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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


With a third of the world's forested area, the Soviet Union has long led all countries in the production of logs and sawn timber. Although Siberia and the Soviet Far East hold 75 percent of the country's total reserves, they accounted for only about 35 percent of timber output in the mid-1980s. The forests of the northern European part of the Russian Republic have supplied timber products to the major population centers for centuries, and the timber industry of the region is better organized and more efficient than that east of the Urals. In addition, the European pine and fir forests grow in denser stands and yield a generally superior product than the vast forests of the east, where the less desirable larch predominates. With the construction of some of the world's largest wood-processing centers in eastern Siberia and the Soviet Far East, and with the opening of the Baykal-Amur Main Line in 1989, the timber industry of the eastern regions was greatly advanced (see The Baykal-Amur Main Line , ch. 14).

The Soviet timber industry, which in 1986 employed roughly 454,000 workers, has had a long history of low productivity and excessive waste. Because of inadequate processing capacity, output of wood pulp, newsprint, paper, cardboard, plywood, and other wood products was scandalously low, considering the size of the Soviet Union's timber resources and its perennial position as the world leader in roundwood and sawed timber production. By the mid-1980s, the country appeared to have made substantial progress in achieving greater balance in its wood products mix. In 1986, for example, the production of pulp (9 million tons) was nearly four times the 1960 output (2.3 million tons), paper production (6.2 million tons) was almost three times higher, and cardboard output (4.6 million tons) was roughly five times the 1960 level. Nevertheless, in 1986 the Soviet Union ranked only fourth in world paper and cardboard production, with only one-sixth the output of either the United States or Japan. A high percentage of the roundwood harvest was used in the form of unprocessed logs and firewood, which remained an important fuel in the countryside.

In addition to their wood products, the north European, Siberian, and Far Eastern forests are important for their animal resources. Fur exports have long been an important source of hard currency (see Glossary). Although trapping continued to be widely practiced in the 1980s, fur farming, set up soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, accounted for most of the country's production of mink, sable, fox, and other fine furs.

One of the significant accomplishments of Soviet forestry has been the successful effort to restore and maintain production through reforestation of areas where overfelling had occurred. In 1986 alone, restoration work on 2.2 million hectares was completed, which included planting trees on 986,000 hectares. In the same year, nearly 1.7 million hectares of trees that had been planted as seedlings reached commercial maturity. In addition, some 109,000 hectares of shelterbelts were planted along gullies, ravines, sand dunes, and pastureland. This policy of conservation, in place for several decades, helped fight wind erosion and preserved soil moisture.

Data as of May 1989