By the 1970s the Soviet Union entered the Era of Stagnation. The complex demands of the modern economy and inflexible administration overwhelmed and constrained the central planners. The volume of decisions facing planners in Moscow became overwhelming. The cumbersome procedures for bureaucratic administration foreclosed the free communication and flexible response required at the enterprise level for dealing with worker alienation, innovation, customers, and suppliers. From 1975 to 1985, corruption and data fiddling became common practice among bureaucracy to report satisfied targets and quotas thus entrenching the crisis. Since 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to address economic problems by moving towards a market-oriented socialist economy. Gorbachev's policies had failed to rejuvenate the Soviet economy, though. Instead, Perestroika set off a process of political and economic disintegration, culminating in the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The mineral-packed Ural Mountains and the vast oil, gas, coal, and timber reserves of Siberia and the Russian Far East make Russia rich in natural resources, which dominate Russian exports. Oil and gas exports, specifically, continue to be the main source of hard currency.
The petroleum industry in Russia is one of the largest in the world. Russia has the largest reserves, and is the largest exporter, of natural gas. It has the second largest coal reserves, the eighth largest oil reserves, and is the largest exporter of oil in the world in absolute numbers. Per capita oil production in Russia, though, is not that high. As of 2007, Russia was producing 69.603 bbl/day per 1,000 people, much less than Canada (102.575 bbl/day), Saudi Arabia (371.363 bbl/day), or Norway (554.244 bbl/day), but more than two times the USA (28.083 bbl/day) or the UK (27.807 bbl/day).
In 2009 the Russian construction industry survived its most difficult year in more than a decade. The 0.8% reduction recorded by the industry for the first three quarters of 2010 looked remarkably healthy in comparison with the 18.4% slump recorded the previous year, and construction firms became much more optimistic about the future than in previous months. The most successful construction firms concluded contracts worth billions of dollars an planned to take on employees and purchase new building machinery. The downturn served to emphasise the importance of the government to the construction market.
Railroads (as they are known in the US) were built on a far larger scale than those in Continental Europe, both in terms of the distances covered, and also in the loading gauge adopted, which allowed for heavier locomotives and double-deck trains. The railroad era in the United States began in 1829 with the Stourbridge Lion steam locomotive which had been imported from Britain. The John Bull (still the oldest operable engine-powered vehicle in the US of any kind, as of 1981) was imported from Britain in 1831. In 1830, Peter Cooper's locomotive, Tom Thumb, first steamed along 13 miles (21 km) of Baltimore and Ohio railroad track. In 1833, the nation's second railroad ran 136 miles (219 km) from Charleston to Hamburg in South Carolina. Not until the 1850s, though, did railroads offer long distance service at reasonable rates. A journey from Philadelphia to Charleston involved eight different gauges, which meant that passengers and freight had to change trains seven times. Only at places like Bowling Green, Kentucky, were the railroads connected to one another.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that opened in 1830 was the first to evolve from a single line to a network in the United States. By 1831, a steam railway connected Albany and Schenectady, New York, a distance of 16 miles (26 km), which was covered in 40 minutes.
The years between 1850 and 1890 saw phenomenal growth in the US railroad system, which at its peak constituted one third of the world's total mileage. Although the American Civil War placed a temporary halt to major new developments, the conflict did demonstrate the enormous strategic importance of railways at times of war. After the war, major developments include the first elevated railway built in New York in 1867 as well as the symbolically important first transcontinental railroad completed in 1869.