The Soviet Union – powerful heir to the old Russian Empire – is a geographical phenomenon of paramount significance in the contemporary world. It covers more than twice as much land as any other country; less recognized but more significant, however, is the fact that it contains a greater range of the world's major landscape and cultural zones than any other country. The greater part of its territory is more similar to North America than to any other part of the world, both from the point of view of its natural conditions and in terms of the youth of its settlement, its pervasive ‘frontier’ spirit, and the country's underpopulation in relation to resources and potential. All these qualities, apart from the European origin of the inhabitants of this ‘American’ part of the Soviet Union (largely Siberia), sharply mark it off from Asia, of which it technically forms a part. Soviet Middle Asia (Turkestan) and Caucasia, on the other hand, brought under Russian colonial rule in the nineteenth century, do qualify as parts of Asia in any meaningful sense of that word. If one looks at the world as a whole, Russia is above all a European nation, like the United States, in its dominant influences, origins, and ways of using the land.
THE GEOGRAPHICAL APPROACH
Since geography concerns itself with a mass of heterogeneous phenomena in the worlds of both man and nature, its proper organization and understanding require the recognition of a meaningful focus for it.