Novaya Zemlya nô˝vīə zĭmlyä´ [key], archipelago, c.35,000 sq mi (90,650 sq km), in the Arctic Ocean between the Barents and Kara seas, NW Russia. It consists of two main islands (separated by Matochkin Strait) and many smaller ones. The mountains, rising to c.3,500 ft (1,070 m), are a continuation of the Urals. In the north the archipelago is glaciated and covered by arctic desert; the southern part is tundra. Copper, lead, zinc, and asphaltite are found there. Fishing, sealing, and trapping are the chief occupations of the small population, which lives mainly along the western coast. The islands were used for thermonuclear testing by the Russians, who still maintain a nonnuclear weapons test site there. Explored by Novgorodians in the 11th or 12th cent., the islands were sighted by explorers searching for the Northeast Passage in the 1500s. Since the mid-1800s Russians have built settlements and scientific stations there.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Arctic Physical Geography