Volgograd Oblast

   An administrative region of the Russian Federation. The Volgograd Oblast is located in southern European Russia on the border with Kazakhstan. It shares internal borders with Astrakhan, Kalmykiya, Rostov, Voronezh, and Saratov. It forms part of the Volga Economic Region and the Southern Federal District. Naturally, the Volga River is the region’s most important waterway, but the oblast also includes the Volga-Don Canal, portions of the Don River, and much of the Tsimlyansk Reservoir. Volgograd is thus a key part of the Unified Deep Water System of European Russia connecting the Caspian Sea to the Sea of Azov, and thus the world’s oceans.
   The oblast covers an area of 113,900 square kilometers, and its topography ranges from chernozem in the west to dry steppe in the east. The region has a population of 2.9 million; ethnic Russians make up 89 percent of the population, and the largest minorities are Ukrainians (3 percent), Kazakhs (1.7 percent), and Tatars (1 percent).
   The regional capital is the important industrial city and transportation hub of Volgograd (pop. 1 million). From 1925 until 1961, it bore the name Stalingrad, and was known as Tsaritsyn prior to the 1920s. While there is strong local support for a restoration of the World War II–era name of both the city and the region among the local populace, Vladimir Putin effectively killed the plan with a televised statement in 2002. The city witnessed one of the fiercest battles of World War II, with upward of 2 million casualties; the Soviet victory in 1943 is recognized as the turning point in the campaign against the Axis Powers. The heights outside the city, known as Mamayev Kurgan, host a monument to the defense of Stalingrad. At 82 meters, “The Motherland Calls” was the world’s tallest memorial when it was erected in 1967. Other important urban areas include Volzhsky and Kamyshin.
   Given its comparatively warm climate, Volgograd is an important producer of a number of agricultural products including sunflowers, fruits, and mustard; it produces enough grain to export abroad. The region boasts significant mineral wealth including oil, natural gas, clay, limestone, and mineral water. The well-developed industrial base is focused on heavy equipment manufacturing (drilling, energy extraction, farm machinery, etc.), defense, shipbuilding, energy production, plastics, construction, and oil refining. Textiles, animal husbandry, forestry, woodworking, and food processing are also important. In the mid-1990s, the region ceased to function as a donor region due to an overdependence on heavy industry; however, the regional finances are far from bleak.
   The old nomenklatura> maintained a hold on the regional administration during the Yeltsin era, resulting in high levels of protectionism and subsidies. The region earned the nickname of the “buckle” of the Red Belt for its allegiance to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). In 1996, Nikolay Maksyuta, a KPRF candidate, chairman of the Volgograd City Duma, and local son, won the governorship. He worked to develop warm relations with the federal center and regional business interests, resulting in criticism from his own party. Despite this, he was able to hold off a challenge from Volgograd mayor Yury Chekov in the 1999 elections. In 2000, Maksyuta took a strong stance against neofascists in the region when skinheads attacked a group of Indian medical students. He became a staunch supporter of Putin and was reelected in 2004. In recent years, Maksyuta has cut administrative spending in the region and overseen a dramatic increase in foreign trade with Germany. However, he has been identified as one of the governors most likely to be removed in the future by the new president, Dmitry Medvyedev.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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