Nature and Society in the Komi Republic of Russia

courtesy of Dr. Veronica Tarbaeva, Syktyvkar State University



Oxbow along the Sisola River near Syktyvkar.

Komi Republic of Russia:

The KR is situated on the European North-east of Russia. KR covers an area
equal to 416 thousand square km. It is about 3 times the size of the state
of Georgia, with a population now over 2 million people.  It borders on
the Perm, Kirov, Archangelsk regions, and to the east it restricted by
Ural mountains. Most of the KR is flat, excpet for the Timan range and the
Ural mountains. The Ural's highest point (Mt. Narodnaya)  is 1900 m.

The climate here is continental with long and rather severe winters and
short and cool summers. KR is subdivided into 3 climatic zones. The
northern part of the area is tundra (5% of total area) with permanently
frozen ground.  Vegetation consists mainly of mosses, lichens and marsh
weeds. Dwarf birch and willow occur in places, their branches spreading
low over the ground. A thick layer of snow protects them in winter against
the fierce winds.  The tundra is the home of countless numbers of lemmings
- small rodents that feed on grass roots.  These are hunted by arctic fox.
In spring flocks of wild geese, swans, ducks and other birds arrive. In
summer there are great swarms of gnats, mosquitoes and gadflies. Great
collective-farm herds of reindeer graze in the vast pastures. Their chief
diet is a lichen called "yagel". They dig up it from under the snow in
winter.  

The belt of forest-tundra is situated between tundra and taiga.  It is
included in the forest protected area. The main winter and spring-autumn
pastures of reindeers are concentrated there. The greatest part of KR is
taiga (boreal forest) (89% of total area).  There are many peat bogs, pine
and spruce forests, and in some places fir forests.  8 coniferous species
and 20 deciduous species are distributed there. They are very cold
tolerant.  Aspen, birch, rowan tree, bird cherry and willow grow mostly on
the river banks.  There is a great diversity of animal life in the taiga.
It is the home of various fur-bearing animals:  squirrel, hare, fox, bear,
wolf. Of the large plant-eating animals the elk is most common.  There are
many forest birds as well:  black grouse, wood grouse, hazelhen, ducks,
geese and ptarmigan. 

 The southern part of the taiga is the mixed and deciduous forest belts. 
Here the climate is rather wet. Summers are warm. Animal life here is
common with taiga. But we can add lynx, boar, roe and stag. The main
rivers are Pechora and Vychegda, which are navigable in summer.  Rivers of
KR are rich in fish: salmon, omul, siberian whitefish.

 The KR is famous for its mineral resources, which include all elements of
Mendeleev's periodic table. It is rich in mineral resources and timber. 
Coal, oil, natural gas, shists, asphaltite, titanium, titanium, ores,
boxites, rock salt created a highly developed industry. In KR there are
largest natural reservations Pechora-Ilych Reserve and Yougyd-Va National
Park. They have 2,500,000 ha of pristine boreal forest. They are one of
the very last untouched areas of Europe where natural dynamics still shape
the forests. Yougyd-Va National Park is included by UNESCO in the list of
world legacy. Many ecologists from different parts of the world come to
these preservations to see virgin forests and many rare plants. 

Population:

Many centuries ago the Komis, a small people, whose language is related to
the Magyar (Hungarian), Finnish, Karelian and Estonian group of the
Finno-Ugric language family, settled on the banks of the mighty Pechora,
the beautiful Vychegda and tranquil Mesen.  The original home of all
people speaking Finno-Ugrian languages was in the first opinion, in the
region between the Ural Mountains and the Baltic. A more recent theory
proposes that the ancient homeland might have been at the northern end of
the Urals at the upper and middle reaches of the river Ob.  Now in the KR
there are 37% Komi people, but 50% of them live in Syktyvkar, the capital
of the KR. There are also many different nationalities of the former USSR.
A large percentage is Russian people.  For example, the president of KR
Uriy Spiridonov is Russian. He is a geologist.  Syktyvkar is the oldest
town in KR, and is its administrative, economic and cultural centre.  It
is situated on the bank of the Sysola river, flowing amid the woodlands.
The nearby forests offer opportunities for pleasant walks or excursions in
summer and for skiing in winter. In autumn they are rich in mushrooms and
berries. About 270,000 people live in the town at present.

Ust-Sysolsk is the old name of the town. Ust means the mouth of Sysola
river, which is the confluence with the Vychegda river. Ust-Sysolsk was
mentioned in written documents as far back as in 1587. In 1780 Ust-Sysolsk
was given the status of a town. In 1930 Ust-Sysolsk was given a Komi name
of Syktyvkar which means "a town on the Sysola river." At present
Syktyvkar is divided into 2 parts: administrative and industrial zone,
named Azh-wa ("clean water").  In the second part there is the large
Syktyvkar industrial timber complex. It produces paper and different wood
products. Cultural life of the town is many-sided and diverse. There are 2
theatres:  Komi Drama Theatre and the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, a
concert hall, museums, libraries, sport complexes and swimming pools.

In Syktyvkar the education and science is greatly developed. There are the
Komi Science Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences with 6 research
institutes, Syktyvkar State University (SSU), Komi Pedagogical Institute,
Forest Institute and many branches of different universities of Moscow and
St. Petersburg, many colleges, schools, kindergartens, 10 gymnasiums for
talented children, highest school attached to SSU and so on.  In the KR
there are also several industrial towns.  Ukhta is the center of oil and
natural gas industry of KR. Gas from Ukhta is used in Moscow, St.
Petersburg, Riga and another places. In the boundless Bolshezemelskaya
Tundra, not far from the Arctic Ocean, there is the town of miners and
builders. The polar city Vorkuta stands on coal, and the people who
extract it are really wonderful. The towns Inta and Pechora are also
industrial. Thus, coking and industrial coals, oil and oil products,
natural gas and gas soot, timber and sawn-timber, plywood, cellulose and
paper, furniture, building material - these are only some of the items of
Komi's modern industry.


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