Sverdlovsk Oblast

   An administrative region of the Russian Federation. Lying on the eastern slope of the Urals, Sverdlovsk Oblast is a mineral-rich region with a strong sense of identity. Sverdlovsk is bordered by Komi, Khantiya-Mansiya, Tyumen, Kurgan, Chelyabinsk, Bashkortostan, and Perm. The oblast is part of the Urals Federal District and Economic Region. It has a population of 4.8 million and covers an area of 194,800 square kilometers. The topography consists of mountains in the west and taiga in the east. Ethnic Russians account for 90 percent of the population with Tatars being the largest minority in the region. The regional capital, Yekaterinburg (pop. 1.3 million), is Russia’s fifth-largest city; Yekaterinburg saw the restoration of its historical name in 1991 after more than 60 years as Sverdlovsk.
   The region is one of only a handful of oblasts that does not share its name with its regional capital. The city’s name lives in infamy as the site of the execution of the last members of the Romanov dynasty. The city is home to the Uralmash, one of the Soviet Union’s largest manufacturing plants. Since 1996, the plant has been part of OMZ (Uralmash-Izhora Group), Russia’s largest heavy industry company. Sverdlovsk is one of Russia’s wealthier regions, and has exceptional economic potential. Other cities include Nizhny-Tagil, Kamensk-Uralsky, Pervouralsk, and Serov. The oblast is heavily forested and has nearly 20,000 rivers (the Ob and the Kama being the largest), allowing for both forestry and hydroelectric power. Reserves of oil and natural gas have both been located in the region. Raw materials for the construction industry abound, as do deposits of gold, platinum, and other rare metals, making mining a key sector of the regional economy. Key industries include power generation (including nuclear energy), engineering, steel production, chemicals, and the manufacture of turbines, generators, and other industrial equipment.
   The region possesses a well-developed banking and financial industry. Sverdlovsk has been able to attract significant amounts of foreign investment since 1991, including from Philips, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Ford, Audi, and Volvo.
   Sverdlovsk’s population is highly educated and the region has a long history of scientific research and development; plans are currently under way to develop a so-called Big Eurasian University that will attract talented students and academics from across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The region, which straddles the divide between Europe and Asia, is a key transportation hub with the CIS; the international airport has connections to Finland, Germany, Great Britain, and other countries in the far abroad.
   In January 1996, Sverdlovsk was the first ethnically Russian region to sign a bilateral treaty with the federal government. The agreement allowed the region to establish direct relations with the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Finance without going through federal authorities in Moscow, though these contacts were later terminated under Vladimir Putin’s vertical of power. Sverdlovsk took the lead among the non-ethnic republics in assuming sovereignty from the center in the early 1990s with its attempted self-redefinition as the Ural Republic (initially, the plan included six oblasts).
   The campaign was led by the regional administrator and later governor, Eduard Rossel, an ethnic German whose parents were both victims of the gulag. Rossel’s “Transformation of the Urals” movement outpaced, at least for a time, national political parties in terms of local support (though it failed to find favor outside Sverdlovsk). In the early 1990s, he was a supporter of Boris Yeltsin, a native of the region, but relations cooled over Rossel’s campaign for complete sovereignty. Yeltsin, however, eventually lauded Sverdlovsk’s autonomy as a model for establishing genuine federalism in the country. During the Putin administration, Rossel adopted a more pro-Kremlin stance and joined the United Russia party; he was reappointed by Putin in 2005. With the ascension of Dmitry Medvyedev, Rossel’s position became tenuous, though he was able to avoid the first round of gubernatorial purges in 2009.
   See also Education; Siberia.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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