If one takes a casual glance at the Russian population census data, he or she would be astonished to find that a significant part of the Russian population is actually not concentrated west of the Urals but fairly spread out in its Siberia and Far East federal districts. This clearly doesn't make sense economically, as these locations are too inland and the rivers they are sitting on only flow into the Arctic oceans, so transportation relies almost solely on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which was built in the late 19th century.

As a hunch, this almost seems like some sort of planned colonization to me, with many cities of highly similar metallurgy/heavy equipment manufacturing industry as the base of the economy with a population around 100,000 to 1,000,000. To me, this almost feels like the original 13 colonies of colonial America. What was the historical reason behind this seemingly half-successful colonization? Why was Russia so insistent in putting people into its vast interior, where it was absolutely safe from enemy invasion and not worth invasion or even nuclear strikes anyway, as opposed to just establishing big military outposts and mining/oil towns like in Alaska?

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    Maybe you can describe more some assumptions. Even though Siberia had planned colonization (for example, industries moved during WWII michaeltfassbender.com/nonfiction/the-world-wars/big-picture/… and ) that explain your question, Siberia also has many natural resources as well. A human settlement not only needs to be a trade post well connected.
    – Santiago
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 14:28
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    Even some basic research will tell you that only 23% of population lives in Asia (eg very small part), which includes the original native population, too. From Wikipedia: “the Russian Far East one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world.” That being said Siberia is aboundant of natural resources, and Far East has strategic ports, fishing etc.
    – Greg
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 14:29
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    For reference, Siberia a population density of 2.7 people per sq. kilometer, which is about the same as Montana and half a person more than Wyoming.
    – Giter
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 14:57
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    Even before the war and the eastward move of critical production facilities, the Five-Year Plans were, indeed, planned industrialization.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 16:20
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    Humm... Denver, Alberquerque, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Reno... All well inland, and without navigable rivers. And while Wyoming may not have 5 million people, Arizona & Colorado do.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 18:54

2 Answers 2


There are two issues:

As to "how" the establishment of cities in Siberia came about, the Russian/Soviet governments paid much higher wages to workers living in those cities, plus (in the case of the Soviets) priority in getting living quarters west of the Urals in their old age.

As to "why," Russia wanted to establish control over large land areas and resources as a buffer zone against invasions, e.g. the Mongolians or Chinese from the east, or as an "escape hatch" from European invaders such as the Nazis.

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    Seems plausible but any sources or evidence to support this? Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 23:07
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    @LarsBosteen: I found, and linked a source (to the word, workers) that confirmed this. If you want to see more answers, will you cast the last vote to reopen?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 0:18
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    I already cast my vote to reopen (the 4th one)! Let's hope someone else comes along... Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 0:25
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    @TomAu Gotcha reopen vote, right here! #5 Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 2:06
  • @axsvl77: Thanks.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 4:58

Many can state that the population there can be considered more than it should logically be.

It doesn't make sense economically, but it does strategically.

Colonization and planned industrialization made sure that population does evolve in areas that are not strategically viable to be attacked and occupied like many border areas.

That is one of the reasons why any attacking army from Napoleon to WW2 did not manage to defeat them. It's one thing to invade and clean most of everything up to the Urals and it's an entirely different exponential resources requirement to cover all the land.

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    Sources would improve this answer; this reads as an argued opinion, rather than a researched answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 9:44
  • Why would the population east of the Urals be considered to be "more than it should logically be"? You have open, largely unpopulated lands: why would people not logically want to move there? Compare with the US west (excluding the Pacific Coast): much of it is desert or rugged mountains, yet a considerable number of people have moved there.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 19:25
  • Your comment does not make any sense. Move there to do what ? Most do not want to move to such areas no matter what country are you talking about. Take a look at the US geographical distribution: visualcapitalist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/… Half the population in the US lives in 5% of the space and another half the rest of 95%.
    – Overmind
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 6:36
  • @jamesqf a large part of the people who moved into Siberia in the late imperial and most of the Soviet eras were forced migrants. Internal exiles, convict labour, and the guards for them.
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 5:10
  • @Overmind: Well, that's half the population that wants to live in 95% of the space, no? And with the US, you also have the fact that a lot of the space in the intermountain west is desert, so population is limited to places where there's water. Not AFAIK an issue in most of Siberia. (And as as someone who does live in the 95% of the space, "to do what" includes hiking, skiing, climbing mountains, riding bikes or my horse...)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 18:05

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