Russias Maritime Province (Primorye) is a national administrative unit since September 20, 1938. Washed by the Sea  of  Japan in the south and east, in the north it borders on Khabarovsk Territory, and in the west on China and North Korea.


     The Province includes  numerous islands: Russky, Popov, Reineke, Rikorda, Putiatin, Askold, etc. Total 
area: 165.9 thousand  sq. km 

       The major physical geographic subdivisions of Primorye are the Sikhote-Alin mountain range (southern half) and the East Manchurian mountainous region (eastern  rim), and also the West Primorye plain that separates them (Fig.).

       The Sikhote-Alin highland represents a medium-altitude structure (absolute altitude range from 500 to 1,000 m); relative elevations from 200 to 400 m; highest peaks: Mt. Oblachnaya (1,855 m) and Mt. Anik (1,933 m). Mountain chains are with rounded peaks and flat slopes, emphasizing highly developed cupola structure, generally spreading subparallel to each other from southwest to northeast and receding into  Khabarovsk Territory. Nowhere do they reach the snow line, but firn fields, occasionally considerable in area, form annually in snow drift zones to remain till mid-summer. Along its main watershed, Sikhote-Alin divides into the Japan Sea (eastern and southern) and Ussuri-Hanka (western) macroslopes with different relief structure and climatic factors.

      This is chiefly caused both by different tectonic conditions and preferential distribution over the eastern slope of circulation of water-logged air masses, which arrive from the Okhotsk and Japan seas in spring and early summer; again, in fall and winter, relatively warm, but likewise moist air masses prevail.

      Overall caving, mounding, creeping, erosive and abrasive breaking, denudation shelves and residual rocks characterize the Japan Sea macroslope. Steep streambeds are frequent, as also are alluvium, slopewash and accumulation of disastrous mud streams. The Samarga and Zeva basalt plateaus are situated in the northern area, and the Artiom basalt plateau in the south. Developed within them are flat, table-like watersheds, where raised bogs often form in sinkholes. Vast areas are covered with larchwood with peaty and peaty-gleyey waterlogged soils, which form over areal and linear clayey weathering crust. The plateau marginal sections are indented with narrow river valleys. The Japan Sea macroslope is divided into a series of separate, rather contrasting climatic complexes by transverse ridges, river valleys and subsequent large faults. Southern Sikhote-Alin is especially noted for its rugged coastline, craggy bluffs and gently sloping sand beaches, abundance of natural monuments, mild sea climate, ramified road network and highly developed economy with its natural and frequently intact landscape. All this has made southern Primorye a favorite spot for tourists from all over the Russian Far East and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

        The Ussuri-Hanka macroslope is morphologically subdivided into Central and Western Sikhote-Alin. The mountain chains of Central Cikhote-Alin are preferentially directed to the NNE, which coincides with the general direction of folded structures and fissure zones. Assigned to this area are the most elevated sites of the mid-range sector with absolute altitudes up to 1,850 m plus 150-300 m. The rivers are steep, and mountain streams have rapids and rolls. Here the slopes are less steep than on the eastern macroslope, but abundant talus, erosion, creeping and solifluction also show quite intensely. Western Sikhote-Alin consists of separate ridges extended to the northeast and separated by intermontane depressions and dissected wide transverse river valleys of rivers Ussuri, Malinovka, Bolshaya Ussurka, Bikin and others. Mountain altitudes seldom exceed 1,000 m with relative excesses of 50-150 m, and the slopes are gentler than those in Central Sikhote-Alin. Deluvial clay sedimentation is developed at the foot of the ridge.

       The eastern component of the East-Manchurian upland extends within Maritime Province and is divided into three parts, the Pogranichnyi and Khasan-Barabash mountain regions and the Borisov basalt plateau. The latter largely resembles the Artiom and other aforesaid plateaus. Again, the Pogranichnyi and Khasan mountain regions are typical hilly areas. Pogranichnyi represents a system of low mountain ridges with absolute and relative peaks of 600-800 and 200-500 m, respectively; these ridges decline toward Lake Khasan to form a hilly-ridgy plain. Besides, the watersheds are often arched and radial in relation to the center of Lake Khasan to emphasize the form of the analogous circular structure. In Khasan-Barabash region, the absolute (900-1,000 m) and relative (300-600 m) peaks are noticeably higher. The principal mountain ridge (Chornye gory) bends arc-wise toward Amur Bay. The valleys of most streams are open to southern and southeastern humid sea winds, and this affects the climate, vegetation and soils. The riverbeds are overloaded with alluvium, which grows in the lower reaches both due to overall extension and submersion of the crust along the continental edge and owing to accumulation of disastrous freshets. This resulted in the forming of a 10 km-wide low plain on the seacoast. Residual rocks up to 180 m high  (Tolubinyi bluff, etc.)  occasionally rise over its bogged surface with numerous lakes and  oxbows.

      Lake Khanka lies in the inner part of West Primorye flatland, whose total area is 20 percent that of Primorye itself. Surrounding the flatland is the Hanka plain, which includes bogged flatland (absolute peaks up to 200 m), divided by wide river valleys. The northern and southern extensions of Khanka flatland is distinguished by the Nizahne-Bikin and Razdolnyi plains formed by valleys of Ussuri, Bikin, Alchan and Razdolnaya rivers.

      Primoryes climatic conditions are largely determined by its geographic position on the abutment of Eurasia and the Pacific. Cold continental air masses are predominant in winter, and cool oceanic air masses in summer. Besides, the prevailing monsoon climate with its cool spring, rainy and foggy summer, sunny dry fall and windy winter with little snow produce a softening effect, particularly in coastal areas. In the central and northern regions, the climate is more continental. Total annual precipitation amounts to 600-900 mm, most of which is in summer. The cold Primorye Current flows along the seacoast from the northeast to the southwest to cause lengthy fogs.

      The flora and fauna are distinguished by a combination of southern and northern species. Up to eighty percent of the territory is occupied by highly diverse forests, which boast coniferous and broad-leaved trees, the actinidia, the ginseng, the Komarov lotus, etc.  The animal kingdom is likewise highly diversified, and is represented by both game (the moose, the roe deer, the Manchurian deer, the boar, the musk deer, the squirrel, the mink, the otter, the Siberian fetter, the sable, and the ermine) and rare species (the Amur tiger, the leopard, the red wolf, and the Ussuri spotted deer).

      About 700 animal species and numerous algae and grasses inhabit the Japan Sea coastal waters, many of them with unique biologically active and remedial properties, e.g. the urchin, the trepang, the Primorye pecten, and the laminaria.
      As you see,  Primoryes natural resources are highly diverse and abundant, and this is one of its distinctive features. Of major significance are renewable lumber, fish, agricultural, water, power, and other resources. Mining-and-chemical and mining resources for non-ferrous metallurgy, e.g. tin, plumb-and-zinc and boron-containing ores, tungsten, gold, silver, and fluorite deposits are of national, regional and local significance. Primorye also boasts mineral and brown coal, peat, feldspar, natural sorbents, construction materials and precious and semi-precious minerals. In addition, over 100 sources of mineral water, most of them cold carbonate (in central regions and along the western boundary) and less often nitrosilicious thermal springs (along the coast, in the south and northeast) have been discovered here. The most widely reputed mineral waters are Shmakovka, Lastochka, Amgu, Chistovodnoye and Gornovodnoye, the favorite recreation and recuperation sites for residents of the Russian Far East.
      To wind up this brief survey of Primoryes physical geography, the existence of two realities must be emphasized, that of nature granted to us from heaven, i.e. the physical environment described above, and the man-made economic environment not examined here, but nonetheless important. We must also remember that the latter is highly brittle and needs care involving rational ecolologic utilization.

EVGENII MIASNIKOV,  Candidate of Science (Geography), Senior Research Fellow, Laboratory of Geomorphology, Pacific Institute of Geography, F.E. Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.