oblast (province), south-central Russia. The oblast lies in the Tom River basin. The north-south valley of the basin is flanked by the Kuznetsk Alatau Mountains on the east and by the lower Salair Ridge on the west. In the south are the low Gornaya Shoriya uplands, on which the headstreams of the Tom rise. The north has steppe vegetation, but most of the oblast is thickly forested with conifers that give way to meadows at higher elevations. The oblast encompasses the rich Kuznetsk Coal Basin, which underlies the entire area between the two flanking ranges, and the heavy industrial region that has developed on the coalfields since the 1930s. Almost nine-tenths of the oblast's population is urban, with the majority engaged in coal mining; the manufacture of iron, steel, and nonferrous metals (principally at Novokuznetsk); heavy engineering and machine building; and the chemical industry. Some iron ore is mined near Temirtau and Tashtagol in the south, as are small quantities of lead, zinc, barites, arsenic, and gold. Timber working is highly developed, especially the production of pit props. Agriculture is significant only in the north of the oblast. Kemerovo city is the provincial centre. Area 36,900 square miles (95,500 square km). Pop. (1993 est.) 3,176,800
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