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conveyance of goods and people over land, across water, and through the air. See also commercecommerce,
traffic in goods, usually thought of as trade between states or nations. Engaged in by all peoples from the earliest times, it has been carried on in some areas and by some peoples more than others, because of special geographical, technological, or economic advantages.
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Transportation over Land

Land transportation first began with the carrying of goods by people. The ancient civilizations of Central America, Mexico, and Peru transported materials in that fashion over long roads and bridges. Primitive peoples used a sledge made from a forked tree with crosspieces of wood. The Native Americans of the Great Plains made a travois consisting of two poles each fastened at one end to the sides of a dog or a horse, the other end dragging on the ground; the back parts of the two poles were attached by a platform or net, upon which goods were loaded.

The first road vehicles were two-wheeled carts, with crude disks fashioned from stone serving as the wheels. Used by the Sumerians (c.3000 B.C.), such simple wagons were precursors of the chariot, which the Egyptians and Greeks, among others, developed from a lumbering cart into a work of beauty. Under the Chou dynasty (c.1000 B.C.), the Chinese constructed the world's first permanent road system. In Asia the camel caravancaravan,
group of travelers or merchants banded together and organized for mutual assistance and defense while traveling through unsettled or hostile country. Caravan trade is associated with the history of the Middle East as far back as the records of ancient civilizations
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 served to transport goods and people; elsewhere the ox and the ass were the beasts of burden. The Romans built 53,000 mi (85,000 km) of roads, primarily for military reasons, throughout their vast empire; the most famous of these was the Appian Way, begun in 325 B.C.

Four-wheeled carriages were developed toward the end of the 12th cent.; they transported only the privileged until the late 18th cent., when Paris licensed omnibuses, and stagecoaches began to operate in England. In the United States the demands of an ever-extending frontier led to the creation of the Conestoga wagonConestoga wagon
, heavy freight-carrying vehicle of distinctive type that originated in the Conestoga region of Pennsylvania c.1725. It was used by farmers to carry heavy loads long distances before there were railroads to convey produce to markets.
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 and the prairie schoonerprairie schooner,
wagon covered with white canvas, made famous by its almost universal use in the migration across the Western prairies and plains, and so called in allusion to the white-topped schooners of the sea. It was a descendant of the Conestoga wagon.
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, so that goods and families could be transported across the eastern mountains, the Great Plains, and westward.

The great period of railroad building in the second half of the 19th cent. made earlier methods of transportation largely obsolete within the United States. Where just a self-sufficient settlement might have been established before, a metropolis would come into existence, with isolated farms tributary to it. After World War I, however, automobiles, buses, and trucks came to exceed the railroads in importance.

Transportation across Water

Little is known of the origins of water transportation. As long ago as 3000 B.C. the Egyptians were already employing large cargo boats. The first great system of transportation by sailing vessels, that of the Phoenicians, connected the caravan routes with seaports, chiefly those in the Mediterranean area. Goods of high value and little bulk, such as gems, spices, perfumes, and fine handiwork, made up the cargoes; to King Solomon came "ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks" (2 Chron. 9.21). As metropolitan centers developed, the transportation of grain became important. In addition to the network of paved roads they built throughout their vast empire, the Romans made much use of ships.

In the late Middle Ages, leadership in transportation by sea passed to Spain and Portugal. Maritime transportation between Europe and North America in the Age of Discovery began the English dominance of the seas that lasted until World War I. The forests of New England encouraged the building of wooden sailing vessels, and American schooners and clippers came to carry a large share of the world's shippingshipping,
transportation of passengers and goods on waterways. From prehistoric times shipping has had a major influence on human social development. Water routes, unlike roads, did not need building, and the difficulties and dangers were less than those offered by mountains,
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, until they were supplanted by steel-hulled steamships in the late 19th cent. Diesel power soon replaced steam, and in the mid-20th cent. the first nuclear powered vessels were launched. Inland water transportation grew with the extensive canalcanal,
an artificial waterway constructed for navigation or for the movement of water. The digging of canals for irrigation probably dates back to the beginnings of agriculture, and traces of canals have been found in the regions of ancient civilizations.
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 construction of the 16th and 17th cent.

Transportation through the Air

The first practical attempts at air transportation began with the invention of the hot-air balloon in 1783. However, transportation by air didn't become a reality until the beginning of the 20th cent. with the invention of the rigid airship (or Zeppelin) in 1900 and the first heavier-than-air flight by the Wright brothers in 1903. Although passenger flights were inaugurated after World War I, air transportation did not blossom until after World War II. The modern jet airplane now makes possible comfortable travel to virtually any point on the globe in just one day.

See airshipairship,
an aircraft that consists of a cigar-shaped gas bag, or envelope, filled with a lighter-than-air gas to provide lift, a propulsion system, a steering mechanism, and a gondola accommodating passengers, crew, and cargo.
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; aviationaviation,
operation of heavier-than-air aircraft and related activities. Aviation can be conveniently divided into military aviation, air transport, and general aviation.
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See J. R. Rose, American Wartime Transportation (1955); C. I. Savage, An Economic History of Transportation (1962, repr. 1966); W. Owen, Wheels (1967); T. De la Barra, Integrated Land Use and Transport Modeling (1989).



the movement of people and freight; one of the key sectors of social production. Modern transportation systems include general-purpose transportation—railroad transport, motor vehicle transport, shipping, river transport, air transport, and pipeline transport—and industrial transport.

General-purpose transportation, which delivers the products of labor to the places where they are consumed, is a continuation of the production process. K. Marx stated that “the transport of products from one productive establishment to another is followed by the passage of the finished products from the sphere of production to that of consumption. The product is not ready for consumption until it has completed these movements” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 24, p. 170). Although it does not increase the quantity of products, the transport of freight is classified under material production because it is an extension of the production process. Marx also includes general-purpose passenger transportation in the production sphere; this type of transportation serves people’s need to move from place to place for both production and personal reasons. A third type of transportation—transportation for personal use—includes the use of cars, motorcycles, bicycles, boats and yachts.

Transportation originated in earliest antiquity. Large numbers of paved roads were built in ancient China, Persia, and the Roman Empire for military purposes. With the growth of exchange, navigation developed: first ships propelled by oars appeared, then sailing ships. Slaves were used to transport goods by land with pack animals or two- and four-wheeled carts. The means of transportation, like other means of production, belonged to the slaveholder. In the sphere of exchange, transportation and trade were inextricably linked.

In the early stages of feudalism, transportation generally involved goods that could not be produced locally, mainly luxury goods. Land transportation was primarily by pack animal. Transportation on Europe’s major rivers, such as the Rhine and Danube, became a monopoly of the boatmen’s guilds. Shipping developed with the increasing trade of Venice, Genoa, and the cities of the Hanseatic League. Navigation gradually improved, and with the invention of the compass it was possible to venture into the open sea. By the late 15th century, ships began sailing the oceans of the world, and the age of the great geographical discoveries began. The growth of exchange and trade, the accumulation of capital, and the increasing social division of labor facilitated the emergence of transportation as an independent sector of production. In the 15th and 16th centuries shipowners began specializing exclusively in shipping. In Rus’, Novgorod carried on active sea commerce. Navigation in the north—on the White Sea and the Arctic Ocean—developed in the 16th and 17th century, as did commercial navigation on the Volga River and the Caspian Sea. Overland mail service and regular passenger transport appeared in many countries. Improved roads were built in the 17th century in France and Germany and later in England.

The creation of general-purpose transportation—the emergence of transportation as a special sector of production—took place in Western Europe during the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the 1760’s. The development of large-scale capitalist industry required the inexpensive transportation of large amounts of freight, and canals and horse-drawn railroads were built in Great Britain, France, and Germany. The transition to mechanical means of transportation was accomplished in the first quarter of the 19th century as steamships and steam railroads came into use. By the mid–19th century, general-purpose railroads were being built throughout Europe and in the USA, primarily because of their superiority to other types of transportation, such as cart and water transport: railroads served a wide area, were relatively cheap and fast, and could deliver freight by schedule. By the beginning of the 20th century, there were 1,114,000 km of railroads throughout the world and 318,000 km of navigable rivers and canals; the freight turnover was 753 billion ton-km for railroads and 1,545 million ton-km for shipping and river transport.

The growth of international trade led to the rapid development of maritime navigation. In the late 19th century the merchant marine had many steam vessels. Motor vehicle transport came into use in the late 19th century; by the 1920’s, it was competing with rail and river transport in many capitalist countries in hauling freight over short distances and, more important, in transporting passengers. Civil air transport began developing in the first quarter of the 20th century (seeAVIATION and CIVIL AVIATION).

USSR. In the USSR all types of transportation are owned by the state and constitute a unified transportation network. In 1975 this network included 227,000 km of railroads, 138,300 km of which were general-purpose; more than 1,403,000 km of motor vehicle roads, 660,000 km of which were hard-surface; 56,900 km of petroleum and petroleum-product pipelines; 99,200 km of gas pipelines; 145,400 km of navigable inland waterways; thousands of fully equipped railroad stations and bus terminals; hundreds of marine and river ports and wharves; and dozens of major public airports. At the end of 1975 the total value of all fixed capital of general-purpose transportation, including rolling stock, was nearly 159 billion rubles, constituting more than 12 percent of the nation’s total fixed capital. In 1975 transportation employed 9.2 million production and office workers.

Railroads are the most important part of the transportation system of the USSR. In 1975 they accounted for more than 65 percent of the total freight turnover and 42 percent of the total passenger traffic among all types of general-purpose transportation. Between 1918 and 1975 the freight turnover of the railroads increased by a factor of more than 50, and passenger traffic increased by a factor of more than 14. The average freight-traffic density of the railroads in 1975 was more than 20 times greater than in 1913, surpassing the corresponding index for the devel-

Table 1. Development of general-purpose transportation in the USSR
 Length of network (thousand km)Freight turnover (billion ton-km)Passenger traffic (billion passenger-km)Prime cost of freight shipment1 (kopeks/ton-km)
1In prices of the corresponding years
2AII hard-surface roads
3Conveyance by general-purpose buses
4Delivery of commercial natural gas (billion cu m)
Railroad. . . . . . . . . . .116.9138.3602.33,236.588.0312.54.8612.478
Motor vehicle. . . . . . . . . . .177.32660.5220.1337.45.23303.6373.5650.51
Shipping. . . . . . . . . . .39.7736.
River. . . . . . . . . . .130.2145.446.2221.
Air. . . . . . . . . . .300.5827.00.142.591.2122.6
Petroleum pipeline. . . . . . . . . . .5.456.94.9665.82.290.84
Gas pipeline. . . . . . . . . . .2.399.21.54279.44

oped capitalist countries by more than seven times (5.4 times compared to the USA).

The modernization of the material and technical basis of railroad transport, accomplished during the Soviet period, helped create an efficient railroad system. In 1975 the USSR led the world in length of electrified lines, rate of electrification, and traffic volume and freight turnover on lines powered by electric traction. In 1975 more than 99.6 percent of the railroad freight turnover in the USSR was on lines using electric and diesel locomotives.

Shipping plays a major role in the USSR’s economy. Soviet shipping ranks sixth in the world in tonnage. Most of this is foreign trade, but Soviet shipping also includes inland shipping (cabotage) and the transport of cargoes for foreign charterers. Soviet shipping has modern equipment and the latest types of dry-cargo freighters and tankers. In 1975 the freight turnover for shipping was more than 36 times greater than in tsarist Russia in 1913.

Inland navigation has also undergone significant development. A uniform deepwater transportation system in the European USSR has been essentially completed; in 1975 this system accounted for 55 percent of the total traffic volume for river transport in the USSR. Between 1970 and 1975, traffic volume and freight turnover increased more than 30 percent; in 1975, 260 million tons of various types of cargo were shipped, with a freight turnover of 140 billion ton-km. River transport is playing a crucial role in opening up and developing the rich natural resources of Siberia and the Soviet Far East.

Motor vehicle transport has developed at an extraordinary rate since the Great Patriotic War of 1941–15. A powerful motor vehicle industry has been created that is capable of fully meeting the country’s rapidly growing needs. Construction of the Kama Truck Plant, the largest in the world for the production of heavy-duty vehicles, began in 1970. Between 1950 and 1975, motor vehicle transport’s share of the total volume of freight turnover increased more than 17 times, and that of the total passenger traffic increased more than 58 times. Extensive work is underway to develop and improve highways. The network of hard-surface roads increased by a factor of 3.7 during this period.

The high levels of extraction and processing of petroleum and natural gas in the USSR contributed to the rapid development of pipeline transport. In 1975,497.6 million tons of crude petroleum and petroleum products were pumped through pipelines; the volume of commercial natural gas delivered through the system of gas pipelines was 279.4 billion cu m.

Air transport is conducted between all major and many small cities in the USSR and with many foreign countries. The USSR’s civil aviation fleet has increased the volume of passenger traffic handled from 200 million passenger-kilometers in 1940 to 122.6 billion in 1975.

The USSR is meeting the challenge of creating a highly efficient, unified transportation system that will completely satisfy

Table 2. Length of transportation networks of COMECON countries (thousand km)
 RailroadMotor vehicle roadsInland waterways
2Nationally important roads
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .4.336.231.50.5
1950. . . . . . . . . .9.928.326.21.3
1975. . . . . . . . . .8.430.028.81.3
German Democratic Republic    
1950. . . . . . . . . .15.942.942.92.9
1975. . . . . . . . . .14.347.6147.62.5
1950. . . . . . . . . .26.3261.097.4
1975. . . . . . . . . .26.7257140.03.9
1950. . . . . . . . . .10.879.644.41.6
1975. . . . . . . . . .11.077.960.61.7
1950. . . . . . . . . .13.171.3270.720.5
1975. . . . . . . . . .13.273.573.50.5
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .5.227.0111.51
1950. . . . . . . . . .1.40.1
1975. . . . . . . . . .1.40.4
Table 3. Freight turnover of general-purpose transportation of the COMECON countries (by type of transportation; billion ton-km)
 RailroadMotor vehicleInland waterwaysShipping (under national flag)Petroleum-product pipelines
11974 Note: The total freight turnover of air transport for the European COMECON countries was 5 million ton-km in 1950 and 151 ton-km in 1972.
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .
German Democratic Republic     
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .
1950. . . . . . . . . .
1975. . . . . . . . . .
1950. . . . . . . . . .1.10.8
1975. . . . . . . . . .1.80.7122.7
1950. . . . . . . . . .0.0010.02
1975. . . . . . . . . .

the transportation needs of the population and the national economy (see Table 1).

Other socialist countries. The material and technical basis of transportation and the freight turnover and passenger traffic are also developing at rapid rates in the other socialist countries. The total volume of freight turnover in the member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) increased more than seven times between 1950 and 1975, including 5.7 times in Hungary, 8.0 times in Poland, 15 times in Rumania, and 21 times in Bulgaria. Railroad transport and shipping account for the largest share in the total freight turnover of general-purpose transportation, although the share of motor vehicle transport is increasing.

In 1975 the COMECON member countries (excluding Mongolia) had a denser rail network than the Western European countries—6.0 km of railroads per 10,000 inhabitants as compared to 5.4 km in the capitalist countries of Western Europe. The carrying capacity of the railroads is being improved and increased, and railroads are switching to advanced types of traction. More than 20 percent of the rail networks in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria have been electrified; in the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, and Rumania, more than 10 percent have been electrified. In 1975 the average level of electrification of rail networks in the European socialist countries was 18 percent. Roadbeds are being modernized, and improved automatic block systems and traffic control communications systems have been introduced.

The network of hard-surface roads in the COMECON member countries increased by 22 percent between 1950 and 1974. In the

Table 4. Length of transportation networks of selected capitalist countries (thousand km)
 RailroadMotor vehicle roadsInland waterwaysPetroleum and petroleumproduct pipelines
Total, developed capitalist countriestries     
1950. . . . . . . . . .72210,0666,17283.9155
1973. . . . . . . . . .67313,10010,09079292
United States     
1950. . . . . . . . . .3605,3323,22246.0155
1974. . . . . . . . . .3226,12714,895412254
1950. . . . . . . . . .695502803.21.6
1973. . . . . . . . . .738306453.230.0
Great Britain     
1950. . . . . . . . . .32.92992843.9
1974. . . . . . . . . .18.23443441.232.0
Federal Republic of Germany     
1950. . . . . . . . . .37.23482473.5
1974. . . . . . . . . .32.1448138116.032.0
1950. . . . . . . . . .51.81,13068013.2
1974. . . . . . . . . .34.41,4791,0907.235.9
1950. . . . . . . . . .25.6300300
1973. . . . . . . . . .21.01,05041.05040.8
Table 5. Freight turnover of the transportation systems of selected capitalist countries (by type of transportation; billion ton-km)
 RailroadMotor vehicleInland waterwaysShippingPetroleum and petroleum product pipelineGas pipelineAir
  TotalIntercity and suburban TotalCabotage   
United States         
1959. . . . . . . . . . .918332.4252.4238.5609.7351.7188.670.00.6
1974. . . . . . . . . . .1,3009807381525790560176542019.0
1950. . . . . . . . . . .811311311480.90.50.03
1973. . . . . . . . . . .191655715094141706010.6
Great Britain         
1950. . . . . . . . . . .36.226.2200.31,003160.04
1974. . . . . . . . . . .24.0908010.11.77012414.71.111.1
Federal Republic of Germany         
1950. . . . . . . . . . .45.115.31216.717.70.7
1974. . . . . . . . . . .72.05980151.01061.0116.71.510.5
1950. . . . . . . . . . .42.514.5136.753.91.90.02
1974. . . . . . . . . . .78.09071113.780210136.23.710.9
1950. . . . . . . . . . .58.71411145,2001540.70.150.28
1974. . . . . . . . . . .52.01313.413,15017.11

Republic of Cuba the network of hard-surfaced motor vehicle roads increased by more than 14 percent in the period 1970–75 alone.

Intercity passenger traffic in the foreign socialist countries increased almost 3.5 times between 1950 and 1975, including 4.1 times in Hungary, 5.0 times in Rumania, 3.1 times in Poland, 2.3 times in Czechoslovakia, and 2.1 times in the German Democratic Republic. Bus and air transport show the highest growth rates for intercity passenger traffic handled. Between 1950 and 1974 air passenger traffic in the COMECON member countries increased 53 times, motor vehicle passenger traffic 24 times, and railroad passenger traffic only 1.9 times.

The status of transportation and the rates of development for the COMECON member countries are shown in Tables 2 and 3.

Developed capitalist countries. The USA and Canada have achieved high levels of development for all types of transportation, and the Western European countries and Japan have attained similar levels for many types (see Tables 4 and 5). In Great Britain shipping and rail, motor vehicle, and air transportation predominate, and inland navigation and pipeline transportation are rarely used. In the Federal Republic of Germany pipeline transport is at a comparatively low level of development, but rail, motor vehicle, air, and river transport are highly advanced. In Japan rail transport and shipping are highly developed, and motor vehicle transport is developing rapidly; but pipeline, air, and inland water transport are developing slowly.

Rail transport in North America differs significantly from that in Western Europe. The United States and Canada trail the Western European countries in density of rail networks and length of double-track lines, but they surpass them in the locomotive power, freight-carrying capacity of cars and weight of trains, use of automatic block systems and traffic control communications systems, and freight-flow capacity. Rail transport in Western Europe is partially electrified, and electrification there is continuing. Diesel traction is used extensively in switching work and, to a lesser degree, on trunk lines. The USA and Canada use diesel traction almost exclusively; electrification of US railroads essentially stopped before World War II, and diesel locomotives have even replaced electric locomotives on certain lines that had been electrified.

Water transport in the West also exhibits characteristic features. Self-propelled freighters predominate on the major European rivers—the Rhine, the Seine, and the Danube. Freighters that are not self-propelled are used primarily on small rivers and old canals. On US rivers and canals, even on such major routes as the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the coastal waterways, the large vessels used are not self-propelled; they are usually barges joined together into long convoys powered by push-ships. Self-propelled freighters are used only on the Great Lakes and Canadian rivers.

Fewer differences are observed in shipping and motor vehicle and air transport. The road network in Western Europe is generally denser than in the USA and Canada, and it includes a higher percentage of hard-surface roads.

The rapid development of the automobile industry in the USA

Table 6. Length of the transportation networks of selected developing countries (thousand km)
 RailroadMotor vehicle roadsInland waterwaysPetroleum and petroleum-product pipelines
Total, developing countries     
1950. . . . . . . . . . .3172,5247061595
1973. . . . . . . . . . .2994,5201,67016475
1953. . . . . . . . . . .54.84301908.0
1973. . . . . . . . . . .60.11,1954049.02.7
1950. . . . . . . . . . .36.73404033.00.1
1973. . . . . . . . . . .31.81,00017035.02.9
1950. . . . . . . . . . .42.975253.00.5
1973. . . . . . . . . . .40.4215803.03.8
Table 7. Freight turnover of the transportation systems of selected developing countries (by type of transportation; billion ton-km)
 RailroadMotor vehicleInland waterwaysShippingPetroleum and petroleum product pipelinesGas pipelineAir
  TotalIntercity and suburban TotalCoastal   
Total, developing countries         
1950. . . . . . . . . . .9324171342812171.70.1
1973. . . . . . . . . . .290475340369,500160360242.1
1950. . . . . . . . . . .44643.53.10.5
1973. . . . . . . . . . .14765456120703.00.21
1950. . . . . . . . . . .81261.51180.1
1973. . . . . . . . . . .25170907173232.31.10.21
1950. . . . . . . . . .17951410.30.7
1973. . . . . . . . . . .135030470103.13.40.1

and Western Europe has resulted in the hypertrophy of passenger-car transport, which now handles most passenger traffic. This has a negative effect on several economic indexes for the overall operation of the transportation system, severely worsens health conditions in the large cities, and contaminates the biosphere.

Developing countries. In the transportation systems of developing countries, one or two types of transportation predominate, and the rest lag far behind. The railroad networks in these countries have a variety of gauges, making transportation more expensive, obstructing the development of interregional economic ties, and retarding economic development in general. The technical level of rail transport remains low: steam traction and small locomotives predominate, and small-capacity, two-axle cars are the rule.

Most developing countries rely on a system of dirt roads that are impassable during the rainy season. Shipping is handled primarily by foreign fleets. Only in the 1970’s, after they became liberated from foreign capital, did many of these countries begin construction of multiple-lane improved highways and freeways and acquisition of their own ships.

Tables 6 and 7 give the length and freight turnover of the transportation systems of selected developing countries.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, ch. 13. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 2, chs. 6,9,12,13. Ibid., vol. 24.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3, ch. 43. Ibid., vol. 25, part 2.
Lenin, V.I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 40, p. 230.
Lenin, V. I. Ibid., vol. 44, p. 302.
Materialy XXIV s”ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1971.
Materialy XXVs”ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1976.
Khachaturov, T. S. Transport i sviaz’ SSSR. Moscow, 1953.
Orlov, B. P. Razvitie transporta SSSR: Istoriko-ekonomicheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1963.
Transport SSSR: Itogi za 50 let i perspektivy razvitiia. Moscow, 1967.
Vasilevskii, L. I. Transportnaia sistema mira. Moscow, 1971.
Biriukov, V. “Transportnaia sistema strany.” Planovoe khoziaistvo, 1973, no. 1.
Stanislaviuk, V. L. Perspektivy razvitiia transportnoi seti SSSR. Moscow, 1973.
Zotov, D. K. Transport na poroge desiatoi piatiletki. Moscow, 1975.



A phase of sedimentation concerned with movement by natural agents of sediment or any loose or weathered material from one place to another.


(esp formerly) deportation to a penal colony
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