Given Russia’s vast size and harsh climate, the country’s transportation system is integral to the country’s economic development and settlement patterns. Shaped both by tsarist and Soviet political considerations, the Russian Federation’s network of roads, railways, shipping channels, and air links bears a strong imperial legacy. The Russian military continues to maintain a pivotal role in the development of the country’s transportation links, which are considered vital to national security. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, federal subsidization of the transportation network has significantly decreased, resulting in substandard conditions in many parts of the country, particularly the North Caucasus, the Far North, and the Russian Far East.
   Because of the harsh climate (especially in the Far North), Russia has far fewer roads per square kilometer than other industrialized countries, even in densely populated areas. Although Russia is much larger than the United States, its 1 million kilometers of roads equal less than one-sixth of the U.S.’s, with many being unpaved or dedicated to industrial or military use. This has resulted in critical levels of traffic congestion, particularly in Moscow.
   Safety is also a major issue. Road deaths average well over 30,000 per year, roughly equal to that of the entire European Union, though the Russian Federation has less than one-third of the EU’s population; a Russian is 10 times more likely to die in an automobile accident than a citizen of Germany. Average Russians’ frustration with the situation on the roads has often resulted in social tension, and represents an area where civil society has made an impact on the government. The federal government maintains a system of highways across European Russia and the southern periphery of Siberia and the Russian Far East; with the exception of the M56 Kolyma Highway, colloquially known as the “Road of Bones,” these roads link together Russia’s largest cities. Russian suffers from high mortality because of road accidents: in 2009, President Dmitry Medvyedev launched a series of government-sponsored programs aimed at improving traffic control in Russia.
   Russia’s railway network, however, is particularly well developed, though it is in need of maintenance and investment. The Soviet emphasis on heavy industry resulted in the building of a complex rail network connecting the country’s agricultural and industrial regions to its population centers. Proximity to rail lines emerged as a vital factor in determining demographic patterns outside the European core of Russia; the Trans-Siberian Railway, in particular, has shaped the development of Asiatic Russia. While cargo is the focus of most rail traffic, trains continue to dominate domestic travel among Russia’s citizenry. Overall, the country has more than 150,000 kilometers of rail lines, though less than 100,000 kilometers are for public use. The national railroad monopoly is managed by Russian Railways (Rossiiskie zheleznye dorogi).
   During the Soviet period, air travel fell under the monopoly of Aeroflot. Today, a number of competing companies operate flights between Russia’s more than 1,200 regional airports. Certain remote regions in Siberia and northeastern Eurasia remain accessible only via air. Since the late 1980s, international flights have increased dramatically, owing to the Kremlin’s abandonment of restrictions on overseas travel and increasing openness to foreign tourists and business travelers.
   Russia has more than 100,000 kilometers of inland waterways, which link the country’s many rivers, lakes, and reservoirs to the Baltic, Black, and Caspian seas via an impressive system of man-made canals. Further connecting Russia’s shipping industry to the outside world are the important port cities of St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, the Arctic port of Murmansk, and the Pacific Rim city of Vladivostok.
   Intracity public transportation in Russia depends on the minibus (marshrutka), which is relatively cheap and convenient, if sometimes uncomfortable and unsafe. Standard buses and trams fell out of use with the collapse of the public transportation system in the 1990s. Only seven cities have underground metro systems: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Samara, and Kazan; the newest is Kazan, which opened in 2005. Moscow’s metro system is the world’s second most traveled on a daily basis. Public transportation remains highly subsidized in the Russian Federation, a lingering aspect of the socialist system. However, privatization and economic reform during the 1990s led to a reduction of state control over the sector.
   See also Gulag.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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