The Amur Oblast (363,700 km2, 1995 pop. 1,040,800 est.) of Russia is situated about 8,000 km east of Moscow on the banks of the Amur and Zeya rivers. It shares its border with Sakha Republic on the north, Khabarovsk Krai on the east, Amur river and China on the south and Chita Oblast on the west.
The Stanovoy Mountains form the dividing line between Yakutia and the Amur Oblast and spread across the entire northern border of the territory. Dwarf Siberian pine and alpine tundra grow at higher elevations on these mountains and larch forests with small stands of flat-leaved birch and pine forests grow alongside the river plains. The Zeya River begins in these mountains in the northeast. The middle reaches of this great river were dammed to create the huge Zeysky Reservoir, which sprawls over 2,500 km2 between the Stanovoy Mountains and a southern parallel range running across the center of the Oblast. The low lands between these two mountain ranges make up the Upper Zeysky Plain, which is primarily marshland with larch and pine forests. South of the second ridge is the vast Amur River plain which covers up to 40% of the region.
Along the eastern border of the Amur Oblast is another series of mountains separating Amur from the Khabarovsk Krai. These larch and fir-spruce forests form the watershed of the Selemdzha River, which flows south into the Zeya, continues to the city of Blagoveschchensk and then into the Amur River. Southeast of the Selemdzha are the Bureya and Arkhara Rivers, which have the richest remaining forests in the oblast with Korean pine, Limmonik, Mongolian oak and other Manchurian flora. The Zeya, Amur and Buraya rivers form a cradle for the highest biodiversity in the Amur Region - the Zeysko-Burenskaya Plain. Much of this plain has been burned for agriculture, but large patches still remain. Japanese Daurian and Far Eastern western cranes nest here, as well as a host of other rare birds.
Its capital city, Blagoveshchensk, one of the oldest settlements in the Far East, was founded in 1856. It is a traditional center of trade and gold mining. The territory is accessed by two railroads, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal-Amur Mainline.
The Oblast received its first influx of Russian settlers in the mid 17th century. They were looking for a more temperate climate as an escape from the north. However the cruelty of the Russians toward the local population forced them to look for protection from Manchuria. After the Opium War, when the Manchurian Empire was exposed to the outside world, Russian explorers once again moved to the region (mostly Cossacks and peasant farmers). The last influx of people arrived upon the completion of the Trans Siberian Railroad.