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oblast (region), western Russia. It occupies an area of rolling hills of the Central Russian Upland, into which are cut many broad, shallow river valleys. The greater part is in the basin of the upper Oka River. The region, centred on Oryol city, lies on the boundary of the mixed forest and forest-steppe zones. The soils indicate a former widespread forest cover, but this has been almost entirely cleared since the 16th century, and only small groves of oak or pine remain. Intensive soil erosion has resulted, and the hillsides are greatly cut up by ravines. The economy is mainly agricultural, but more than half of the population is now urban. Rye, buckwheat, oats, and corn (maize) are the main crops, together with hemp, potatoes, and sugar beets. Area 9,500 square miles (24,600 square km). Pop. (2005 est.) 842,351.