually to the Volga. The eastern slope drops abruptly to the W Siberian lowlands. The population consists primarily of Russians, with some Bashkirs, Tatars, Udmurts, and Komi-Permyaks.

Resources and Industry

Except in the polar and northern sections, the mountains are forested, and lumbering is an important industry. The great mineral resources of Russia are in the Urals. Iron ore is mined in the south, and there are rich deposits of coal, copper, manganese, gold, aluminum, and potash. Oil fields and refineries along the Kama and Belaya rivers in the W Urals produce oil. Emeralds, chrysoberyl, topaz, and amethyst are mined, as are deposits of bauxite, asbestos, zinc, lead, silver, platinum, nickel, chrome, and tungsten.

The Urals industrial area (c.290,000 sq mi/751,100 sq km), a major Russia metallurgical region, is in the central and S Urals and the adjacent lowlands. Huge industrial centers are found at Yekaterinburg, Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk, Perm, Berezniki, Nizhni Tagil, Orsk, Orenburg, Ufa, and Zlatoust. The concentration of industry in the Urals has led to the severe environmental degradation of many of the region's mountain habitats.


Known to medieval Russia as the Stone Belt, the Urals were reached in the early 12th cent. by colonists and fur traders from Novgorod. Colonization developed rapidly in the late 16th cent. The first ironworks were established in the 1630s, and metallurgy was encouraged by Peter the Great. In the late 18th and early 19th cent., the Urals area was a major iron producer, but its relative importance declined in the late 19th cent.

Under the first two Five-Year Plans (1929–39), the tremendous industrial development of the Urals was based on Ural iron ore and coking coal shipped by rail from the Kuznetsk Basin. During World War II, industries were transplanted from European USSR to the Urals, strategically situated in the heart of the USSR. Since the war, coking coal from the Qaraghandy Basin, Kuznetsk coal, and hydroelectric power have supported the metallurgical industry, which has been enormously expanded.

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



the territory lying between the East European Plain and the Western Siberian Plain and extending southward from the Arctic Ocean to the latitudinal stretch of the Ural River below the city of Orsk. The heart of the Urals is the Ural Mountain System, which is more than 2,000 km long, varies in width from 40 km to 150 km, and has a maximum elevation of 1,895 m. Historically and economically, the Urals are closely tied to the Ural Region (seeURAL REGION) on the west and Trans-Uralia on the east. The boundary between Europe and Asia is usually drawn along the eastern base of the Urals.

The area encompassing the Urals, the Ural Region, and Trans-Uralia is administratively divided into Perm’, Sverdlovsk, Cheliabinsk, Kurgan, and Orenburg oblasts and the Udmurt ASSR, which together make up the Ural Economic Region, and the Bashkir ASSR, which belongs to the Volga Economic Region. Also included in the Urals area are the eastern parts of the Komi ASSR and Arkhangel’sk Oblast, which are part of the North-western Economic Region, and the western part of Tiumen’ Oblast, which belongs to the Western Siberian Economic Region. Most of the population lives in the Ural Economic Region and the Bashkir ASSR; the more northerly regions, belonging to the Northwestern and Western Siberian economic regions, are sparsely populated, with the exception of a few industrial centers, notably those in the Pechora Coal Basin. The largest cities in the Urals are Sverdlovsk, Cheliabinsk, Perm’, Ufa, Izhevsk, Orenburg, Nizhnii Tagil, Magnitogorsk, and Kurgan.

Topography. In terms of relief and other natural features the Urals are divided into the Polar, Subpolar, Northern Central, and Southern Urals.

The rugged Polar Urals have average elevations of 1,000–1,200 m, rising to 1,499 m on Mount Paier, and both sharp ridges and flat or rounded summits. The Subpolar Urals have the highest peaks, Mount Narodnaia (1,895 m) and Mount Karpinskii (1,878 m), and attain a maximum of 150 km. Many of their ranges, among them the Issledovatel’skii and Sablia, have serrated ridges and are deeply and densely dissected by river valleys. Traces of Pleistocene mountain and valley glaciation in the Polar and Subpolar Urals include cirques, U-shaped valleys, and moraines. Modern glaciation is also extensive; the largest of the 143 glaciers that cover the Polar and Subpolar Urals are the IGAN, MGU, and Dolgushin glaciers. Intergelisols are common.

Stretching from north to south, the Northern Urals consist of a series of parallel ranges rising to 1,000–1,200 m and longitudinal depressions. They typically have flat summits, although the upper parts of the higher mountains, notably Tel’posiz (1,617 m) and Konzhakovskii Kamen’ (1,569 m), have a more rugged topography. The greatly worn down Central Urals are the lowest mountains in the system, rising to 994 m on Mount Srednii Baseg. The topography of the Southern Urals is more complex. The numerous ranges of different elevations, trending southwest or north-south, are dissected by deep longitudinal and transverse depressions and valleys. The highest peak is Mount Iamantau (1,640 m).

Karst topography is extensively developed on the western slope of the Urals and in the Ural Region, particularly in the basin of the Sylva River, a tributary of the Chusovaia. There are many caves (Div’ia, Kungur, Kapova), basins, sinks, and underground streams. The eastern slope has fewer karst formations. Rocky outliers such as the Sem’ Brat’ev, Chertovo Gorodishche, and Kamennye Palatki rise above its flattened or gently rolling surface. Wide foothills, reduced to peneplain, adjoin the Central and Southern Urals on the east, broadening the Southern Urals to 250 km.

Geological structure and useful minerals. The Urals are a late Paleozoic (Hercynian) folded region lying within the Ural-Mongolian folded geosynclinal belt. Deformed and frequently metamorphosed rocks, chiefly Paleozoic, crop out on the surface in the Urals. The region’s sedimentary and volcanic strata are highly folded and broken by fractures, but in general they form north-south bands, which account for the linear and zonal structure of the Urals. Six geological zones may be distinguished from west to east: (1) the Cis-Ural Foredeep, with a comparatively gentle bedding of sedimentary layers on the west and a more complex bedding on the east; (2) the Western Slope Zone, whose Lower and Middle Paleozoic sedimentary layers are intensively folded and dislocated by thrusts; (3) the Central Ural Uplift, where the more ancient crystalline rocks of the margin of the East European Platform crop out in places among Paleozoic and Upper Precambrian sedimentary strata; (4) the “greenstone belt,” a system of troughs and synclinoria on the eastern slope (of which the largest are the Magnitogorsk and Tagil’ synclinoria), filled chiefly with Middle Paleozoic volcanic strata and marine (often deep-sea) sediments intruded by plutonic igneous rocks (gabbroids, granitoids, and sometimes alkaline intrusives); (5) the Ural-Tobol’ Anticlinorium, with outcrops of more ancient metamorphic rocks and extensively developed granitoids; and (6) the Eastern Ural Synclinorium, in many ways similar to the Tagil’-Magnitogorsk synclinorium.

Using geophysical data, Soviet geologists have established that the first three geological zones rest on an ancient Precambrian basement composed chiefly of metamorphic and magmatic rocks and formed in the course of several epochs of folding. The most ancient rock, believed to be Archean, crops out at the Taratash protrusion on the western slope of the Southern Urals. Pre-Ordovician rocks are unknown in the basement of the synclinoria of the eastern slope of the Urals. It is thought that the thick plates of ultrabasites and gabbroids that crop out in places in the Platinonosnyi and analogous belts serve as the basement of the Paleozoic volcanic strata of the synclinoria. These plates may possibly be broken-off remnants of the ancient sea floor of the Ural geosyncline. Some ancient outcrops in the Ural-Tobol’ Anticlinorium in the east are perhaps Precambrian.

The Paleozoic beds of the western slope of the Urals are composed of limestones, dolomites, and sandstones that were formed for the most part in shallow seas. To the east lies a discontinuous strip of deep-sea continental slope sediments. Still further to the east, on the eastern slope of the Urals, the Paleozoic (Ordovician and Silurian) cross-section begins with altered basaltic volcanites and jaspers that are comparable to the rocks of the present-day ocean floor. Thick spilite-natroliparite strata, also altered and containing deposits of copper pyrite ore, occur in places higher up in the cross section.

The younger beds of the Devonian, and to some extent the Silurian, are represented primarily by andesite-basaltic and ande-site-dacite volcanites and graywackes. In the development of the eastern slope of the Urals, these rocks correspond to the stage when the oceanic crust was supplanted by transitional crust. The Carboniferous beds (limestones, graywackes, and acid and alkaline volcanites) are associated with the later continental stage in development of the eastern slope of the Urals. At this stage, most of the Ural’s Paleozoic granites, primarily potassic granites, were intruded, forming pegmatite veins containing valuable rare minerals. In the late Carboniferous and Permian, sediment accumulation virtually ceased on the eastern slope, and folded mountain structure arose there. In the same period the Cis-Ural Foredeep was formed on the western slope and was filled with molasse, detrital rock eroded from the Urals, to a depth of 4–5 km.

Triassic deposits have survived in a number of graben depressions, whose formation was preceded by basaltic (trap) magmatism in the northern and eastern parts of the Urals. Younger strata of Mesozoic and Cenozoic platform deposits, dipping gently, cover the folded structures along the periphery of the Urals.

It is assumed that the Paleozoic structure of the Urals was initiated in the late Cambrian and Ordovician as a result of the cleavage of the late Precambrian continent and outward movement of its blocks, creating a geosynclinal depression with oceanic crust and oceanic interior sediments. Later, outward movement gave way to compression, and the oceanic depression gradually closed up and “became overgrown” with a newly forming continental crust. The character of magmatism and sediment accumulation changed accordingly. The modern structure of the Urals bears traces of extremely strong compression accompanied by the strong transverse contraction of the geosynclinal depression and the formation of gently inclined overthrust sheets.

The Urals are a treasure-house of various useful minerals. Forty-eight of the 55 most important minerals worked in the USSR are found in the Urals. The eastern Urals are noted for their deposits of copper pyrite (Gai, Sibai, and Degtiarsk deposits and the Kirovgrad and Krasnoural’sk groups of deposits), skarn-magnetite (deposits of Mount Vysokaia, Mount Blagodat’, and Mount Magnitnaia), titanomagnetite (Kachkanar and Pervoural’sk), nickel ironstone (Orsk-Khalilove group of deposits), and chromite ores (deposits of the Kempirsai massif), mostly confined to the greenstone belt. The eastern slope also has coal seams (Cheliabinsk coal basin) and placer and native deposits of gold (Kochkar’, Berezovo) and platinum (Isovka). The Severoural’sk Bauxite Region and the vast Bazhenov asbestos deposits are on the eastern slope. On the western slope of the Urals and in the Ural Region there are deposits of hard coal (Pechora and Kizel coal basins), petroleum (Volga-Ural Oil-Gas Region, Orenburg gas condensate deposit), and potassium salts (upper Kama basin). The Urals are especially famous for their precious, semiprecious, and ornamental stones, including emeralds, amethysts, aquamarine, jasper, rhodonite, and malachite. The best jeweler’s diamonds in the USSR come from the Urals.


Materialy po geologii i poleznym iskopaemym Urala, fasc. 6. Moscow, 1958.
Magmatizm, metamorfizm, metallogeniia Urala, vols. 1–3. Sverdlovsk, 1963,
Kheraskov, N. P., and A. S. Perfil’ev. Osnovnye osobennosti geosinklinal’nykh struktur Urala. Moscow, 1963. (Trudy Geol. in-ta AN SSSR, fasc. 92.)
Laz’ko, E. M., Regional’naia geologiia SSSR, vol. 1: Evropeiskaia chast’ i Kavkaz. Moscow, 1975.
Climate. The Urals have a continental climate. The north-south trend of the ranges is a contributing factor in the increased solar radiation and the rise in air temperature from north to south. Winter temperatures are 1°–2°C lower on the eastern slope than on the western slope because of the decreasing influence of relatively warm Atlantic air masses as one moves eastward and the increasing influence of colder Siberian air masses. The climate becomes more continental from west to east and from north to south. The mean January temperature on the western slope varies from –20° or –21°C in the Polar Urals to –15° or –16°C in the Southern Urals. On the eastern slope, it rises from –22° or –23°C to –16° or –17°C, respectively. The mean July temperature ranges from 9°–10°C in the northernmost regions to 19°–20°C in the southernmost regions.
Topography has a significant effect on the distribution of precipitation. At the same latitude, the western slope annually receives 150–300 mm of precipitation more than the eastern slope. The greatest amount of precipitation, as much as 1,000 mm, falls on the watershed in the Subpolar and Northern Urals; this area also has the deepest (up to 90 cm) snow cover. The ridges and the western slopes of the Southern Urals receive 650–750 mm a year. On the eastern slope the precipitation decreases from 500–600 mm in the north to 300–400 mm in the south. Most of the precipitation occurs in the summer.
Rivers and lakes. The rivers of the Urals drain into either the Arctic Ocean or the Caspian Sea. The former include the Pechora and Usa on the western slope and the Tobol, Iset’, Tura, Loz’va, and Severnaia Sos’va rivers (all part of the Ob’ system) on the eastern slope. The Kama River (with its tributaries, the Chusovaia and Belaia) and the Ural River flow into the Caspian Sea.
The rivers on the western slope, especially those in the Northern and Subpolar Urals, have the greater discharge. Their high-water periods, occurring in June and July in the Subpolar Urals and in May and June elsewhere, can last as long as three months, and heavy rainfall in the mountains can cause summer flooding. The rivers of the eastern slope of the Southern Urals have the smallest discharge, and some of them dry up in summer. The length of time that the rivers are frozen increases from five months in the Southern Urals to seven months in the Subpolar and Polar Urals. The rivers of the Urals are fed chiefly by snow and rain.
The largest lakes, among them the Tavatui, Argazi, Uvil’dy, and Turgoiak, are located on the eastern slopes. The deepest lake, Bol’shoe Shchuch’e, has a maximum depth of 136 m. Small glacial lakes occur in the Polar Urals, and karst lakes are found on the western slope of the Central Urals. The Ural rivers and lakes are highly important as a source of water supply for populated areas and industrial enterprises. There is shipping on the Kama, the Belaia, and the lower reaches of the Chusovaia. Many rivers are used for floating timber. The Kama and Votkinsk reservoirs have been built on the Kama River.
Landscapes. The climatic changes from north to south and the topography of the Urals, particularly the presence of elevations greater than 1,500 m, are reflected in a sequence of natural landscapes, forming both latitudinal zones and vertical (altitudinal) belts. The sequence of altitudinal belts is more pronounced than the transitions from one latitudinal zone to another. The Urals have steppe, forest, and bald-mountain landscapes.
Steppe landscapes are found in the Southern Urals, chiefly on the eastern slope and in the peneplained foothills. Four types of steppe may be distinguished: meadow, forb-sod grass, sod grass, and rocky. The meadow steppes, occurring on ordinary or leached chernozems, are well developed in the forest-steppe zone and on lower mountain slopes. The meadow steppe vegetation, forming a solid stand 60–80 cm high, includes such forbs as Filipendula vulgaris, Serratula Gmelinii, Trifolium montanum, and zigzag and mountain clover and such grasses as meadow grass and awnless bromegrass. Much of the meadow steppe has been plowed up.
To the south, the meadow steppes are gradually supplanted by forb-sod grass steppes, occurring on fertile chernozems in the north and on ordinary and medium chernozems in more southerly regions. Here, sod grasses generally predominate, and the forbs become less characteristic in the more arid lands to the south. The principal grasses are feather grass, both S. longifolia and S. Joannis, fescue, and Stipa capillata; forbs include Filipendula vulgaris, mountain clover, and greater salad burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis). The grass stand is lower than in the meadow steppes and becomes sparser to the south.
Sod grass steppes prevail in the southernmost and driest regions. They occur on southern, in some places saline, chernozems and also on chestnut soils. The low and sparse grass stand is composed of feather grass, fescue, and Koeleria, with a small admixture of a few forb species. The steep and gravelly sections of the eastern slope of the Southern Urals are usually covered by rocky steppes. Willows, black poplars, and pea trees (Caragana frutex) grow in places in the steppe river valleys. The steppes abound in rodents (susliks, jerboas) and brown hares. The most common birds are kestrels and buzzards; bustards have survived in a few places.
The forest landscapes of the Urals are more varied than those of the steppes. On the western slope, dark coniferous mountain taiga forests predominate, with mixed and broadleaf forests occurring in places in the Southern Urals. On the eastern slope, light coniferous mountain taiga forests prevail. The forests of the Southern Urals have the greatest diversity of species. On the eastern slope of the Southern Urals, at elevations of 500–600 m, the mountain steppes generally give way to light coniferous forests, in places interspersed with steppe vegetation, composed of Scotch pine and sometimes Siberian larch. Birches are common in places.
The more humid western foothills of the Southern Urals are covered mostly by mixed forests, growing on mountain-forest gray soils that are supplanted to the west by leached, podzolized, and typical chernozems. Here, such broadleaf species as the pedunculate oak, Norway maple, littleleaf linden, and elm are mixed with Siberian fir and Siberian spruce. Broadleaf forests with an undergrowth of European hazel (Corylus avellana) and alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) have survived in places. The forests have a dense grass cover. Dark coniferous forests predominate on the western slope of the Southern Urals at elevations of 500–600 m. Above 1,200–1,250 m there are bald peaks with stretches of mountain tundra, rock streams, and rocky outliers.
In the Central Urals the forest landscapes of the western slope also differ from those of the eastern slope. The western slope has dark coniferous southern taiga forests of Siberian spruce and fir; in places there are linden, maple, and elm trees with hazel and honeysuckle in the undergrowth. Forest steppes with small birch groves are found in the central part of the Ural Region (Kungur, Krasnoufimsk). Pine forests flourish on the eastern slope of the Central Urals, and large areas of the peneplained foothills are covered by birch and aspen thickets, especially in the Pyshma and Iset’ river basins. Dark coniferous forests are less common on the eastern slope. Sphagnum and Hypnum-grass swamps are often found in depressions. The forest landscapes of the Central and Southern Urals have been greatly altered by human economic activity.
The forests of the more northerly regions of the Urals have been better preserved. On the western slope of the Northern Urals, to elevations of 800–900 m, there are middle taiga forests of Siberian spruce and sometimes of Siberian fir and Siberian pine, growing on weakly podzolic soils. Although these forests have little or no undergrowth, there is an extensive cover of mosses, chiefly green mosses. Thickets of bog bilberries, cloudberries, and crowberries (Empetrum) are also encountered. Pine forests flourish on the alluvial terraces of the Kama and Pechora. On the drier eastern slope of the Northern Urals pine and larch forests cover large areas.
The upper boundary of the forest zone drops to 400–250 m in the Subpolar and Polar Urals owing to the greater severity of the climate. Here, the northern taiga mountain forests are fairly uniform and consist primarily of Siberian spruce (on the western slope), pine, Sukachev’s larch, and Siberian larch (on the eastern slope). The forests are typically low and thin, especially near the upper boundary of the forest zone. Erniks (dwarf birch thickets) are commonly found below bald mountain peaks. In places the forests grow in swamps, for the most part sphagnum swamps.
The animal species inhabiting the forests of the Urals are essentially the same as those in the adjacent plains. They include the elk, brown bear, fox, glutton, lynx, and sable (in the north). The kidas, a hybrid of the sable and pine marten, is found only in the Central Urals. Badgers and black polecats are common in the forests of the Southern Urals. Reptiles and amphibians, found chiefly in the Southern and Central Urals, include the common adder, grass snake, and viviparous lizard. Among the more common birds are capercaillies, black grouse, hazel hens, nutcrackers, common European cuckoos, and Himalayan cuckoos. Songbirds such as the nightingale and redstart migrate to the Southern and Central Urals in the summer.
Above the forest zone there are bald-mountain landscapes. Such landscapes are especially extensive in the Polar, Subpolar, and Northern Urals. Whereas moss tundras are generally found in the bald-mountain areas of the more humid western slope, lichen tundras are more common on the eastern slope. Many sphagnum swamps occur in depressions. Among the mammals and birds inhabiting the Ural tundra are the arctic fox, Ob’ lemming, rough-legged buzzard, snowy owl, and ptarmigan. The Ural tundra provides good summer pasture for reindeer. In the northernmost parts of the Urals there are extensive bald-mountain deserts where only crustose lichens grow. Here are found many rock streams and outliers formed by intensive frost weathering.
Preserves. Within the Urals are the Pechora-Ilych, Visim, and Bashkir preserves. The Il’men Preserve on the eastern slope of the Southern Urals has unusual combinations of different rocks and minerals.


Ural i Priural’e. Moscow, 1968. (AN SSR: Prirodnye usloviia i estestvennye resursy SSSR.)
Ural. Moscow, 1968. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
Olenev, A. M. Ural i Novaia Zemlia: Ocherk prirody. Moscow, 1965.
Makunina, A. A. Landshafty Urala. Moscow, 1974.
Bykov, V. D. Stok rek Urala. Moscow, 1963.
Igoshina, K. N. “Rastitel’nost’ Urala.” In Geobotanika, fasc. 16. Moscow, 1964.
Shvarts, S.S., V. N. Pavlinin, and N. N. Danilov. Zhivotnyi mir Urala. Sverdlovsk, 1951.
Prokaev, V. I. Fiziko-geograficheskaia kharakteristika iugo-zapadnoi chasti Srednego Urala i nekotorye voprosy okhrany prirody etoi territorii. Sverdlovsk, 1963.
Krasheninnikov, I. M. “Fiziko-geograficheskie raiony Iuzhnogo Urala.” In Geograficheskie raboty. Moscow, 1951.
Verbitskaia, N. P. Geomorfologiia Iuzhnogo Urala i Mugodzhar. Moscow, 1974.
Arkhipova, N. P. and E. V. Iastrebov. Kak byli otkryty Ural’skiegory. Perm’, 1971.
Historical sketch.PRIMITIVE COMMUNAL SYSTEM. The Urals were first settled by man at the end of the Lower Paleolithic, about 75,000 years ago. A number of sites from the Upper Paleolithic (35,000–10,000 years ago) have been discovered, of which the most famous is the Kapova Cave. It is believed that a Proto-Finno-Ugric language and a mixed Mongoloid-Europeoid anthropological type arose among the clans and tribes that inhabited the Urals in the Neolithic. Herding and hoe agriculture developed in the southern regions at this time.
Copper and bronze were first produced in the Urals at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. The main Bronze Age cultures were the Abashevo, Andronovo, Balanovo, Gorbunovo, Timber-frame, and Turbino. The Ural tribes mastered the technique of making iron in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. Large tribal confederations were formed. Sarmatians lived in the steppes of the Southern Urals, tribes of the Kara-Abyz culture lived in the forest-steppe of the Ural Region, and tribes of the Anan’ino culture, which gave rise to the P’ianyi Bor, Osinian, and Gliadenovo cultures, inhabited the Kama River region. Major migrations of the ancient Ural population took place from the third century A.D., and new archaeological cultures appeared, among them the Lomovatovian, Polomian, Bakhmutino, Imen’-kovo and Turaevian. The population of the Urals traded with Middle Asia, Iran, and Byzantium.
FEUDAL PERIOD. The primitive communal system began to break down in the Urals at the beginning of the second millennium A.D. Feudal relations developed more quickly among the ancestors of the Komi-Permiaks, Udmurts, and Bashkirs than among those of the Khanty and Mansi. Their proximity to feudal Bulgaria on the Volga and the Russian principalities hastened the feudalization process. The Komi-Permiaks formed the early feudal state known as Great Perm’ in the 14 century, and the Mansi tribes established the Pelym state in the 15 century.
Russians began to penetrate into the Urals in the 11th century. Three centuries later, bands of Novgorod ushkuiniki, adventurers who subjugated and exploited the native peoples of the north, appeared in the Northern Urals. After the Ugrian land and then the Perm’ land came under the rule of the Novogorod Feudal Republic, Russian settlers began streaming into the area. In the early 15th century Russian settlements were founded along the upper Kama, among them Anfalovskii Gorodok and Sol’-Kamskaia. In 1471, Novgorod’s possessions in the Ural Region passed to the Moscow state, which at the end of the century also absorbed the upper Kama region and some of the Udmurt lands. After the Russian state defeated the Kazan Khanate in 1552, most of Bashkiria and the rest of the Udmurt land along the Kama River voluntarily merged with Russia. The Russian settlements of Ufa and Sarapul were founded. The Stroganov family acquired vast holdings along the Kama and organized a cossack expedition, led by Ermak, to the Trans-Urals, where the Russian forts of Loz’vinskii Gorodok, Pelym, and Verkhotur’e were established in the late 16th century.
From the 11th century Russians had called the northern part of the Urals Kamen (rock) or sometimes Poias (belt). Between the mid-16th and early 17th centuries the Bashkir name “Urals” came into use, although at first it was applied only to the southern regions. The name may be derived from the Turkic word “aral,” or “island,” by which the Turkic peoples meant an area that differed from the surrounding country. According to a 13th-century Bashkir legend, the Ural Mountains grew out of a Kurgan (barrow) that the people built over the grave of a hero called Ural, who gave his life for his people. By the end of the 17th century Russians were applying the Bashkir name “Urals” to the entire mountain system.
In the 17th century Russians settled in the Southern and Central Urals and in the Ural Region, founding the city of Kungur, the settlement of Novoe Usol’e, and the Trans-Ural slobody (taxexempt settlements) of Irbitskaia, Shchadrinskaia, and Kamyshlovskaia. The Russian settlers introduced more advanced farming practices and crafts into the area. Colonization also helped put a stop to the fighting among the Ural peoples and fostered the growth of feudal relations among them in the 16th and 17th centuries. Concurrently, however, colonization intensified the national and social oppression of the non-Russian nationalities. The iasak, a tax in furs, was imposed on the Mansi, Khanty, and Bashkirs. Many Komi-Permiaks and Udmurts became dependent on the Stroganovs and other Russian feudal lords. Agriculture expanded in the 16th and 17th centuries, as grain-producing regions arose to supply local markets. Most of the arable land was cultivated by chernososhnye krest’iane (tax-paying state peasants). There were few noblemen’s estates. As artisan crafts developed, woodworking, tanning, pottery, and forging became small-scale market industries. The salt industry at Lenva, Solikamsk, and Novoe Usol’e became nationally important.
Many deposits of useful minerals, notably iron, copper, and other ores, were discovered in the Urals in the 17th century. By the middle of the century the region’s first ironworks and copper smelteries were producing high-quality metal. The Russian government began to regard the Urals as an important source of raw materials. The expansion of the Russian state and the government’s military needs stimulated the building of metallurgical works in the early 18th century. State-owned works were built at Nev’iansk and Kamensk in 1701 (the Nev’iansk factory was turned over to a private owner the next year) and at Ekaterinburg and Iagoshikhin (near Perm’) in 1723. Thereafter, privately owned factories were built by the Demidovs and other entrepreneurs. V. N. Tatishchev and V. I. Gennin were instrumental in organizing and developing the mining and metallurgy industry of the Urals in the early 18th century. In the first half of the 18th century, 63 metallurgical works were built in the Urals, and 67 more were established in the 1750’s and 1760’s. The Urals became Russia’s principal mining region. Most of the state-owned works passed into private hands in the 1750’s. The 18th-century Ural metallurgical enterprises were manufacturers (seeMANUFACTURE) employing serfs and “assigned” peasants (seePRIPISNYE KRESTTANE). New cities, among them Ekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk) and Perm’, sprang up around the metallurgical works.
The state mining and metallurgy industry of the Urals was initially administered by the Chancellery of Mining (1719–34) and then by the Chancellery of the Main Board of Factories. In 1807 mining districts were created and placed under the jurisdiction of the Mining Administration, which was based in Perm’ until 1830, when it was transferred to Ekaterinburg. In 1708 the Urals were incorporated into the Siberian and Kazan provinces. After several administrative reorganizations, the Urals area was divided into the provinces of Perm’ and Orenburg in 1796. Ufa Province was formed in 1865.
The crisis that gripped Russian serfdom in the early 19th century had an adverse effect on the Urals economy: the growth rate of production dropped sharply, fewer enterprises were built, and the productivity of serf labor declined. The industrial revolution was slow in coming to the Urals, where the only expanding industry in the first half of the 19th century was gold mining. The leading industrial and trade centers were Perm’, Ekaterinburg, Orenburg, Ufa, Kungur, and Irbit, the last city having the largest market fair in the Urals. Steamship travel was initiated on the Kama in the 1840’s.
CAPITALISM (SECOND HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY) AND IMPERIALISM (1900–17). As a result of the Peasant Reform of 1861, the mining peasants of the Urals lost 54 percent of the land that they had formerly worked, and the per capita land allotment fell from 2.8 to 1.2 desiatinas (1 desiatina = 1.09 hectares). The development of capitalism was retarded by the strong vestiges of serfdom in the countryside and in the mining industry, such as the existence of large noblemen’s estates and labor service. The first joint-stock companies arose in the second half of the 19th century, some of them formed with foreign capital. A number of old metallurgical works were modernized, and a few new ones were built. Several industries prospered, notably gold and platinum mining, coal extraction (Kizel Basin), machine building (new factories included the Ekaterinburg Machine Factory, the Motovilikha Plant in Perm’, and the Izhevsk and Votkinsk plants), and the chemical industry (Berezniki Soda Plant). In general, however, the Urals mining and metallurgical industry declined at the end of the 19th century; the situation was especially difficult for the old metallurgical works that used water power. Southern Russia replaced the Urals as the country’s principal metallurgical region.
The urban population grew rapidly in the second half of the 19th century. Among the industrial centers that had not yet been officially designated as cities were Nizhnii Tagil, Votkinsk, and Zlatoust. Railroads were built: the Samara-Orenburg line in 1876, the Gornozavodskaia line in 1878, the Ekaterinburg-Tiumen’ line in 1885, the Samara-Ufa-Zlatoust-Cheliabinsk line in 1892, and the Ekaterinburg-Cheliabinsk line in 1896. At the end of the 19th century there were more than 300,000 industrial and railroad workers in the Urals. The workers in the mines and metallurgical works took part in the struggle for land and more favorable land-use conditions. The main thrust of the workers’ movement, however, was the struggle against capitalist exploitation. The economic strike with political demands became one of the movement’s main weapons from the 1870’s. Several groups of revolutionary Narodniki (Populists) were active in the Urals in the 1870’s. Social Democratic organizations were founded in the late 1890’s in Ufa (1895), Cheliabinsk (Ural Workers’ Union, 1896), Ekaterinburg (1897), Perm’ (1898), and other cities.
In the early 20th century Social Democratic committees were formed in Perm’ (1902), Ufa (1903), and Ekaterinburg (Central Urals Committee, 1903). The Ural Regional Committee of the RSDLP was established at a conference in Nizhnii Tagil in 1904. The workers in the Urals took an active part in the Revolution of 1905–07, during which the Bolsheviks were led by Ia. M. Sverdlov and Artem (F. A. Sergeev). World War I dealt a heavy blow to the national economy, including that of the Urals. After a brief upsurge in war production, an industrial crisis gripped the Urals in late 1916, accompanied by a shortage of fuel, the disruption of transportation, a decline in agricultural production, and a deterioration of the workers’ living and working conditions. Soviets were set up throughout the Urals after the February Revolution of 1917. Bolsheviks emerged from the underground, their numbers increasing from 827 in early March to more than 10,000 in April. The First Ural (Free) Conference of the RSDLP(B), led by Sverdlov, was held in Ekaterinburg in April 1917.
THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION AND CIVIL WAR (1917–19), SOCIALIST CONSTRUCTION (1920–41), AND THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR (1941–45). Soviet power was established over most of the Urals between October and December 1917: on October 26 (November 8) in Ekaterinburg and Ufa, on October 27 (November 9) in Izhevsk and many other cities; and on November 23 (December 6) in Perm’. The struggle for Soviet power continued into early 1918 in Solikamsk, Cherdyn’, Votkinsk, Zlatoust, and other places because of the resistance of counterrevolutionaries and the treachery of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. Soviet power was established in Orenburg after the suppression of the Dutov Revolt on Jan. 18 (31), 1918. The rebellion of the Czechoslovak Corps that began in May 1918 engulfed part of the Urals, and local counterrevolutionary uprisings, such as the Izhevsk-Votkinsk Revolt, broke out that summer. The counterrevolutionary Kolchak regime established itself in the Urals in November 1918. In May 1919 Soviet forces took the offensive, and by autumn they had essentially liberated the Urals. The Bashkir ASSR was formed in March 1919, the Votyak Autonomous Oblast was set up in November 1920 (it was reorganized as the Udmurt ASSR in 1934), and the Ural Oblast was established in 1923. The Komi-Permiak National Okrug was created as part of Ural Oblast in 1925.
As soon as the Civil War ended, the people of the Urals embarked on economic reconstruction. In 1920–21 the volume of industrial output was 12 percent of the 1913 level; by 1925–26 it had risen to 93 percent. Many large industrial enterprises were built during the first and second five-year plans, among them such industrial giants as the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (1932), the Berezniki Chemical Combine (1932), the Urals Heavy Machine-building Plant in Sverdlovsk (1933), the Cheliabinsk Tractor Plant (1933), the Solikamsk Potassium Plant (1934), and the Krasnokamsk Pulp and Paper Combine (1936). A large part of the Ural-Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combine was also completed. Petroleum was discovered in the Kama region in 1929, and three years later extraction began in the Bashkir ASSR. By 1937 the gross output of large-scale industry was almost seven times that of 1913. Among the major achievements of the third five-year plan was the building of the Novotagil’skii Metallurgical Plant, the Ural Aluminum Plant, and the Ural Railroad Car Plant.
During the Great Patriotic War the Urals became the country’s principal arsenal and a crucial base for the relocation of industrial enterprises evacuated from the western regions of the USSR. In the first five months of the war 667 enterprises were moved to the Urals. By the end of 1941 the Urals were producing 62 percent of the country’s pig iron and about 50 percent of its steel and rolled products. Between 1941 and 1943 the gross output of Ural plants tripled, and war production increased by a factor of 6. During the war years the Urals accounted for as much as 40 percent of the output of the country’s war industry, with production increasing at an annual rate of 50 percent. Three plants in the Urals produced two-thirds of the country’s tanks and mounted artillery guns. Many airplanes, field guns, and rifles were manufactured, as well as large quantities of ammunition. Working people from the Urals formed several divisions and the Urals Volunteer Tank Corps. More than 800 inhabitants of the Urals became Heroes of the Soviet Union, eight of them twice. In 1946, the Urals industries returned to peacetime production.


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