Following the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia economy underwent serious meltdown in 1998. Since this time, however, it expanded its gross domestic product (GDP) by soaring energy exports. Its vast Arctic and sub-Arctic wildernesses contain huge and relatively unexploited reserves of oil, gas, coal, minerals, and other strategic resources. Extraction of these riches has been the mainstay of the Russian economy since czarist times, and after the turmoil of the 1990s the sector is again becoming the main engine of growth.
Yet rising resource extraction and exploration threaten the survival of a different sort of natural wealth. In addition to being rich in fossil energy sources, Russia is home to 20 percent of the world’s remaining boreal (sub-Arctic coniferous) forests as well as the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume, Lake Baikal, which contains unique and fragile ecosystems. Environmental exploitation and degradations are on the rise as billions of dollars in foreign and domestic investment and government subsidies are poured into resource development.
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