// GENERAL INFORMATION
Amur Region became part of the Russian Federation on October 20, 1932. The region is located in the southeastern part of the Russian Federation between the Stanovoi Range in the north and the Amur River in the south. It borders on China in the south and southwest, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the north, Khabarovsk Territory in the northeast and east, and the Jewish Autonomous Region in the southeast. The region has an area of 364 000 km2 and a maximum extent of 750 km in the north-south direction and 1150 km in the northwest-southeast direction. The Stanovoi Range is located in the northern part of the region, while the mountain chain of the Yankan, Tukuringra, Soktakhan, and Dazhgdi ranges is situated to the south. The Zeya-Bureya and Amur-Zeya plains occupy nearly 2/5 of the region. The main rivers are the Amur, Zeya, and Bureya.
The region includes 9 cities, 24 towns, and 616 villages. The cities of Belogorsk, Zeya, Raichikhinsk, Svobodny, Tynda, and Shimanovsk are under regional jurisdiction, and Zavitinsk, and Skovorodino are under district jurisdiction.
The capital of Amur Region is Blagoveshchensk, founded in 1858. It is 7985 km from Moscow. The city is subdivided into Leninsky and Pogranichny districts.
Amur Region has a continental climate with monsoon features. The average summer temperature is +20°C, and the average winter temperature is -30°C; annual precipitation is about 850 mm. Coniferous forests and Manchurian deciduous forests are widespread in the region, and dwarf cedar woods and alpine tundra prevail in the mountains.
Before Russians arrived in the Trans-Amur (Priamurye) territory, the region was home to small tribes of Daurs, Duchers, and Tungus. They were independent people who submitted only to clan and tribal laws. Their settlements were located mainly in river valleys, especially along the Amur and its tributaries. Russians first came to Priamurye in the mid-17th century for the purpose of opening up new lands in order to collect additional tribute for the royal treasury. In 1649, the Russian explorer Erofei Khabarov built Albazin, the main Russian colonial city in the region. Cossacks from the Transbaikal region settled in Amur Region in the mid-19th century and subsequently formed the Amur Cossack force to defend Siberia's southeastern border and maintain traffic along the Amur and Ussuri rivers. They built their villages and farmsteads in the valley of the Amur and Zeya rivers. Peasants from central Russia began arriving in 1859; and construction of a railway line from Chita to Vladivostok began in 1898. The result was a stream of new settlers to the region and the formation of new communities. After the revolution of 1905, Stolypin's agrarian reforms gave rise to another influx of settlers to the Amur region.
Today, slightly more than 1 million people live in the region, which is divided into 20 administrative districts. About 66% of the population lives in nine cities, including 218 500 in Blagoveshchensk, and the remaining 34% live in rural communities. The population density of the region is 2.8 people per km2. Russians are the predominant nationality (86.8%), although other nationalities are also represented, including Ukrainians (6.7%), Belarussians (1.7%), Tatars (0.9%), Azerbaijanis (0.6%), Armenians and Bashkirs (0.3% each), Mordvins, Germans, Chuvashes, and Evenks (0.2% each), and others (1.9%). The peoples of the north never adapted to urban conditions and therefore live mainly in rural areas.
The average age of the region's working population is 38; the available workforce consists of 505 700 people, of whom 435 800 are currently employed. Sixty percent of these people have higher or secondary vocational education, 15.8% have not completed secondary school, and 1.8% have less than a primary education. At present, there is no demand for the skills of many people specializing in light industry, agriculture, and construction.
The finds in the Amur Region Archeological Museum show that the first settlers probably arrived in Priamurye in the 2nd millennium B.C. These were tribes from Central Asia who came to the Amur during the period when the transformation of Indian Buddhism was still incomplete, as is confirmed by a bronze mirror discovered by Amur archeologists. It was discovered in the remains of a settlement belonging to the Amur Churchen culture and is tentatively dated to the 10th-12th centuries B.C. The first bands of Russian explorers led by Vasily Poryakov reached Priamur in 1643-1644, followed a few years later by Erofei Khabarov. Large-scale migration of Transbaikal Cossacks to the Amur lowlands in 1854 hastened the annexation of the Priamurye region to Russia. They established Ust-Zeisky post (later renamed Ust-Zeiskaya village) on the site of what is now Blagoveshchensk. In May 1858, Nikolai Muravev-Amursky, who was governor general of Eastern Siberia, and Archbishop Innokenty Veniaminov visited the Cossacks there. At the archbishop's urgent request, construction of the Church of the Annunciation (Blagoveshchenie) began and the village was renamed Blagoveshchenskaya.
The village was subsequently renamed the city of Blagoveshchensk at the governor-general's proposal. When Amur Region was established by imperial Decree of December 20, 1858, the city became the regional administrative center and economic development of the territory began. The region was mainly populated by migrants who came in several waves. The Transbaikal Cossacks represented the first wave; peasants from central Russia were the second; and another 120 000 people settled here after the revolution of 1905 as a result of Stolypin's agrarian reforms. Construction of the Amur Railway promoted further settlement of the region in the early 20th century.
In April 1920, the Far Eastern Republic, with its capital in Chita, was formed from Amur, Transbaikal, Kamchatka, Sakhalin, and Primorye regions as a democratic "buffer" state in order to avoid war with Japan. It existed until November 1922, when it joined the RSFSR. In January 1926, Amur Region became part of the Far Eastern Territory, which was subsequently divided into Khabarovsk and Primorye territories in 1938. Amur Region itself was included in Khabarovsk Territory.
In 1948, Amur Region was finally separated from Khabarovsk Territory and became an independent region of the RSFSR. Rapid economic growth based on gold production began at that time, and living standards improved with the arrival of young specialists. As the Far Eastern District expanded, the demand for services such as electric power and housing also increased, which stimulated a new round of construction projects. New cities were built, along with the Zeya Hydroelectric Power Plant (Zeiskaya GES), which still supplies electricity to most of the Far Eastern District. The number of gold-producing companies began increasing in 1992, and more than 90 companies are working in the industry today. Their production has made a significant contribution to Russia's gold reserves.
Construction of the strategically and politically important Svobodny cosmodrome was completed in 1996 as the first cosmodrome of the post-Soviet period. The main advantage of the Svobodny cosmodrome is that it is located at relatively low latitudes, which is particularly important when launching spacecraft into geostationary orbits.
The first launch took place on March 4, 1997. The Israeli Eros satellite was launched from Svobodny on December 5, 2000. Launches of foreign satellites from Russian cosmodromes are a source of revenue for the space industry. Amur Region played a major role in Russia's defenses in the early 20th century and it remains one of the country's most important defensive regions today.
Amur Region has rich resource potential that is still barely tapped. The region's structural position and complex geology determined the formation of its mineral resources. Economic minerals are among the most important natural resources of Amur Region. More than 60 types of minerals are found here, including gold, silver, platinum, graphite, kaolin, titanium, copper, apatite, coal, semiprecious stones, rare earth elements, including uranium, and diamonds.
Geologists have explored and registered 123 deposits of various nonmetallic minerals, such as apatite, kaolin, semiprecious stone, asbestos, diatomite, zeolite, clay, sand, gravel, limestone, dolomite, and quartzite.
The overall economic potential of Priamurye from explored mineral reserves alone is estimated at $400 billion. Coal and gold contribute the most to the region's economic turnover. Gold production is one of the region's leading economic sectors, and the region is also Russia's third-largest gold producer. Therefore, development of large gold ore deposits is considered a priority, particularly the Pokrovskoe (estimated reserves of 60 tons), Bamskoe, and Berezitovye deposits.
Potential hard and brown coal resources amount to about 71 billion tons. The prospects of developing the Ogodzhinskoe, Svobodnenskoe, Sergeevskoe, and Erkovetskoe deposits with foreign investment are being studied.
Amur Region has an abundance of rivers, especially in the north. The seven largest rivers (more than 500 km long) are the Amur, Zeya, Selemdzha, Gilyui, Bureya, Olekma, and Nyukzha. Three-quarters of the hydropower resources in the Russian Far East are located in Amur Region. The Zeya Hydroelectric Power Plant already uses part of these resources. Construction of the plant resulted in a reservoir 225 km long and 25 km wide on average with an area of 2400 km2. Underground freshwater, mineral, and thermal springs are widespread. Fresh subsurface water is found everywhere, and there are 42 known mineral springs.
Forests cover 21.8 million hectares, or 73% of the area of Amur Region. The main tree species are larch, spruce, pine, fir, oak, and birch; the Amur cork tree, Manchurian walnut, ash, and linden are found in the southern parts of the region. Labrador tea and rhododendron are the most widespread shrubs. Selemdzhinsky, Zeisky, Skovorodinsky, Arkharinsky, and Blagoveshchensky districts are the most heavily forested parts of the region. Ferns, berries, mushrooms, nuts, and medicinal plants are all gathered in the forests.
The animal life of Priamurye is also rich and varied with a great diversity of species that includes 64 mammal species, 326 bird species, 10 reptile species, 7 amphibian species, and 68 fish species. Brown and black bears, sables, foxes, lynx, wild boar, roe deer, reindeer, squirrels, and chipmunks are among the mammals inhabiting Amur Region. Birds include magpies; orioles; flycatchers; Mandarin ducks; hazel, wood, and black grouse; pheasants; and partridge. There are also a number of rare species of cranes and storks. Typical fish species are grayling, Manchurian trout, burbot, rotan (Amur sleeper), carp, and sazan [a member of the carp family].
The ecological situation in Amur Region is not critical compared to most other Russian regions, but it is still acute, mainly as a result of chemical contamination of the soil, air and water pollution, systematic damage to the land, exhaustion of resources, and forest degradation. Fires have destroyed large tracts of forest; for example, 597 forest fires were recorded in 2000 alone, or 169 more than in the previous year. These fires are often the result of human carelessness and have caused damage to the forests on the order of 76 million rubles.
Most of the region's ecosystems are classified as highly vulnerable, for which even a small anthropogenic load can lead to irreversible changes in their natural characteristics. However, a large part of the region's natural resources are still not under industrial development and can be regarded as a reserve potential for future generations in the region and in Russia as a whole.
According to data from the government report On the State of the Environment in the Russian Federation, Amur Region is one of Russia's most ecologically safe regions. This is not surprising, since an almost total inverse relationship between the ecological state of a region and its degree of economic development has been observed in the Russian Federation, and Amur Region is one of the country's least economically developed areas.
At the same time, there are some specific ecological problems in Amur Region, primarily related to certain features of its development, e.g., the unacceptable condition of the water supply, sewage, and purification systems of the region's public utilities. The chemical and bacteriological quality indicators of drinking water provided to residents from water supply systems have become 1.5 times worse over the last two years.
The problem of recovering, decontaminating, and burying industrial wastes is also acute. Most of the numerous disposal sites in the region fail to meet sanitary and ecological improvement requirements and do not fully recover organic matter and other wastes.
The main sources of air pollution are emissions from companies of the Ministry of Energy and Russian Housing and Public Utilities (Roszhilkommunkhoz) and motor vehicle transport. Additional atmospheric pollution by soot and other combustion products from forest fires occurs in certain seasons. Since 1991, there has been a steady decline in the amount of harmful emissions, but at an insufficient rate.
The main problems in the area of water use are connected with an obvious shortage of treatment facilities, and this is despite an overall decline in hazardous wastes due to a production slump at water-consuming industries. Drinking water from natural subsurface sources in the region's southern districts does not meet state standards for iron, manganese, and fluorine content, and the problem is aggravated by the high nitrate content of these sources.
Extensive erosion in the region has led to a loss of soil fertility. The main causes of soil erosion on agricultural land are plowing of light-textured soils on moderately steep slopes and the absence of antierosion measures.
Ecological problems arising from exploration work and production of economic minerals include damage to the land and displacement of large masses of rock, destruction of vegetation and the soil layer, accumulation of mining wastes, and air and water pollution. The rapid increase in the number of gold producers is a particular problem that has led to an acute shortage of qualified mining specialists and a weakening of control over operations to ensure compliance with environmental standards.
The condition of Amur Region's biological resources (plant and animal life) is considered satisfactory, although a slow but steady decrease in populations and a reduction in the number of wildlife species are observed, along with a reduction in forest area and deterioration of forest quality.
Amur Region's nature conservation fund includes 2 state preserves (Zeisky and Khingansky), 2 republican preserves (Norsky and Khingano-Arkharinsky), 20 regional preserves, 123 natural sites, botanical gardens, and rare and vanishing animal and plant species listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation.
Amur Region is part of the Far Eastern economic district, which is considered one of the country's largest regions. In recent years, there have been fundamental changes in the region's economic management basis, i.e., corporatization of companies and formation of a market infrastructure. The result has been successful development of a financial system, attraction of foreign investments, development of new investment projects, and the establishment of joint industrial ventures with foreign partners. National economic allocation responds to the specifics of the territorial organization of the forest industry, the fuel and energy complex, agriculture, transport, and the nonproduction sphere. The districts located along the main railway line are the basis of the territorial economic structure and form the central axis of the economic space. The region's geographical location makes it particularly suitable for foreign economic cooperation with countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Its main foreign trading partners are China, Japan, and Korea, which have traditionally accounted for most of the region's foreign trade turnover.
Industry. Industry is the region's leading economic sector: its products comprise about 26% of the territory's total gross production volume. The leading industrial sectors are power (50.7%), nonferrous metallurgy (14.8%), coal (12.7%), food (10.8%), forestry and woodworking (2.9%), and the engineering industry, which manufactures agricultural machinery and mining equipment. Among other things, Amur Region is the main agricultural area of the Far East, producing 2/3 of the grain and 50% of the soybeans. Vegetables and potatoes are also grown. Livestock breeding is oriented toward meat and dairy production.
The region specializes in brown coal and gold production, electric power generation, commercial timber and lumber production, and production of machinery for the region's construction, power, coal, and gold-mining industries. Manufactured products are sold on the domestic market, and lumber is exported to Japan and Korea.
Five regional commercial banks with 12 branches operate in Amur Region. In addition, there are 25 branches of commercial banks of other regions, 4 of which are Amur Region branches (the Baikal-Amur branch of Promstroibank in Tynda, the Amur branch of Agroprombank in Blagoveshchensk, and the Amur branches of Sberbank of Russia and SBS-Agro).
A total of 1384 large, medium, small, and joint businesses of various ownership forms operate in the region.
A large raw timber base represents a reliable foundation for the normal operation of a diversified forest industry complex, and in many respects determines the state of the region's economy. Despite the difficult conditions in which logging companies operate, OAO Tyndales is building a woodworking complex with its own funds. The company is outfitted with processing equipment from the German firm Bison Werke.
Amur Region offers a great many opportunities in the resource field and previously experienced a labor shortage. However, the situation has changed dramatically in recent years, and unemployment levels are now well above the national average.
Twenty-two engineering and metalworking companies are located in the region, of which 13 specialize in engineering.
The main coal supplier to users in the region is AO Far Eastern Coal (Dalvostugol). The company operates four open-pit mines that produce brown coal from the Raichikhinskoe, Arkharo-Boguchanskoe, and Erkovetskoe deposits.
Companies of the food and processing industries are capable of processing the entire output of the agricultural sector. They produce animal and vegetable oils; whole milk products; cheese; sausage; canned meat, fruit, and vegetables; beer and nonalcoholic drinks; pasta; baked goods; confectionery, flour; cereals; and much more. Most of the output is sold on the region's domestic market.
The construction complex comprises 746 companies of all ownership forms in the construction and building material industries. Large construction projects being carried out in the region include the Bureya Hydroelectric Power Plant (Bureiskaya GES), the Erkovetsky open-pit coal mine, expansion of the Blagoveshchensk Thermoelectric Power Plant (Blagoveshchenskaya TETs), and retooling of a prefab house panel plant in Shakhtaum, Tyndinsky District. Construction of the Chita-Khabarovsk highway will be completed by 2005 and will have enormous significance for the economic development of the entire region. Most social facilities (except housing) are constructed with the use of budget funds. These include general education schools, preschools, and health and municipal facilities. A number of other facilities are being constructed as part of special-purpose federal programs such as "Housing for Reservists and Retired Servicemen," "Handicapped Children," and "Chernobyl."
The trade sector in Amur Region is represented by 4000 retail trade and catering companies employing 21 000 people. Trade activity predominates in the small business sphere. Due to their relatively simple organization and potential for rapid turnover and capital accumulation, small trading companies make up 57% of all small businesses in the region.
Thirty-eight percent of all agricultural land in the Far Eastern economic region is concentrated in Amur Region; 59% of this land is arable land, located mainly in the southern and central areas of the region. The climate allows the cultivation of grains, soybeans, and vegetables and breeding of cattle, pigs, and poultry. The region's main food-industry and processing companies are located in these areas.
The agroindustrial complex also includes companies that supply agricultural equipment, fertilizer, and chemical agents for plant and animal protection and carry out capital construction. It produces a large number of consumer goods for the population and employs more than 30% of the workers in the material production sector. The economic reforms that began after 1990 laid the foundations of a diversified economy in the agricultural industry and made land reforms possible. Most of agricultural and processing companies also acquired new legal organizational forms.
The structure of agricultural production changed during the period of reorganization and reform of market relations. Thus, 89% of the agricultural land became the property of agricultural commodity producers and most agricultural products are produced in the private sector. Private holdings are also developing, where most of the potatoes, vegetables, meat, milk, and other agricultural products are produced. Nearly 2000 farms are currently in operation.
Some fresh produce is delivered to far northern districts of the Far East. Soybeans are used by the Ussuri (Primorye Territory) and Irkutsk fat and oil plants; the beans are exported in part to CIS countries and China and the rest are processed on-site. All other agricultural products go toward satisfying consumer demand in the region.
The Amur Region Administration is the highest executive body.
The regional Council of People's Deputies, formerly known as the regional Legislative Assembly, is the highest legislative body.
City governments include functional committees, departments, and offices. A mayor, who directs the work of the executive body, is the head of a city government. The first mayoral elections took place in March 1997. Today, a mayor heading a city government has a vice-mayor and three deputies under him. Administrative transformations are still going on.
The Administration of Blagoveshchensk maintains contacts with its neighbors in the region and has its own representative in the Association of Siberian and Far Eastern Cities.
The city government system of Blagoveshchensk comprises the mayor as head of the city government, the city Duma, the city Administration, and territorial local government bodies.
Official site of the Administration of Amur Region: