How will these resources help you?

The Geography National Curriculum aims to ‘develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places’ and ‘extend locational knowledge’ using maps to focus on Africa, Russia, Asia (including China and India), and the Middle East. Students must develop this knowledge of Russia at KS3, particularly given its increasing influence on world affairs. They need to appreciate the diversity of the physical landscape of this vast country covering eleven time zones and a wide range of biomes and climates and the impacts that the physical landscape has on development and conflict. Students can move to the higher Assessment Objectives as they analyse the landscape and its impact on geopolitics and the shifting of borders. These resources will support teachers and students in filling knowledge gaps on Russian physical geography, which cannot be separated from its human geography, development and geopolitics.

North European Plain

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics

by Tim Marshall, published by Elliott & Thompson, (2016), 9781783962433

This book is at the top of many geography reading lists. Despite Russia being the largest country in the world by far, spanning six million square miles, its physical landscape is something that has worried its leaders throughout history. In Chapter One, Marshall explores how the physical landscape affects Russia's geopolitics and leaves it vulnerable to invasion. The ‘Pizza Slice’ shaped stretch of land starts in Poland and allows, in theory, any army to march across the plain and into Moscow. Marshall explains Russia’s defences in the region and the negative effects on the Baltic states. An authoritative analysis of Russia’s physical geography, including how the Ural Mountains made it difficult for Europe to trade with Asia and maintain a development gap. This would benefit higher ability students as independent reading. 

Russia and the Eurasian Republics

The Geography of Russia and the Eurasian Republics

by Ryan Wolf, published by PowerKids Press, (2021), 9781725322028

This short book is aimed at younger readers but is perfect for the classroom when covering Russian geography and for any teacher who needs to update their subject knowledge. Readers will learn how people have adapted to survive in harsh climates and how they have affected the land around them. The content is very well organised and is supported with maps and photos. Key terms such as ‘republic’ and ‘ethnicity’ are defined, and each section includes a ‘think like a geographer section’ with key facts on the region’s geography (for example, how Russia’s borders changed following its annexation of Crimea). A perfect overview of the geography of Russia that can lay the foundations for further enquiry.

Russia and its neighbours

A Geography of Russia and Its Neighbours

by Mikhail S. Blinnikov, published by Guilford Press, (2021), 9781462544592

This authoritative yet accessible book on Russian geography and culture has recently been revised to include the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and other backgrounds for understanding Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Chapters Two to Five are most relevant for this topic, covering relief and hydrography, climate, biomes and environmental degradation and conservation. Teachers need to choose selectively from the book to use with younger students as it can be text-heavy; however, the book will fill any subject knowledge gaps for non-specialists and specialists alike. A-level students and teachers will find this book valuable in the Superpower Geographies units, covering the rise and fall of the USSR and beyond. Adaptable PowerPoint slides are also available to accompany each chapter at this link.  

Russia’s extremes

Life in Russia’s Coldest City - Yakutsk

by Eli from Russia, published by YouTube, (2022)

This video shows an account of the Yakut people who live in Yakutsk in the far north of Russia, the coldest city on the planet. The video is filmed at a temperature of -32oC, which is considered a heatwave! Exploring this region gives students an appreciation of the harshest conditions in Russia and how the average temperature of -40oC shapes the landscape and the lives of the people. The Geography of Russia is a requirement of the National Curriculum, and Yakutsk is an engaging way to approach this at KS3 due to its stark contrast with students’ own lifestyles. Younger students can compare and contrast their lives with those of the Yakut people and suggest ways that their lives would need to change if they lived in a city with these conditions.

Audiovisual clip

10 Things You Didn’t Know About - Kolka Glacier

published by BBC, (2008)

Iain Stewart explores the changes affecting one of the features of Russia's physical landscapes.

Further materials

6 Incredible Natural Landscapes To See In Russia by Malavika Kumar, published by, (2018) Access this resource
World Regional Geography, Chapter 3: Russia by Caitlin Finlayson, published by PressBooks, (2019, updated 2022), 9781077115033 Read this chapter
Ice Skating On the World’s Deepest Lake: Legendary Lake Baikal by Eli From Russia, published by YouTube, (2021) Watch this video
David Newell is Head of Geography at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex. He has held the GA’s Secondary Geography Quality Mark since 2015, and has worked as a Specialist Leader in Education, advising schools on improving their Geography provision.

Text © David Newell, 2022.