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Central Asia: Geography, Culture and Economy Essay

Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of area covered. The gigantic size of this country has made it exhibit monotony and diversity in its physical and human geography. The eastern plains of Russia from north to south are covered sequentially by tundra, taiga or coniferous forests, mixed forests with trees that have characteristic broad leaves, steppe or grasslands and a semi desert on the fringes of the Caspian Sea. These changes in vegetation are mainly as a result of climate changes. The eastern European plain covers most of European Russia.

The western Siberian plain is the largest plain in the world, and stretches from the Urals to Yenisei River (Rowntree, 2011). The topography and vegetation is usually very uniform in the natural zones. Russia therefore presents a delusion of uniformity. Most of the major vegetation zones of the world are found in Russia except tropical rain forest (Rowntree, 2011). Nearly 11 % of Russia is tundra. This type of vegetation is tree-less and is found in the north most part of Russia extending from the border with Finland in the west to the Bering Strait to the east.

This stretch the covers from Kamchatka peninsula in the north to the Pacific coast in the south. The taiga is the vastest natural region in Russia. Covers eastern Russia and western Siberia plains to the north and accounts for 60% of Russia (Rowntree, 2011). Very few tracts of land in the taiga are agriculturally viable. Those suitable for farming are located in the European fraction of Russia. The taiga is however the world’s biggest reserve of coniferous forests. A large section of the mixed forest has been cleared for agricultural purposes due to its agriculture potential.

This is especially in Eastern Europe. The steppe is also favorable for agriculture due to modest temperatures and sufficient amount of sunshine and moisture. However, the area is at times adversely affected by excess rainfall and disastrous drought and very dry soils (Rowntree, 2011). There has been established a linkage between poor health and obliteration of ecosystems in Russia. Environmental degradation control measures who normally ignored in Russia till the 1990s when the government realized a vast area of the country was under ecological stress.

The three major adverse environment conditions in Russia include; the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl – Ukraine in 1986, aridity of the Aral Sea and irradiation of northern Kazakhstan which is a nuclear testing site (Rowntree, 2011). The cost of rectifying these three events is by far more than the cost of any mitigation efforts else where in the world. Currently nearly 85% of the air in urban Russia is polluted. About 75% of the surface water in Russia is also polluted. Most of the rivers in Russia are agents of waterborne diseases.

Nearly 80 million hectares of farm land in Russia has been exposed to industrial toxics, pesticides and other chemicals (Rowntree, 2011). Most of the forests in Russia have also been affected by acid rain from the European and Siberian industries. Radioactive contamination of the water has spread to the Japanese sea resulting into a conflict between the two countries. Indigenous people are currently faced with a tremendous crisis with the dawn of globalization. They are faced with extinction, survival or renewal in a continuously globalizing world.

These communities lack a voice and are easily cleared by market forces (Rowntree, 2011). Globalization is therefore not only a marginalization factor for the indigenous communities, but a threat to their very existence. Indigenous people are normally found in the world’s most pristine areas which are most sought after by developers. Such areas are rich in forests, minerals among other valuable natural resources. New technological advances are also alienating the native communities (Rowntree, 2011). Global economic agreements have also contributed to the demise of hunters and gatherers.

Finally, most indigenous people have ended up being displaced to pave way for activities such as mining and dam construction (Rowntree, 2011). Most governments do not consult the native communities when making decision concerning international trade. These communities are a rich reserve of indigenous knowledge and culture which are vital in the preservation of the natural world (Rowntree, 2011). Hard access to the coast does not necessarily obstruct trade and industry development on developing nations. Nonetheless, developing countries, which lack access to the sea, record reduced trade expansion,

Europe being the only exemption to this occurrence. Being land locked has a major negative impact on trade thus affecting the country’s economy (Rowntree, 2011). Land -lockedness is estimated to reduce trade by about 80%. The distance between a landlocked country and the nearest port is a major factor affecting trade level disparities among landlocked countries. This is a reason why most of central Asia countries are economically affected by their geographic location compared to land locked nations in Europe whose distance is shorter compared to those in central Asia (Rowntree, 2011).

For instance, Switzerland and Austria are more advantaged compared to land locked countries in central Asia because these countries lack the bargaining power for reduced transit costs (Rowntree, 2012). Compared to land locked countries in Europe, those in central Asia are remotely located from major world markets. Central Asia is divided into three major zones physically. These are; northern belt steppes (north of Caspian sea, Dzungaria and Tarim basin), southern belt, south of Aral sea (Khorezm, Amu Darya) and north east Iran desert (Khorasan and Margiana) (Rowntree, 2011).

Islam is the major religion in central Asia with most of them being Sunni. Initially Zoroastrianism was the major religion. It had roots in Afghanistan. Buddhism was also common before arrival of Islam. Among the Turkic people, Tengriansim was more common before Islam was introduced. In Mongolia, the most common religion is Tibetan Buddhism. In this region shamanism is also common. A form of Christianity called Nestoriansm was commonly practiced in central Asia. Russian is the most common language in this region.

However, mandarin Chinese is also common in Mongolia (Rowntree, 2011). Turkmen is mainly spoken by former Soviet Union central Asia nations. Other languages include Tibetan language spoken in the Tibet plateau. Central Asia is also at the cross road of shamantic and Buddhism practices. There is also a form of oral poetry chiefly practiced in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Photography is also common in former Soviet Union nations such as Uzbekistan due to the influence of Russia. Other forms of arts include Manas which is a style of singing in Kyrgyzstan (Rowntree, 2011).

Among the five major nations in central Asia, Kazakhstan is the most economically empowered followed by Turkmenistan. The poorest of these nations is Kyrgyzstan with a gross domestic product per capita of $850. Economic progress has been held back by the fact that this region is negatively affected by external influences and has for time served as a battle ground for world powers. Despite its rich natural resources, the region in general has not been able to exert its control on these resources (Rowntree, 2011).

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