Saratov Oblast

Saratov Oblast
   Straddling the Volga River, the Saratov Oblast shares an international border with Kazakhstan and internal borders with Volgograd, Voronezh, Tambov, Penza, Ulyanovsk, and Samara; it is adjacent to Orenburg Oblast. The oblast forms part of the Volga Economic Region and Federal District. The regional capital, Saratov (pop. 873,000), is a major port located on the western bank of the Volga; once a closed city, it is now a major academic, scientific, and industrial center of southern Russia. Saratov Oblast includes areas that once comprised the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (1924–1941), including its old capital, Engels; however, the region’s ethnic Germans have, for the most part, been permanently resettled elsewhere in the former Soviet Union or repatriated to Germany.
   The region covers an area of 100,200 square kilometers of mountainous territory in the west and steppe land in the east. Out of a total population of 2.7 million, ethnic Russians account for 86 percent of all inhabitants; other national minorities include Kazakhs (3 percent), Ukrainians (2.5 percent), and Tatars (2 percent). The region has long been a center of agricultural activity, owing to the centuries of settlement of skilled farmers from Europe, particularly Germany. Today, Saratov is a major producer of wheat, as well as rye, sunflowers, sugar beets, and meat. However, industrialization, which began in the late 19th century, has endowed the region with oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and numerous mechanical engineering factories.
   During the Cold War, Saratov Oblast was a major producer of chemical weapons; in 2002, federal authorities opened a chemical weapons destruction plant at Gorny. The first person in space, Yury Gagarin, studied in the region and landed there upon his return from space; the oblast remains an important center for aerospace research and development. There is low unemployment in the region, and a large number of small businesses. Exports from the region totaled $2.4 billion in 2008; major foreign trade partners include Turkey, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States. The largest companies in the region are Saratov Refinery, Balakovo Mineral Fertilizers, and Lukoil-Neftekhim.
   During the 1990s, the Yeltsin gubernatorial appointee Dmitry Ayatskov introduced significant reforms in the agricultural and industrial sectors of the regional economy, including passing one of Russia’s first laws on land privatization. He also backed the legalization of prostitution. During the 1990s, Ayatskov developed close ties with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and signed a number of bilateral agreements with the region. His popularity began to wane after his 2000 reelection as governor. In 2004, charges of misappropriation of funds were brought against him, forcing a leave of absence. In 2005, he was replaced by Pavel Ipatov, a director of a nuclear energy plant and a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Ayatskov has since moved to develop closer relations with Belarus. Ironically, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko blocked the appointment of Ayatskov as ambassador to Minsk in 2005 after the former Saratov governor made light of Belarusian sovereignty vis-àvis Russia.
   See also Corruption; Space program; Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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  • Saratov Oblast — ( ru. Саратовская область, Saratovskaya oblast ) is a federal subject of Russia (an oblast), located in the Volga Federal District. Its administrative center is the city of Saratov. Major cities include Balakovo (pop. 200,600 as of 2002) and… …   Wikipedia

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  • Saratov — (audio ru|Саратов|Ru Saratov.ogg) is a major city in southern Russia. It is the administrative center of Saratov Oblast and a major port on the Volga River. Population: ru census|p2002=873055|p1989=904643 In addition to ethnic Russians, the city… …   Wikipedia

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