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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Natural Resources

The Soviet Union is richly endowed with almost every major category of natural resource. Drawing upon its vast holdings, it has become the world leader in the production of oil, iron ore, manganese, and asbestos. It has the world's largest proven reserves of natural gas, and it is rapidly catching up to the United States in the production of this increasingly important fuel. It has enormous coal reserves and is in second place in coal production (see fig. 7).

Self-sufficiency has traditionally been a powerful stimulus for exploring and developing the country's huge, yet widely dispersed, resource base. It remains a source of national pride that the Soviet Union, alone among the industrialized countries of the world, can claim the ability to satisfy almost all the requirements of its economy using its own natural resources.

The abundance of fossil fuels supplies not just the Soviet Union's domestic needs. For many years, an ample surplus has been exported to consumers in Eastern Europe and Western Europe, where it earns most of the Soviet Union's convertible currency (see Raw Materials; Fuels , ch. 12).

However, as resource stocks have been depleted in the heavily populated European section, tapping the less accessible but vital riches east of the Urals has become a national priority. The best example of this process is fuels and energy. The depletion of readily accessible fuel resources west of the Urals has caused development and exploitation to shift to the inhospitable terrain of western Siberia, which in the 1970s and 1980s displaced the Volga-Ural and the southern European regions as the country's primary supplier of fuel and energy (see table 7, Appendix A). Fierce cold, permafrost, and persistent flooding have made this exploitation costly and difficult.

Data as of May 1989