Russia's shift toward a market economy in the post-Soviet era has presented a series of challenges. The country has worked to strengthen its role in world trade, increase agricultural production, and provide more jobs for its workers. Modern-day Russia has inherited the results of shortsighted economic development during the Soviet era, which resulted in large-scale damage to the environment. It is still struggling to find a way to balance its needs for economic growth with the preservation of its environment.
Living in Russia Under the Soviet command economy, the government owned factories, farms, mines, and transportation systems; controlled the rate of production; and insured that most people were employed. The emphasis on heavy industry, however, meant that everyday consumer goods were often unavailable. Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev introduced reforms in the 1980s that guided Russia towards a free market economy, but the country continues to struggle. In the 1990s, Russia attempted to modernize farm production and open up its industries to foreign investors. Railroads and waterways continue to provide the most efficient means to transport goods across the vast country. People also continue to rely on public transportation, although car ownership is increasing. The absence of state controls in communications has led to a greater diversity and availability of mass media. In this new era of global interdependence, Russia has worked to strengthen its ties with regional and world trade networks.
People and Their Environment The Soviet Union's disregard for the environment produced grave consequences for Russians today. Industrial sewage and fertilizer runoff from farms polluted lakes and rivers. Pesticides and radioactive materials contaminated the soil. Auto and industrial emissions contributed to high rates of air pollution. Moreover, in 1986 a fire in a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, released tons of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Because of prevailing winds, this radiation eventually even reached neighboring countries. In recent years, Russia had worked to correct some of these problems by managing its forests more effectively, reducing water pollution levels, and improving safety standards in its nuclear power plants.