The centers of the chemical industry traditionally have been areas where critical raw materials and allied industries were available. Before 1960 plants were near mineral deposits, potato farms, coking coal, and nonferrous metallurgy plants. When oil and natural gas became prime raw materials for chemical production, plants were built near the Volga-Ural and North Caucasus gas and oil fields or along pipelines. In the 1980s, major plants were built at Omsk, Tobol'sk, Urengoy, and Surgut in the western Siberia oil region and at Ufa and Nizhnekamsk in the Volga-Ural region. In the same period, the government gave strong investment and research support to chemical production because of its importance to the rest of heavy industry.
The major divisions of the chemical industry are paints and varnishes, rubber and asbestos products, synthetic tar and plastic products, mined chemical products, household chemicals and washing compounds, mineral fertilizers, chemical fibers and filaments, and paper and pulp. In the 1990s, output has decreased in all of those areas. Among representative products, between 1985 and the early 1990s production of mineral fertilizers dropped by 29 percent, agricultural pesticides by 74 percent, industrial carbon by 28 percent, sulfuric acid by 19 percent, synthetic tars and plastics by 16 percent, paints and varnishes by 43 percent, household soaps by 25 percent, and caustic soda by 15 percent.
Based on Russia's huge supply of timber, a substantial lumber-processing and pulp industry developed in the Soviet period as a subsidiary of the chemical industry. In 1996 Russia's largest pulp and paper enterprises were at Kondopoga near the Finnish border, Bratsk west of Lake Baikal, Syktyvkar in the Republic of Komi, and Kotlas southeast of Arkhangel'sk. Most pulp and paper companies do not own timber resources, but timber suppliers, who lease timberland from the state, generally sell raw materials at below world prices, giving Russian manufacturers a competitive advantage. Some mergers have occurred between suppliers and manufacturing operations.
In the early 1990s, production of raw timber dropped by about 25 percent, mainly because of equipment depletion, lack of credit, higher railroad transport fees, and a drop in construction of lumber roads. In 1993 production of raw timber was 450,000 cubic meters, 75 percent of the 1992 total; production of commercial cellulose was 79 percent of the previous year's total; and of cardboard, 73 percent (see Environmental Conditions, ch. 3).