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The Urals or Ural Mountains are the heart of Eurasia. This is where Eastern Europe and Northern Asia are connected and divided by a chain of mountains stretching for 1,500 miles (2,400 km) north and south from the Arctic tundra to the deserts of the Caspian Sea. The polar section is covered by tundra. The central Urals known as the Ore Urals have many low passes. The southern section consists of several high, parallel ridges that rise to 5,377 feet (1,639 meters) in the Yaman-Tau. This region is drained by the Ural and Kama Rivers into the Caspian Sea.
The Urals is the second most populated area in the country and is made up primarily of Russians, with some Bashkirs, Tatars, Udmurts, and Komi-Permyaks. Known to medieval Russians as the Stone Belt, the Urals were reached in the early 12th century by colonists and fur traders from Novgorod. Colonization developed rapidly in the late 16th century. The first ironworks were established in the 1630s, and metallurgy was encouraged by Peter the Great. In the late 18th and early 19th century the Urals area was a major iron producer, but its relative importance declined in the late 19th century.
One of the unique features of the Urals is the spectrum of mineral resources found there. It proudly claims the existence of all known chemical elements on Earth. Iron ore is mined in the south, and there are rich deposits of coal, copper, gold. Oil fields and refineries along the Kama and Belaya rivers produce oil. Emeralds, chrysoberyl, topaz, and amethyst are mined, as are deposits of bauxite, zinc, lead, silver, platinum, nickel. The proximity and easy access to natural resources, combined with the impact of the massive evacuation during WWII of heavy industry from the war front to areas further east, led to today's dense industrial life with busy cities and hard-working people.
This area provides great opportunities to get out and enjoy nature by camping, hiking or rafting.
The southern Urals, stretching from the valley of the Ural River near the city of Orsk to the valley of the Ufa River north of Mount Yurma, are the widest. The eastern slopes are characterized by forest-steppe with numerous lakes, while the western slopes are characterized by karst regions and a forest zone up to a height of about 1200 metres. The southern part is mostly steppe.
The southern region of the Urals is densely populated. It has a well-developed railway, auto transport, and communication system. In the southern Urals there are several national reserves - among them Bashkirskii Nature Reserve with the well-known cave “Capova” and Mineralogical Ilmenskii Reserve. The southern Urals are very popular among tourists (rafting) because of the many ideal rivers and a very convenient transport infrastructure.
The Urals have long supplied Russia with locally mined precious and semi-precious stones. They are widely used by local craftsmen who create wonderful designs in order to make exquisite and unique jewelry. Their masterpieces are famous worldwide.
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