GEO 105: World Regional Geography


Instructions: As with the first exam, you are asked to choose ONE of the following prompts for your essay of approximately three to three-and-one-half pages of text, double-spaced, which should be uploaded to the SECOND EXAM ESSAY folder in Assignments in D2L, in Word (.doc or .docx format) or .pdf format, by 11:59pm Thursday, November 11th.  You will have an additional day to make revisions and submit the revised document (11:59pm, 11/12/21).  Aim to be as clear, specific, and thorough as you can.

Clarity: I am looking for clarity of language and well clarity in the structure and organization of your essay. This typically involves a process of drafts and revisions. Nobody – not even a professional writer – creates perfect prose in their first draft. Do all of your sentences make sense – do they clearly convey what you mean? (If not, edit to eliminate vagueness and ambiguity.)  Are your word choices appropriate to your intentions? (If not, choose a better word.) Do you have run-on sentences or sentence fragments in your draft? (If so, fix them.) Are there any grammatical or punctuation issues that might confuse the reader? (Edit to eliminate the confusion.) As to organizational clarity, is the structure of your essay clear and logical? (Easiest solution: follow the structure of the essay prompt, though that is not absolutely necessary.) Do you make sound transitions between paragraphs? Between arguments? Does your essay flow smoothly from one point to another? (You get the idea.)

Specificity: Here is where I look for examples, factual evidence, and the use of appropriate terms from the course to give weight to your essay. A strong essay is one that makes effective use of these elements to support its central arguments and converts abstract ideas and concepts into concrete reality. An essay that offers apt and memorable specifics is far more persuasive than a general one, even a very well-written one.

Thoroughness:  An essay is thorough when it addresses all parts of the prompt effectively. A thorough essay does not leave the reader with a sense that important questions have been overlooked, or pieces of the argument are missing. To be thorough you do not need to give equal weight to all parts, but you do need to acknowledge them in a way that lets the reader know you comprehend their meaning and significance in the context of the broader essay topic.

As these are meant to be SHORT essays, some form of introduction is helpful but a full-blown introduction with a clearly developed thesis statement, which might be expected for a lengthy research paper, is not necessary here. A couple of sentences to identify your topic and contextualize your response should suffice. Likewise, an elaborate summary and conclusion are not required. A sentence or two that brings closure to your essay, which may be a separate paragraph but could just as well come at the end of your last body paragraph, is enough.  


1. All of the national governments in the region ‘Russia and the Post-Soviet States’ were established in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union with the expressed intent of replacing communism with democratic governance and market-based economics.  Based on sources in this course (the textbook, articles, videos, PowerPoints, etc.) as well as information from the organization Freedom House* (, how successfully would you say the countries of Russia and Belarus live up to their own self-representations as free and democratic countries? (Are their electoral processes open and fair? Do all groups within the population enjoy full political rights and civil liberties? Do these governments operate with transparency? Do they employ effective safeguards against corruption? Are the media free of government interference and control? Is the judiciary independent, and does it respect due process in civil and criminal matters? Do citizens have freedom of religious belief and practice, and can they express their political views without fear of retribution?)

*Freedom House is a non-profit, non-governmental, Washington DC-based ‘think tank’ that functions as a source of information and analysis about governance, civil liberties, and human rights in countries around the world, and was founded, in its own words, “on the core conviction that freedom flourishes in democratic nations where governments are accountable to their people.”

2. Identify, describe and explain any TWO environmental problems in the countries of Russia and the Post-Soviet States (including but not limited to urban and industrial pollution, environmental degradation from resource extraction, nuclear contamination, consequences of global warming such as melting glaciers and permafrost, and the drying up of the Aral Sea). How well have the countries in question responded to these problems, and what obstacles do they face in dealing with them effectively?


1.. What is OPEC, and why is the organization so strongly associated with this region?  What role has OPEC – and oil in general – played in the economic development of countries in this region?  How does the presence of large reserves of petroleum in the region, and the power of OPEC, affect the region’s international influence? How do oil-rich countries in this region compare to their ‘oil-poor neighbors in terms of wealth, economic structure, social development, population characteristics?  Finally, what have Persian Gulf countries done, or can they do, to prepare for the inevitable future decline in the importance of fossil fuel energy to the global economy, as the world seeks to reduce GHG emissions and pursue renewable energy alternatives?

2. What was the ‘Arab Spring’?  Which countries in this region were most affected, what groups or segments of society were involved, how did they organize protest actions and share information? What kinds of reforms did they demand? How has the process played out in any TWO of the key countries involved? (In other words, what have been the key developments in politics, governance, and civil society in the ten years since the Arab Spring uprisings in those countries began?) Why do you think the expectations of outsiders for positive change in the region have gone largely unfulfilled?  


1. Identify, describe, and explain THREE of the key consequences of European colonialism in sub-Saharan Africa.  Consider cultural, social, political, and economic consequences, and pay attention to the specific policies and practices of the European colonial powers that brought about these consequences, whether intentionally or otherwise.  All of your ‘key consequences’ DO NOT have to apply universally across the continent – they may be specific to a particular sub-region, empire, or even a single colony. What role has the legacy of colonialism played in limiting or delaying development in this region since independence?

2. Sub-Saharan Africa, while still behind most other regions of the developing world, contains many of the planet’s fastest-growing economies today. Progress in other areas, such as education, the treatment and status of women, democratization and reduced corruption, access to telecommunications and use of the Internet, lower infant and child mortality rates, and decline in the incidence of infectious diseases, is also occurring.  Describe HOW these results are being achieved, focusing on any THREE domains of improvement in sub-Saharan Africa today (such as those listed above), and explain how African countries are overcoming some of the traditional obstacles to development to accomplish these advances.