The Amur, (meaning "black water" in Russian), is the world's eighth largest river (4,400 km /2,700 mi), the largest in Far East Russia*, the largest undammed river in the world, and at the time of writing bridged in only 2 places.
For much of its length it forms a boundary between Far East Russia and China. The river banks can be divided culturally, economically and environmentally into the Russian Northern side and Chinese Southern side. To the Chinese the Amur is the Black Dragon River, AKA the Heilong River. Historically (prior to 1800) it was considered within China's poorly defined Northern boundary, as was the land around the Russian Far East capital Khabarovsk and the major shipping port Vladivostok. Between the nuclear powers the river serves as a peaceful buffer except the area near Khabarovsk, where two small mid-river islands called Bolshoi Ussurisky and Tarabarov, have economic (main channel fisheries) and strategic value and so continue to politically smolder.
Like the Nile, it is born of two rivers, the Argun- sourcing from Daxing'an Range in China, and Shilka- originating from the eastern slope of the Kente Mountains in Mongolia. The two meet at Moguhe Village, western Mohe County, Heilongjiang province, China, after which the 2,874 km of the Amur proper continues. The river turns north east into Russian territory until emptying into the Pacific via the Tartar Strait near the Sea of Okhotsk. For half the year the river is frozen and is more a super ice way road than a river.
As a river, it supports more fish life than any other river within Russia - with around 120 species of fish, including the famous Kaluga sturgeon
. It is also an important migratory path for salmon
, though the numbers of salmon have reduced notably in recent years. Other animals within its riparian
ecosystem are the rare and extremely endangered Amur Leopard
, the Amur tiger
, the Oriental White stork
, the red-crowned crane
, and the White-naped Crane
. Much of the river is threatened by pollution from Northern China but on a positive note, on the Russian side of the river 22% of the wetland is protected.
Historically in a land without roads it was a major traffic way, connecting peoples of the pacific coast to the Siberian interior. Prior to Russian Expansion into Siberia
the river basin was populated with various peoples within the Tungus
linguistic groups and the Nivkh
, a separate group. The decline of salmon along the river has affected these people, who are dependent on these fish to maintain their traditional folkways.
For modern Russians, the banks of the Amur are a popular place to build their dacha or summer houses, where they grow potatoes, fruit bearing trees and other produce in the short summer and use the area to escape from the somber urban apartment blocks clusters that they spend much of the rest of the year.
*Most non-Russians include anything east of the Ural mountains as "Siberia" while the former USSR and Russians continue to separate western Siberia from the equally large "Far East Russia" region that boarders the Pacific