Russia Transport and Communications
Both in the European sector and in the Asian one, the road network in the USSR is absolutely unequal to the needs of the country, not only because it is still too sparse and poorly distributed, but above all because of its deficient maintenance. On the contrary, when we disregard the few roads of great communication, which the Tsarist regime built above all for strategic needs, and those that unite the vital ganglîs of the state, there are essentially natural carriageways, left as a rule in almost absolute abandonment and mostly impassable during the rainy season and the melting of snows. Of the 1.3 million km. of roads that make up the Russian network, just 3.1% are represented by fully settled rolling stock, so that many of the most populous urban centers are often isolated from each other, given that the condition of the cart tracks does not allow, for sometimes even long periods, the use of vehicles. The conditions improve somewhat in the territories of the western border, and in the median region that is centered in Moscow, where the road network becomes even more dense; on the other hand, they worsen both in the far north and in southern Russia, where the need for convenient road communications is becoming more and more imperative for the rapid development of industries.
On the other hand, the USSR has an excellent navigable water system, which in many cases replaces roads and measures a total of no less than 160,000 km., Of which about 5 consist of canals. For a long time, indeed, the transport of many of the commodities (timber, coal, cereals, oil) did not take place except on these routes, and still continues to be conspicuously there, as well as for lack of rolling stock, for convenience. economic. Around 60,000 km of this network fall within the European sector. (including 2000 of channels – to 30 thousand kilometers. used by watercraft; most of the European network 1 / 3 belongs to the Volga alone), represented however by the rivers of greatest importance for traffic. The predominantly meridian direction of these allows easy exchanges between economically different regions, while the watercourses pertaining to the upper basins of the Volga and Dvina, also drawing from O. to E. (or vice versa), put one in communication with the other, by means of canals, all four seas to which the European rivers channel their waters. Navigability is nevertheless limited by some conditions that cannot be eliminated: the more or less long period of winter frost (from a minimum of three months for the Dnieper to Cherson, to a maximum of almost 8 for the Pečora in Pustozersk; on the Volga it has been going for over 5 and a half months in its upper course to just over three in Astrakhan;/ 2 -month closed the mouth of the Don, 4 1 / 2 the Daugava, on average; 5 the Neva and the Ural in Oremburg; 6 1 / 2 the Northern Dvina to Arcangelo), the variations of the flow, the instability of the riverbeds, etc.; with all this, river traffic in Russia takes on an importance that is hardly comparable with that found in other regions of Europe, also because most of the waterways are not followed by railways. The relative fleet in 1930 counted about 3400 steamers and 10 thousand barges, for a total tonnage of 4.3 million tonnes, which indicates a significant contraction compared to the pre-war period (5500 steamers and 24 thousand barges for a tonnage of 13, 4 million tons in 1913).
Up to now, little has been done, with regard to the width of the network, to favor and regulate traffic on rivers and lakes with works to correct the riverbeds, and the canals themselves are partly outdated or even useless. Of the channels, the greatest number belongs to the districts close to the Baltic, which they connect on one side to the Ice Sea (Ladoga-Svir′-Onega-can. Maria-Suchona-Dvina), on the other with the Black Sea through the Volga (as well as with the Maria channel, the Tikhvin channel and the Mologa, or the Vyšnij Voloček channel, which uses Volkhov and Msta): very recent, in this district, the construction of the Stalin channel, intended to connect the Gulf of Finland with the White Sea for the L. Onega and the Wave. The Volga is then in turn connected with the Glacial Sea through the Kama and the Dvina (Catherine channel); on the other hand, the connections that allow the passage by water to the Black Sea are completely inadequate; the Dnieper is linked to the Daugava (Berezina canal) and to the Polish rivers (Vistula and Niemen), but as for the rivers of southern Russia an easy mutual connection is still to be achieved: although Don and Volga are not distinguishable, at the Stalingrad elbow, more than 55 km., the transit by river, from one to the other, cannot take place except through the long Oka-Upa loop.
Even more than for ordinary roads, irregularities and disharmony of distribution are evident in Russia for the railways. Overall, the USSR rail network measured 77,631 km. (of which more than 2 / 3 in the European sector) at the end of 1930 (74,351 in 1913), which is equivalent to more than three and a half times the Italian mileage (0.4 km. 100 sq km of each line. and 5.2 every 10 thousand residents, against 7.4 and 5.5 in Italy), but while in central and southern Russia there are approximately 25-30 km. of lines every 10 thousand sq. km., in the lower Volga region it goes down to just 9 km., and territories wider than Italy are in northern Russia completely devoid of railways. The standard gauge which affects about 9 / 10 of the network is m. 1,524 m (compared to 1,435 m of the European one), but a good part of the secondary lines are built on smaller gauges (1,067 m; 0,896 m; 0,750 m and 0,666 m), whose promiscuity, suggested by military reasons, it is a significant impediment to communications and traffic. The overall radial arrangement of the European network is mainly due to military reasons, which is headed by Leningrad and especially Moscow, which has also become by far the most important railway center of the USSR Only in the last times of the Tsarist regime on the links a certain number of transversal lines were added to that network, intended for the development of local traffic, but in essence the overall picture of railway communications has changed little over the last twenty-five years, with the exception of the western sector, where the new borders have more or less decisively altered the pre-war conditions, and in part for Ukraine, which has undoubtedly benefited, in this respect, its administrative autonomy (currently it is, in the USSR , the unit best equipped with railways). Given the morphology of the Russian territory, the construction and operation of the lines do not present difficulties here comparable to those that have had to be faced in other European regions; nevertheless, the country’s economy has lacked, at least so far, the drive for an increase in harmony with the country’s possibilities and needs. If we add to this the consequences of the world war and the revolutionary crisis, which have not failed to be reflected in the diminished efficiency of services.
More comforting is the examination of maritime traffic, for which the figures of the pre-war period have been exceeded (48.2 million tons in total, in 1931, against 44.4 in 1913 for the total tonnage of ships arriving and departing from all ports of the USSR), which is all the more remarkable, since Russia lost a good number of ports on the Baltic in the World War, without even being able to rebuild its merchant fleet. In contrast to the 747 steamers of 1913, totaling 852 thousand tons, the figures of 1931 record just 383 steamers for 604 thousand tons. Foreign trade is therefore carried out almost entirely on foreign ships; in the export sector, Soviet shipping has loaded less than 10% on average in the last decade (13.7% in the decade 1904-14). The proportion varies over the four seas; from a minimum of 0.3 for the Black Sea it goes up to 25% for the Baltic. Only on the Caspian is the dominion of the Russian flag unchallenged. The Black Sea is the one on which maritime trade with Russia appears most active today, which must be related to the intense industrialization not only of Ukraine, which it also served before its outlet, but of the rich Caucasus region. However, better port equipment has helped to intensify traffic, which is now based on the criterion of specialization, also applied to other areas: next to Odessa (which remains at the head of all the ports of the USSR), Rostov and Taganrog, mainly Mariupol ′, Tuapse and Batum are developed, destined for export, the first of the Donec coal, the other two (outside the European sector) of Caucasian naphtha. Leningrad has seen the activity previously split in at least a dozen other locations in the Baltic concentrated in its port, and is one of the strongest exporters of timber in Northern Europe. The development of the ports of the Ice Sea, Murmansk and Archangel was rapid, to which a new emporium for the export of timber in the bay of Indiga will soon be added.
Finally, we must not forget the recent impulse given in Russia to air communications; very opportune in a state such as the USSR The length of the lines in operation in 1933 reached about 50 thousand km., thirty times the figures of 1923. Parallel was the increase in the number of passengers, which was around 40 thousand on the same date (1500 tons of goods, mail and baggage). The European lines all center in Moscow; Naturally, however, the maximum extension of the system concerns the Asian sector.