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Average life expectancy for both men and women has declined since the 1980s.This population decline is expected to worsen in the next decade.Many great rivers transect the country, such as the Dvina, Don, Oka, and Volga in the European heartland and the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena in Siberia; most of these rivers are linked by subsidiary waterways.Until the advent of railways and roads, the rivers were the only efficient way to travel, and they remain a significant form of transport for people and materials.These factors limit agricultural production and account for the frequency of crop failures; what is produced requires substantial labor.The huge forests provide for foraging, hunting, and logging.

The climate of much of European Russia is continental, with long, cold winters and short, hot summers.European Russia, the most densely populated, urbanized, and industrialized region, lies between the Ukraine-Belarus border and the Ural Mountains.Seventy-eight percent of the population lives in this area.In the northern areas, winter days are dark and long; in the summer, the days are long and the sun barely sets.With the exception of the black earth belt, Russia has fairly poor soil, a short growing season, low precipitation, and large arid steppe regions unfit for agriculture except with extensive irrigation.

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