The Kola Peninsula is a peninsula located in the extreme northwest of Russia. The peninsula makes up the majority of the territory of Murmansk Oblast, and is situated almost entirely within the Arctic Circle. The Kola Peninsula is bordered by the Barents Sea and the White Sea in the north and southeast, respectively. The most populous city in the peninsula is Murmansk, which has a population of approximately 300,000 people. Given its proximity to the Gulf Stream, the Kola Peninsula experiences extremely high temperatures in winter, as well as chilly summers. The peninsula is home to a variety of small mammals, and its rivers provide a habitat for Atlantic salmon.
Geography of the Kola Peninsula
The Kola Peninsula is located almost entirely in the Arctic Circle in the northwest of Russia. It borders both the Barents and White Seas. The peninsula covers the northeastern edge of the Baltic Shield, while the western part stretches from Kola Bay to the Kandalaksha Gulf. The Kola Peninsula covers an area of approximately 39,000 square miles. The western part is characterized by mountain ranges, including the Khibiny Mountains and Lovozero Massif, with the Khibiny Mountains containing the peninsula's highest point. The surface of the Kola Peninsula is rich in several ores and minerals, such as apatite, copper, and ceramic materials.
The peninsula experiences high temperature variation between land and the Barents Sea. Temperatures are extremely high during winter due to the peninsula’s proximity to the Gulf Stream. Cyclones are common, especially during the cold season, while anticyclones are common during the warm season. Most areas of the peninsula experience monsoon winds, and the south and southwesterly winds characterize the winter season. The area experiences 39 inches of precipitation in the mountains, 25 inches on the coast, and about 20 inches in other areas.
Biodiversity of the Kola Peninsula
The peninsula is mainly covered by taiga and tundra in the north and south, respectively. The tundra is characterized by cold and windy conditions and permafrost, limiting the growth of trees. Therefore, grass is common in the tundra. Other plants common in the tundra include wildflowers and shrubs. The taiga in the south is characterized by pine trees and figs.
Reindeer frequent the grassland during summer. Common animals in the southern areas include Arctic foxes, wolverines, moose, and lynx. American minks are common throughout the Kola Peninsula and are often hunted commercially. The Barents Sea is an important habitat for bearded seals and ringed seals. There are 29 species of fish within the territory, including trout and European perch.
Due to the Kola Peninsula's location in the remote north, its population has been historically sparse. In 1913, about 15,000 people inhabited the peninsula, especially along the shores. However, the area experienced explosive population growth following the discovery of vast natural resource deposits during the Soviet era. By 1970, the population of the peninsula had increased to almost 800,000. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the population decreased from over one million in 1989 to 790,000 in 2010. Today, the most populated city is Murmansk, which has a population of approximately 300,000 people.
Economy of the Kola Peninsula
The economy of Murmansk Oblast began to rebuild in the 2000s following the economic slump in the 1990s, although at a slower rate. Today, the Kola Peninsula is one of the most industrially developed areas in northern Russia. Murmansk is the peninsula’s major port and also serves as the administrative center of the territory. The Kola Peninsula has the highest concentration of nuclear weapons and facilities in Russia, despite its diminished strategic importance. Mining is the territory's major activity, while the transport sector accounts for over 10% of the gross regional product.