Voronezh Oblast

   An administrative region of the Russian Federation. Situated within the heart of Russia’s “Black Earth” (chernozem) region, Voronezh Oblast borders the oblasts of Belgorod, Kursk, Lipetsk, Tambov, Saratov, and Volgograd. It also shares an international border with Ukraine. It is part of the Central Black Earth Economic Region and the Central Federal District. The oblast covers a territory of 52,400 square kilometers and has a population of 2.3 million. Ethnic Russians make up 94 percent of the population, with Ukrainians being the largest minority (3 percent). The regional capital, Voronezh (pop. 848,000), is located on the Voronezh River, some 12 kilometers from where it meets the Don.
   The city has been the site of a number of international incidents in recent years, including the killing of a Peruvian student in 2005 and the 2001 espionage accusations associated with an American student after his arrest for possession of marijuana. A number of UFO sightings in the late 1980s brought the city global attention. The city is home to Voronezh State University (formerly housed in Tartu, Estonia), one of the largest and oldest centers of learning in the country. Voronezh Oblast’s economy is diversified between industry, agriculture, and transportation. The region is an important gateway between Moscow and the North Caucasus, as well as parts of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The region accounts for nearly half of the agricultural output of the fertile chernozem region; crops include wheat, sunflowers, corn, and other sun-dependent produce. The region is also an important source of Russia’s sugar production. The Voronezh Agricultural Machinery Plant (Voronezhselmash) is the country’s leading maker of farm equipment. Airline manufacturing, chemicals, communications equipment, and rubber are also important local industries. While the region enjoys certain mineral resources necessary for the construction industry, it is comparatively poor in terms of energy resources and must import oil and natural gas.
   Part of Russia’s Red Belt during the 1990s, Voronezh was also known for its radical right-wing politics. In 1996, Ivan Shabanov, a Communist-backed critic of Boris Yeltsin with ties to extreme nationalists, won the governorship. A year later, members of Russian National Unity were patrolling the streets alongside regular police; the region proved to be a major recruiting ground for the ultranationalist organization in the late 1990s. Shabanov’s failure to combat corruption cost the Communists their dominance in the region and he lost his 2000 reelection bid to an FSB officer, Vladimir Kulakov, who also enjoyed the support of Vladimir Putin. Despite being selected by the Kremlin to bring stability to the region, Kulakov’s governance was unpopular and he failed to effectively manage local interests. His reforms soon resulted in social unrest, particularly over reductions of subsidies. In 2009, Dmitry Medvyedev chose not to reappoint him, instead backing Aleksey Goreyev, Russia’s minister of agriculture, for the spot. Kulakov’s dismissal was the first of four executive dismissals by the new president.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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