Due to its sheer size and bicontinental geography, Russia’s climate runs to the extremes; however, it is largely continental in nature, with hot summers and long, snowy winters. Autumn and spring are rather brief, both featuring periods of rasputitsa (quagmire season), characterized by rapid rainfalls and melting of the ground snow, that make many roads impassable. Russia’s harsh winter weather has historical relevance, stymieing invasions by both Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany. Summers in the European part of Russia are very warm and beautiful with plenty of sunshine and long balmy evenings. In the summer, many Russians move out to the countryside to enjoy the delights of rural and dacha life. There are numerous resorts, especially near rivers and lakes, where Russians spend their summer holidays.
   The record low temperature is –71° Celsius, recorded in 1974 in the Far North; this is the lowest recorded temperature in any inhabited portion of the globe. In most of European Russia, the average yearly temperature is just below freezing, while in Siberia, the average is much lower. Russia’s large mountain ranges, as well as the Himalayas, tend to block moderating climate patterns from the Indian and Pacific oceans. Unlike most of northern Europe, Russia is too far to the east to benefit from the warming influence of the North Atlantic Current. Unfortunately, the north-south axis of the Ural Mountains does little to protect the country from weather patterns originating in the Arctic Ocean. Exceptional climatic zones include the maritime climate of the Baltic exclave Kaliningrad, small subtropical areas around the Black Sea, the tundra in Russia’s Far North, and the monsoonal climate of the Russian Far East.
   During the winter, railways and other transportation routes in Siberia use frozen rivers and lakes, due to the dependability of the cold conditions. In the Far North, many edifices are built directly on the permafrost. At the northern latitudes, the lack of sunlight, long nights, and cold temperatures require increased demands for health care and energy; during the Soviet era, much of this was subsidized by the state, but since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, life in these regions has become more difficult and many Russians have quit the north, heading to Moscow, St. Petersburg, or southern Russia. The exception is regions where hydrocarbon and mineral exploitation allows for higher wages, such as Khantiya-Mansiya and Sakha. Precipitation in Russia is comparatively low; this is especially the case along the Arctic Ocean coastline and the semiarid steppe zones near the 6,500-kilometer-long Kazakhstan border.
   The climate’s influence on agriculture is profound; in much of the northern half of the country, the taiga dominates, preventing most forms of traditional agriculture. As a result, animal husbandry, particularly reindeer herding, remains a traditional occupation. In the southern reaches of Russia, chernozem and other fertile soils are common, which, combined with the region’s ample summertime sunshine, produce grains, potatoes, and vegetables in large quantities. Russia’s citrus and other warm-weather crops are produced in a relatively compact area in and around the North Caucasus.
   See also Rural life.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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