Map #30: March 13, 2017

Difficulty Level: 8

Click here for a full-size version of this week’s map.

This map is a choropleth of the federal subjects of Russia. (Do you need a refresher on what a choropleth is? Visit our “Basics” page for a quick primer.) On this map, darker colors indicate that a particular region has more of a particular statistic. Your job is to figure out what this choropleth represents.

Stumped? Check back Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for hints about where to focus your investigation. The answer will be posted on Monday, March 20. Good luck!

Tuesday’s hint: The most common incorrect submission so far has been that this choropleth represents the percentage of ethnic Russians in each federal subject. That’s a plausible guess, but it doesn’t quite work. To help you see why, we’ve found a choropleth of ethnicity in Russia for you to explore. Put that choropleth side by side with this week’s map. There are many similarities, but also a few differences. What are the most obvious differences? What is going on in those regions?

Wednesday’s hint: One of the very light regions on this map, right on the western end of Russia’s border with Mongolia, is the Republic of Tuva. Tuva was an independent country from 1921 through 1944, when it was incorporated into the Soviet Union. Tuva is quite a remote place, but some people know about it because of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman, ever the eccentric, took an interest in Tuvan throat singing, which is a form of singing that relies on overtones produced in the throat. The book Tuva or Bust! documents Feynman’s attempts to get permission to travel to Tuva while he was dying of cancer. “Tuvan” throat singing is also practiced in Mongolia, and Tuvans share many customs with Mongolians. At various points in history, Tuva was controlled by the Mongol or Chinese empires. As you ponder why Tuva is so light on this choropleth, you might want to consider what else it has in common with Mongolia—and not with the rest of Russia.

Thursday’s hint: In 2011, one big topic in Russian politics was over the idea that Russia should establish a national dress code. Under the proposal, men wouldn’t have been allowed to wear track suits in public and women wouldn’t have been allowed to wear miniskirts. Business proprietors would have gained the right to throw out customers whom they deemed to be dressed “indecently.” The proposal didn’t become law, but it did provoke a big discussion. What circumstances in modern Russian society allowed this issue to rise to the top of public consciousness? Which segments of society were most supportive of the proposal?

Friday’s first hint: The part of this map that may be most revealing is the area between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, especially the area in and around the Caucasus Mountains. There are three regions here that appear especially light on this map: Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Chechnya. All three are places where the Russian government has had a difficult time enforcing its authority over the past several decades. Can you think of a reason why many people in these places might not want to be part of the Russian Federation?

While we’re looking at the Caucasus region, let’s also take a moment to consider Kalmykia, just to the north of Dagestan. Can you figure out why Kalmykia is special? It’s the only region in Europe where the majority of the people are...something. Once you figure this out, the important question will be: what do Tuva, Kalmykia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Chechnya not have in common with most of the rest of Russia?

Answer: Click here to see an explanation of the answer to this week’s map question.

Next map: Click here to try out our newest map question.