The Urals, are a geographical region located around the Ural Mountains, between the East European and West Siberian plains. It extends approximately from north to south, from the Arctic Ocean to the bend of Ural River near Orsk city. The boundary between Europe and Asia runs along the eastern side of the Ural Mountains. Ural mostly lies within Russia but also includes a part of northwestern Kazakhstan. This is a historical, not an official entity, with the boundaries overlapping its western Volga and eastern Siberia neighbor regions. At points in time, parts of the Urals were considered a gateway to Siberia, if not Siberia itself, or were combined with the Volga administrative divisions. At present time, there are two official namesake entities, the Ural Federal District and the Ural economic region. While the latter follows the historical boundaries, the former is a political product; the District omits Western Urals and includes Western Siberia instead.
Length of the Ural mountains more than 2,500 miles - from the Arctic Ocean to Kazakhstan. Geographers have divided the Urals into five geographic zones: Arctic, Polar, North, Middle and South Urals. The highest mountain in the Polar Urals. Here, in the Polar Urals, is the highest mountain in the Urals - Mountain Narodnaya. But it is these northern regions of the Urals and the most remote underdeveloped.
Except for the polar and northern sections, the mountains are forested, and lumbering is an important industry. Urals has famous Virgin Komi Forests, which were included to the World Heritage List.
The great mineral resources of Russia are in the Urals. Iron ore is mined in the south, and there are rich deposits of coal, copper, manganese, gold, aluminium and potash. Oil fields and refineries along the Kama and Belaya rivers in the West Urals produce oil. Emeralds, chrysoberyl, topaz and amethyst are mined, as are deposits of bauxite, asbestos, zinc, lead, silver, platinum, nickel, chrome and tungsten. The Urals industrial area (c.290,000 sq mi/751,100 sq km), a major Russia metallurgical region, is in the central and South Urals and the adjacent lowlands. Huge industrial centers are found at Yekaterinburg, Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk, Perm, Berezniki, Nizhni Tagil, Orsk, Orenburg, Ufa, Miass and Zlatoust.
West and east foothills of Urals and neighbor plains often have deep river valleys. Urals has a lot of rivers and lakes. Several hundreds of ponds and water storage basins are created on rivers. The composition of mountains, forests, rivers and lakes makes Urals one of the most beautiful regions in Russia.
The historical center of the Urals is Cherdyn, nowadays it is the small town in Perm Krai. Perm was an administrative center of the gubernia with the same name by 1797. The most territory of historical and modern Ural was included in Perm gubernia. The administrative center of Urals was moved to Sverdlovsk (nowadays Yekaterinburg) after Revolution and Civil war. Nowadays Ural economic region does not have an administrative and informal capital, whereas Yekaterinburg is administrative center of the Ural Federal District.
The climate of Ural is continental. The ridges of the Ural Mountains are elongated from north to south, they effectively absorb sunlight thereby increasing the temperature. The areas west to the Ural Mountains are 1–2 °C warmer in winter than the eastern regions because the former are warmed by the Atlantic winds whereas the eastern slopes are chilled by the Siberian air masses. The average January temperatures increase in the western areas from –20 °C in the Polar to –15 °C in the Southern Urals and the corresponding temperatures in July are 10 °C and 20 °C. The western areas also received more rainfall than the eastern ones by 150–300 mm per year. The highest precipitation (1000 mm) is in the Northern Ural that causes the average height of snow up to 90 cm. The eastern parts receive from 500–600 mm on the north to 300–400 mm on the south.
Rivers and lakes
Most Ural rivers belong to the basin of the Arctic Ocean. They include Tobol, Iset, Tura, Pechora, Lozva and Severnaya Sosva Rivers. The southern rivers – Ural, Kama, Belaya and Chusovaya Rivers – belong to the Caspian Sea basin. Western rivers, especially north-western ones, are more affluent. They have high and long (2–3 months) floods in May–June (June–July in the Polar Ural). The south-eastern rivers are much narrower and may dry up in summer. Rivers are fed by melting snow and precipitations. The largest lakes are on the east of the Central and Southern Urals. They include Tawatui, Argazi, Uvildy and Turgoyak. The deepest lake (136 m) is Bolshoe Schuchye. Rivers and lakes are used as a water supply, transport routes and for waterlogging. Some rivers have dams forming the Kama and Votkinsk Reservoirs.