Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
oblast (province), central Russia, having an area of 122,350 square miles (316,900 square km) in the basin of the middle Ob River, which bisects it. The terrain is flat and monotonous, rising only slightly in the neighbourhood of the administrative centre, Tomsk. Almost the entire area is taiga, or coniferous forest, dominated by pine, fir, larch, and birch. Extensive swamps occupy the level watersheds. The severely continental climate and the swamps greatly hinder agriculture, which takes up only about 7 percent of the total area and is largely concentrated in the southeast. Rye, oats, and potatoes are the chief crops; some wheat and corn (maize) are also grown, while flax has increased in importance. Over most of the oblast timber working is the chief occupation and is well developed. Fur trapping and fishing are important in the forested north. Almost three-quarters of the urban dwellers live in the city of Tomsk, in which all significant industry is concentrated; other towns are small. Exploitation of oil and natural gas was under way in the early 1980s. Pop. (1991 est.) 1,011,700.