Sergei Shoigu wants to build new cities in Siberia and move the capital there We asked the economic geographer if this could somehow be implemented (spoiler: no, no and no)

In August, the Minister of Defense and the leader of the list of “United Russia” in the elections to the State Duma Sergei Shoigu proposed to build in Siberia “three, and preferably five large scientific, industrial, economic centers, in other words – cities with a population of 300-500 thousand, better – up to a million human”. Shoigu also believes that the capital of Russia should be moved to Siberia. His idea of ​​cities was quickly supported by government officials and the presidential administration: in late August , an agreement was signed at the Eastern Economic Forum to build a new city, Sputnik, near Vladivostok. There were also critics: the president’s plenipotentiary in the Far East, Yuri Trutnev, saidthat you first need to put in order the existing cities. Meduza’s special correspondent Andrei Pertsev spoke with Ruslan Dokhov, an economic geographer, Moscow State University lecturer, and senior lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, about whether it is now possible to build several large cities far from the European part of Russia and whether the transfer of the capital to Siberia will help the development of this vast territory.

– Speaking about the need to build new cities in Siberia, Shoigu refers , among other things, to the unfulfilled plans of the Soviet era. What exactly does he mean?

In August, the Minister of Defense and the leader of the list of “United Russia” in the elections to the State Duma Sergei Shoigu proposed to build in Siberia “three, and preferably five large scientific, industrial, economic centers, in other words – cities with a population of 300-500 thousand, better – up to a million human”. Shoigu also believes that the capital of Russia should be moved to Siberia. His idea of ​​cities was quickly supported by government officials and the presidential administration: in late August , an agreement was signed at the Eastern Economic Forum to build a new city, Sputnik, near Vladivostok. There were also critics: the president’s plenipotentiary in the Far East, Yuri Trutnev, saidthat you first need to put in order the existing cities. Meduza’s special correspondent Andrei Pertsev spoke with Ruslan Dokhov, an economic geographer, Moscow State University lecturer, and senior lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, about whether it is now possible to build several large cities far from the European part of Russia and whether the transfer of the capital to Siberia will help the development of this vast territory.

– Speaking about the need to build new cities in Siberia, Shoigu refers , among other things, to the unfulfilled plans of the Soviet era. What exactly does he mean?

–  What exactly he was told from the Soviet urban planning concepts, I will not say for sure, but the basic concept of a unified system of settlement existed in the Soviet Union. She assumed that all cities in the USSR should develop as an associated system of settlement. Soviet planners, Soviet geographers believed that there are common processes in the system and, most importantly  you can control. It was believed that the placement of productive forces leads to the fact that the population is displaced. 

Now the consensus is still the following: in the post-industrial economy, in which, on the whole, Russia already lives, including, the primary location of the population. Because most of the economy is now either produced by people without special means of production like factory blast furnaces or machine tools, or is associated with serving each other’s population. In an industrial economy, when a significant part of the gross product is produced in the industrial sector, in the mining and manufacturing industries, this is not the case. Since the 1970s, when there were these last reflections on a unified system of settlement and how it can be controlled, the prerequisites have already changed.

– How did this system of settlement and the creation of new centers of development regions go on in the Soviet Union?

–  There was such a magical, I would say, mystified concept of a territorial production complex. It was assumed that it was possible to create such a territorial combination of industries that would give many multiplier effects. These were complementary industries that “sit” on some natural advantage  for example, cheap energy.

In fact, this is how enterprises were located in Eastern Siberia. Large cascades of hydroelectric power plants were built on Siberian rivers, energy-intensive industries were planted on them, they produced a certain product that was then economically effective. Thus, we have the production of aluminum in the Irkutsk region, for example. The deposits are very far from this region, but the benefits from free energy are  enormous. Some people come there, these people start working at the factory, everything is fine. We read the poem “Bratskaya HPP” by Evgeny Yevtushenko. 

– So what’s wrong with that?Advertising

–  The difficulty is that the industry has changed since then. The current production system of the same aluminum no longer requires such a number of employees at the enterprise. Today, the very idea that we can build a large city, which will be connected with some kind of city-forming industry, looks strange. 

Moreover, there was no competition in the Soviet economy. The state built factories that did not compete with each other. Today, the development of large enterprises in Russia is associated more with corporate dynamics than with industry dynamics. In modern economic geography, we interpret the district effect as follows: several adjacent industries are connected with each other rather through corporate networks, and not through geography –  as a location next to each other on the territory. Soviet mantras no longer work today.

The second big story associated with the Soviet system of settlement and development of territories is population growth in the USSR. The increase was in the Central Asian republics, the southern part of the RSFSR and Transcaucasia, or in rural areas. The authorities needed to occupy this population with something and resettle it somewhere. Today the population of Russia is shrinking, while the population of Siberia and the Far East is shrinking dramatically. This trend cannot be changed. During the post-Soviet period, the population in the Far Eastern District has decreased by about 22%, in the Siberian District by 10%. All programs, attempts to keep the population in these not very favorable places for life fail. The same “Far Eastern hectare”   most of the certificates were bought by local people, especially in infrastructure-provided places. READ ALSO

–  In principle, it is rather impossible. Now the population of the Far East and Siberia is surplus. This is due to massive Soviet population movements. The shift of productive forces to the East unbalanced the natural system of settlement, which for centuries was taking shape within the borders of the Russian Empire. The people lived more in the main zone of settlement central and southern Russia, Ukraine. This strip ended approximately towards Altai, further the settlement acquired an insular character. People lived where either there were good climatic conditions, or some resources were located, or in a few ports. The rest of the area was sparsely populated. It can be populated if you pump crazy money there, apply some forced methods of population transfer. But in a normal capitalist economy this is impossible, and most importantly, it is not necessary. 

– That is, the relatively small population of Siberia and the Far East is normal?

–  We often compare ourselves to Canada. 80% of Canada’s population lives in a narrow border strip with the United States. Everything, there is nothing further. Conventionally, this is Siberia, which did not know Bolshevism, did not know the shift in productive forces, but knew natural development. 

– But rumors about at least one new city – Electrograd  – are already going on.

– A  magical story. All neighboring cities are losing population, around an extremely unfavorable economic situation, except, perhaps, Krasnoyarsk. But let’s even forget about that. It is important that the creation of any new large settlement, even for one hundred thousand people, is a gigantic indignation in the settlement system. You can’t just take and build hundreds of millions of square meters of real estate and drag hundreds of thousands of people there, no one knows how.

Let’s say it happened. The settlement system is designed in such a way that there are large, medium and small cities, a balance must be observed between them. For example, the settlement system of central Russia has too big a “head”  Moscow. Therefore, this system is all loose, there are not enough cities with an average population, and around Moscow there is a demographic desert. In the 1990s and 2000s, the outstripping development of the Moscow labor market and services led to the fact that all neighboring regions became insanely depressed. Their population, especially the young, mobile part of it, with terrible force migrates to Moscow, even if they cannot afford to live there permanently, then there is a phenomenon of total otkhodnik .

Let’s go back to the Siberian cities. Suppose we are building a large city in the same Minusinsk Basin. For people who could come there, some kind of arguments are needed. We hear about the new quality of the urban environment: “In Siberia and the Far East, the cities are terrible, they were built in Soviet times, there is no urban environment there, they are built up with Khrushchev buildings, five-story buildings, and here we will immediately do it cool.” Maybe they really will, but this will lead to the formation of a gigantic demographic desert around. It will not work to drag the population there from European Russia  which, apparently, the calculation is – will not work.

First, there is a demographic law  when a migration opportunity arises, migration from nearby regions and nearby settlements is more likely than from remote ones. You need to offer substantially more income to get people across a long distance. Secondly, there will be competition for a small mobile part of the Russian population. In Russia, population mobility is very low, people migrate little compared to the United States, Canada and even Brazil.READ ALSO

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– As far as I understand, people move mainly to Moscow and St. Petersburg?

–  We can talk about four options. Among them are  Moscow and St. Petersburg. The third option is  some kind of local center, for example, if you live in the European north, it will most likely be Yaroslavl, which is perceived as Peter’s deputy. In St. Petersburg, the competition is high, everything is complicated, everything is expensive, but in Yaroslavl it seems to be good and at the same time not as expensive as in St. Petersburg or Moscow. In the Chernozem region, this may be Belgorod. The fourth migration decision is to move to the south, it is usually made by middle-aged people who have worked somewhere in Western Siberia or the Urals, earned some money or served in law enforcement agencies and retired early.

You will need to give something that will compete with these migration solutions, and this is extremely difficult to do. Suppose that a territory of advanced development is created in a new city, taxes are zeroed, but even this will not allow creating a competitive environment here. This territory of advanced development should be based on something.

We are told: “there will be innovative industries here, IT specialists will come, everything will be fine.” In principle, we have such a city  it is called Innopolis, not far from Kazan. This is a grandiose project of the Tatarstan authorities to build a new city, several thousand people live in it . It is indeed a rather curious few quarters, this is a university, not very large, but relatively dynamic, several strong laboratories supported by large Russian companies, including Yandex. But once again  this is several thousand people, despite the fact that Innopolis is located God knows where. This is essentially a suburb of Kazan, where you can use all the services of a developed city.

Valery Limarenko, the governor of Sakhalin, has a flagship project to build a new city near Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Designing is already underway there, there is some kind of economic strategy, demographic plan, town planning plans are also being prepared. But again, this is not the scale: we are talking about thousands of people, the ceiling is several tens of thousands of people. It is a port city for trade with Asian countries. Indeed, the new urban environment canattractsome population from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from the conditional Nakhodka or Vladivostok. This is a more rational story. 

But if the same Innopolis was built 200 kilometers from Kazan, it would not work at all. People are being sold to move to Kazan, or rather to its comfortable suburb, and, conventionally, a dream job, for example, in a laboratory that deals with robotic travel. Super. But there will be few such people. New cities in Siberia will not solve the problem of its depopulation, just some part of the population may move from existing cities.

– That is, will suffer, for example, Novosibirsk or Krasnoyarsk?

–  Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Barnaul, maybe partly Tomsk – these are donors from where you can bring someone. But once again , these are not some new people coming to Siberia. The existing centers will weaken.

You can also dream up: in Soviet times, there was a program of resettlement of unpromising rural settlements. Now there are problems with northern urban-type settlements and rural settlements. In the Soviet economy, they were at least somehow effective, but now there is an abandoned population who periodically writes letters to Macron,  Merkel, or Santa Claus: take us out of here. You really need to do something about this problem.

The Kadykchanskaya mine of the Arkagalinsky coal basin and the village of Kadykchan miners (background). USSR, Magadan Region, September 16, 1971. In 2010, the village of Kadykchan was completely deserted.Belyavyi Sergey / TASS

Kadykchan now

– For example, offer to move to a new city with jobs?

–  Yes, here’s a city for you! But here, too, many problems arise. The first problem is that everyone who could and wanted to leave has already left. They tried to resettle some of these settlements: the World Bank subsidized the distribution of housing certificates to residents. In the overwhelming majority of cases, people took certificates, sold them in the regional center, returned to their villages with the proceeds and could continue to live there for several years, gradually becoming alcoholic, since the enterprise was closed.

Suppose all this is being started in order to load some building capacity, and this is all a big scam related to the building lobby. Suppose that the state will finance this construction in full, but why, in this case, does the state not finance the use of the same construction facilities on the outskirts of existing cities: Tomsk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Abakan and resettle people there? That is, obviously, this is not the logic. 

Even if we collect several tens of thousands of people from these various villages forgotten by God and the Russian authorities and collect them in one place, we must understand that this will be a social catastrophe on such a scale as the world did not know. That is, it will be Pruitt Igoe, the legendary multi-storey social housing complex in St. Louis, which had to be blown up after a while, because all hell began there .

– Are there any other problems associated with the possible construction of new cities?

–  Their future. At the beginning of the 20th century, the most advanced industry was the textile industry, it generated huge profits. In the Ivanovo region, there are cities, for example, Shuya and Vichuga, which have become incredibly rich from the end of the 19th century until around the October Revolution. If you go there now, you will be delighted with the chic red-brick factory architecture  not only factory, but also hospital, workers’ townships. But now these are depressive territories. Any innovative industry in 30 years loses its relevance, ceases to generate super-profits. If your city is associated only with this industry, you will lose anyway. There is a huge problem of transit from one mono-specialization to another. America also has such cities, a typical example is Detroit, but in fact there are several dozen such examples.

– What to do with such settlements?

–  Here we need other mechanisms for managing the settlement system, in Russia we absolutely lack them  this is a controlled compression. The settlements in the North, in the Far East, in Eastern Siberia are losing population, but someone remains, and for them it is necessary to reconfigure urban systems. I recently heard a wonderful expression: palliative urban planning. These cities need palliative care. It is necessary to gradually reduce those areas that are supported by infrastructure, to relocate the remnants of people to the central parts of the city.

Yes, you need to spend a certain amount of money on this, but it will pay off by the fact that you will not support the gigantic, unnecessary and, most importantly, outdated, energy inefficient, including urban infrastructure. There will be more funds left in the city budget that can be invested in ensuring that everything in the rest of the city is kept in good condition, that the polyclinic is normal, that there are one or two good schools.READ ALSO

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– And what could the authorities do, if we talk specifically about Siberia?

–  There were several amazing stories in Siberia. First of all, this is Tomsk and its cluster of strong universities. They are listed on the international market, albeit primarily among Asian countries. It is a city that produces a ton of educated people  its universities have successfully integrated into Russia’s corporate recruitment and migration networks. In the 2000s, a completely innovative environment was emerging in Tomsk, small technology startups arose. But in the 2000s, the startup space was not as heavily regulated. Support this, you have a strange innovation center located simply in oblivion! 

Isolation in Siberia in itself does not exclude such things, but natural paths must be maintained. Do not try to overcome the force of gravity, you need to adapt to it. The idea of space management  this is nonsense. The only thing we can do is to adapt to the existing processes, to activate those of them that are favorable for us. The production of technologically savvy guys in Tomsk is favorable for us, so let’s make the environment in this city favorable for them to stay. 

We have the city of Yakutsk, which is growing at a fabulous pace due to the ongoing urbanization of the population in Yakutia. Its own suburbia is being formed around Yakutsk. This does not require government funding, and large construction companies do not need to be supported. You just need to give access to land and building materials. But Yakutsk hangs on the northern delivery of fuel and lubricants, this is unnatural for a city of several hundred thousand people. The development of the city is constrained by the fact that for many years they have not been able to build a bridge across the Lena. Support those cities that already accumulate population.

– Maybe some more steps?

–  Support the existing natural processes of population redistribution in the settlement system. This is metropolisation – the movement of the population to large cities and their environs. Officials are now like the word agglomeration, but what they understand under it, and the fact that geography is called agglomeration  these are two different objects. Agglomeration of settlements occurs naturally. And what the officials are doing now is an attempt to simply circle several large cities with a red pencil on the map and say: now it is an agglomeration. Due to the fact that you outlined Perm, Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk with a red pencil, they did not merge into a single agglomeration. 

– The authorities are also talking about the agglomeration – they want to build a 300,000th satellite city between Vladivostok and Artem . In the future, a million-plus city may appear in the Far East.

–  This is a somewhat adequate idea of ​​at least real geography: the distance from Vladivostok to Artem is small. However, between Vladivostok and Artem, the terrain is rather difficult  hills, rocky soils, it is difficult to build it up. Plus, it has already been partially used by Soviet sanatoriums and private buildings. The second oddity is that in the late 2000s and early 10s, an APEC summit was held in Vladivostok, and enchanting bridges were built. They lead to Russky Island, south of Vladivostok. The idea, most likely, was that the basic vector of Vladivostok’s development will be there, to the south   on the islands there is a more convenient relief, they are now connected by transport. What will happen to this project? 

And most importantly, Vladivostok has been losing population throughout the entire post-Soviet period, and this trend has only intensified over the past three years. Who are these people to whom you are going to sell square meters of real estate between Artyom and Vladivostok? Unclear.

In principle, it is not clear what is the magical meaning of the figure of a million people? In Soviet times, it was believed that the millionaire gets the metro and more money. Now there is no such budgetary policy. But some cities in Russia are trying very hard to keep the number of a million people, although the population is leaving there. Therefore, they are engaged in a fun exercise: before each census, they slaughter neighboring municipalities. 

– So, in your opinion, this project is not very meaningful either?

–  You can help the processes that go on in the course of self-organization of resettlement. The main thing that can be done is  to increase the local transport connectivity of settlements that are close to each other. For example, there is the same Vladivostok and there is Artyom, the development of the territory between them will occur naturally, if there is an influx of population –  but there is none, these people will not come from anywhere. But you can connect Artyom and Vladivostok with a high-speed train, which would create a single labor market in the cities: a person could get from his home in Artyom to a workplace in Vladivostok within 50-90 minutes. And then it will give some effect, launch some kind of agglomeration process.

– I have heard more than once that people in Siberia and the Far East perform such a role as border guards. There should be a lot of them so that the neighbors do not occupy the territory.

– “ They are holding the square”  this construction is widespread in many government offices. In the Far East, for example, in Kamchatka, people also think so. But theoretically, we have an official statement that China is our main strategic partner. Are we keeping territory from him? This ideology of a besieged fortress hinders the development of the Far East. The only thing that can save the Far East economically  it is cross-border cooperation.

Heilongjiang Province, bordering on Russian territories, is losing population. Its population and residents of other northern provinces are moving to southern, central China, where life is easier, wages are higher, where the warm period is longer. The northern Chinese provinces are losing population. Who will exert tremendous pressure on the Far East? Look at the statistics, damn it, where are these tens of thousands of Chinese moving to the Far Eastern regions of the federation? There is no such migration, simply not, physically.

– Sergei Shoigu spoke about the construction of new cities and the transfer of the capital to Siberia. Maybe this is the case – they will move the capital and the meaning will appear in new cities?

–  In principle, it is possible to move the capital to Russia. The question is why? Usually they talk about two goals – to hold the country together if it falls apart. This option was, for example, in Nigeria: the northern part of the country is Muslim, the southern part is Christian. They decided to place the capital in the middle, but it did not become the largest city in the country, although there is active urbanization and people are migrating. The second goal is to give impetus to the development of the interior regions. The classic example is , of course, Brasilia. It is a large city, but it is not even close to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. 

Let’s even assume that officials move, what will their family members do in an official’s monotown? Where will the children of federal officials study, who, as we understand, are not the last stratum of applicants to elite Russian universities. Will you move MGIMO there too?

In Russia, we have been observing the transfer of the judiciary to St. Petersburg for many years, only one of the courts has moved there , and the court quarter has not yet been built . The resistance of this administrative machine is so great that it cannot be overcome, although [the judges] are encouraged to leave for Petersburg, not for Siberia. They wanted to move the State Duma first outside the Moscow Ring Road , and then to Mnevniki , that is, we are talking about Moscow and the region. But it still stands at the Kremlin.

In August, the Minister of Defense and the leader of the list of “United Russia” in the elections to the State Duma Sergei Shoigu proposed to build in Siberia “three, and preferably five large scientific, industrial, economic centers, in other words – cities with a population of 300-500 thousand, better – up to a million human”. Shoigu also believes that the capital of Russia should be moved to Siberia. His idea of ​​cities was quickly supported by government officials and the presidential administration: in late August , an agreement was signed at the Eastern Economic Forum to build a new city, Sputnik, near Vladivostok. There were also critics: the president’s plenipotentiary in the Far East, Yuri Trutnev, saidthat you first need to put in order the existing cities. Meduza’s special correspondent Andrei Pertsev spoke with Ruslan Dokhov, an economic geographer, Moscow State University lecturer, and senior lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, about whether it is now possible to build several large cities far from the European part of Russia and whether the transfer of the capital to Siberia will help the development of this vast territory.

– Speaking about the need to build new cities in Siberia, Shoigu refers , among other things, to the unfulfilled plans of the Soviet era. What exactly does he mean?

–  What exactly he was told from the Soviet urban planning concepts, I will not say for sure, but the basic concept of a unified system of settlement existed in the Soviet Union. She assumed that all cities in the USSR should develop as an associated system of settlement. Soviet planners, Soviet geographers believed that there are common processes in the system and, most importantly  you can control. It was believed that the placement of productive forces leads to the fact that the population is displaced. 

Now the consensus is still the following: in the post-industrial economy, in which, on the whole, Russia already lives, including, the primary location of the population. Because most of the economy is now either produced by people without special means of production like factory blast furnaces or machine tools, or is associated with serving each other’s population. In an industrial economy, when a significant part of the gross product is produced in the industrial sector, in the mining and manufacturing industries, this is not the case. Since the 1970s, when there were these last reflections on a unified system of settlement and how it can be controlled, the prerequisites have already changed.

– How did this system of settlement and the creation of new centers of development regions go on in the Soviet Union?

–  There was such a magical, I would say, mystified concept of a territorial production complex. It was assumed that it was possible to create such a territorial combination of industries that would give many multiplier effects. These were complementary industries that “sit” on some natural advantage  for example, cheap energy.

In fact, this is how enterprises were located in Eastern Siberia. Large cascades of hydroelectric power plants were built on Siberian rivers, energy-intensive industries were planted on them, they produced a certain product that was then economically effective. Thus, we have the production of aluminum in the Irkutsk region, for example. The deposits are very far from this region, but the benefits from free energy are  enormous. Some people come there, these people start working at the factory, everything is fine. We read the poem “Bratskaya HPP” by Evgeny Yevtushenko. 

Closing the Angara river bed during the construction of the Bratsk hydroelectric power station. The exact shooting date has not been set. Irkutsk region, summer 1959Vladimir Savostyanov / TASS

– So what’s wrong with that?Advertising

–  The difficulty is that the industry has changed since then. The current production system of the same aluminum no longer requires such a number of employees at the enterprise. Today, the very idea that we can build a large city, which will be connected with some kind of city-forming industry, looks strange. 

Moreover, there was no competition in the Soviet economy. The state built factories that did not compete with each other. Today, the development of large enterprises in Russia is associated more with corporate dynamics than with industry dynamics. In modern economic geography, we interpret the district effect as follows: several adjacent industries are connected with each other rather through corporate networks, and not through geography –  as a location next to each other on the territory. Soviet mantras no longer work today.

The second big story associated with the Soviet system of settlement and development of territories is population growth in the USSR. The increase was in the Central Asian republics, the southern part of the RSFSR and Transcaucasia, or in rural areas. The authorities needed to occupy this population with something and resettle it somewhere. Today the population of Russia is shrinking, while the population of Siberia and the Far East is shrinking dramatically. This trend cannot be changed. During the post-Soviet period, the population in the Far Eastern District has decreased by about 22%, in the Siberian District by 10%. All programs, attempts to keep the population in these not very favorable places for life fail. The same “Far Eastern hectare”   most of the certificates were bought by local people, especially in infrastructure-provided places. READ ALSO

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– Is it possible to reverse this demographic trend? 

–  In principle, it is rather impossible. Now the population of the Far East and Siberia is surplus. This is due to massive Soviet population movements. The shift of productive forces to the East unbalanced the natural system of settlement, which for centuries was taking shape within the borders of the Russian Empire. The people lived more in the main zone of settlement central and southern Russia, Ukraine. This strip ended approximately towards Altai, further the settlement acquired an insular character. People lived where either there were good climatic conditions, or some resources were located, or in a few ports. The rest of the area was sparsely populated. It can be populated if you pump crazy money there, apply some forced methods of population transfer. But in a normal capitalist economy this is impossible, and most importantly, it is not necessary. 

– That is, the relatively small population of Siberia and the Far East is normal?

–  We often compare ourselves to Canada. 80% of Canada’s population lives in a narrow border strip with the United States. Everything, there is nothing further. Conventionally, this is Siberia, which did not know Bolshevism, did not know the shift in productive forces, but knew natural development. 

Urban-type settlement Iultin, where workers and employees of the Iultinsky mining and processing plant lived. March 1, 1974. By 2000, the last residents had left.Belyavyi Sergey / TASS

Iultin now

– But rumors about at least one new city – Electrograd  – are already going on.

– A  magical story. All neighboring cities are losing population, around an extremely unfavorable economic situation, except, perhaps, Krasnoyarsk. But let’s even forget about that. It is important that the creation of any new large settlement, even for one hundred thousand people, is a gigantic indignation in the settlement system. You can’t just take and build hundreds of millions of square meters of real estate and drag hundreds of thousands of people there, no one knows how.

Let’s say it happened. The settlement system is designed in such a way that there are large, medium and small cities, a balance must be observed between them. For example, the settlement system of central Russia has too big a “head”  Moscow. Therefore, this system is all loose, there are not enough cities with an average population, and around Moscow there is a demographic desert. In the 1990s and 2000s, the outstripping development of the Moscow labor market and services led to the fact that all neighboring regions became insanely depressed. Their population, especially the young, mobile part of it, with terrible force migrates to Moscow, even if they cannot afford to live there permanently, then there is a phenomenon of total otkhodnik .

Let’s go back to the Siberian cities. Suppose we are building a large city in the same Minusinsk Basin. For people who could come there, some kind of arguments are needed. We hear about the new quality of the urban environment: “In Siberia and the Far East, the cities are terrible, they were built in Soviet times, there is no urban environment there, they are built up with Khrushchev buildings, five-story buildings, and here we will immediately do it cool.” Maybe they really will, but this will lead to the formation of a gigantic demographic desert around. It will not work to drag the population there from European Russia  which, apparently, the calculation is – will not work.

First, there is a demographic law  when a migration opportunity arises, migration from nearby regions and nearby settlements is more likely than from remote ones. You need to offer substantially more income to get people across a long distance. Secondly, there will be competition for a small mobile part of the Russian population. In Russia, population mobility is very low, people migrate little compared to the United States, Canada and even Brazil.READ ALSO

Khrushchevs are a nightmare and horror. They need to be demolished. Or not?

5 years ago

– As far as I understand, people move mainly to Moscow and St. Petersburg?

–  We can talk about four options. Among them are  Moscow and St. Petersburg. The third option is  some kind of local center, for example, if you live in the European north, it will most likely be Yaroslavl, which is perceived as Peter’s deputy. In St. Petersburg, the competition is high, everything is complicated, everything is expensive, but in Yaroslavl it seems to be good and at the same time not as expensive as in St. Petersburg or Moscow. In the Chernozem region, this may be Belgorod. The fourth migration decision is to move to the south, it is usually made by middle-aged people who have worked somewhere in Western Siberia or the Urals, earned some money or served in law enforcement agencies and retired early.

You will need to give something that will compete with these migration solutions, and this is extremely difficult to do. Suppose that a territory of advanced development is created in a new city, taxes are zeroed, but even this will not allow creating a competitive environment here. This territory of advanced development should be based on something.

We are told: “there will be innovative industries here, IT specialists will come, everything will be fine.” In principle, we have such a city  it is called Innopolis, not far from Kazan. This is a grandiose project of the Tatarstan authorities to build a new city, several thousand people live in it . It is indeed a rather curious few quarters, this is a university, not very large, but relatively dynamic, several strong laboratories supported by large Russian companies, including Yandex. But once again  this is several thousand people, despite the fact that Innopolis is located God knows where. This is essentially a suburb of Kazan, where you can use all the services of a developed city.

Valery Limarenko, the governor of Sakhalin, has a flagship project to build a new city near Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Designing is already underway there, there is some kind of economic strategy, demographic plan, town planning plans are also being prepared. But again, this is not the scale: we are talking about thousands of people, the ceiling is several tens of thousands of people. It is a port city for trade with Asian countries. Indeed, the new urban environment canattractsome population from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from the conditional Nakhodka or Vladivostok. This is a more rational story. 

But if the same Innopolis was built 200 kilometers from Kazan, it would not work at all. People are being sold to move to Kazan, or rather to its comfortable suburb, and, conventionally, a dream job, for example, in a laboratory that deals with robotic travel. Super. But there will be few such people. New cities in Siberia will not solve the problem of its depopulation, just some part of the population may move from existing cities.

– That is, will suffer, for example, Novosibirsk or Krasnoyarsk?

–  Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Barnaul, maybe partly Tomsk – these are donors from where you can bring someone. But once again , these are not some new people coming to Siberia. The existing centers will weaken.

You can also dream up: in Soviet times, there was a program of resettlement of unpromising rural settlements. Now there are problems with northern urban-type settlements and rural settlements. In the Soviet economy, they were at least somehow effective, but now there is an abandoned population who periodically writes letters to Macron,  Merkel, or Santa Claus: take us out of here. You really need to do something about this problem.

The Kadykchanskaya mine of the Arkagalinsky coal basin and the village of Kadykchan miners (background). USSR, Magadan Region, September 16, 1971. In 2010, the village of Kadykchan was completely deserted.Belyavyi Sergey / TASS

Kadykchan now

– For example, offer to move to a new city with jobs?

–  Yes, here’s a city for you! But here, too, many problems arise. The first problem is that everyone who could and wanted to leave has already left. They tried to resettle some of these settlements: the World Bank subsidized the distribution of housing certificates to residents. In the overwhelming majority of cases, people took certificates, sold them in the regional center, returned to their villages with the proceeds and could continue to live there for several years, gradually becoming alcoholic, since the enterprise was closed.

Suppose all this is being started in order to load some building capacity, and this is all a big scam related to the building lobby. Suppose that the state will finance this construction in full, but why, in this case, does the state not finance the use of the same construction facilities on the outskirts of existing cities: Tomsk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Abakan and resettle people there? That is, obviously, this is not the logic. 

Even if we collect several tens of thousands of people from these various villages forgotten by God and the Russian authorities and collect them in one place, we must understand that this will be a social catastrophe on such a scale as the world did not know. That is, it will be Pruitt Igoe, the legendary multi-storey social housing complex in St. Louis, which had to be blown up after a while, because all hell began there .

– Are there any other problems associated with the possible construction of new cities?

–  Their future. At the beginning of the 20th century, the most advanced industry was the textile industry, it generated huge profits. In the Ivanovo region, there are cities, for example, Shuya and Vichuga, which have become incredibly rich from the end of the 19th century until around the October Revolution. If you go there now, you will be delighted with the chic red-brick factory architecture  not only factory, but also hospital, workers’ townships. But now these are depressive territories. Any innovative industry in 30 years loses its relevance, ceases to generate super-profits. If your city is associated only with this industry, you will lose anyway. There is a huge problem of transit from one mono-specialization to another. America also has such cities, a typical example is Detroit, but in fact there are several dozen such examples.

– What to do with such settlements?

–  Here we need other mechanisms for managing the settlement system, in Russia we absolutely lack them  this is a controlled compression. The settlements in the North, in the Far East, in Eastern Siberia are losing population, but someone remains, and for them it is necessary to reconfigure urban systems. I recently heard a wonderful expression: palliative urban planning. These cities need palliative care. It is necessary to gradually reduce those areas that are supported by infrastructure, to relocate the remnants of people to the central parts of the city.

Yes, you need to spend a certain amount of money on this, but it will pay off by the fact that you will not support the gigantic, unnecessary and, most importantly, outdated, energy inefficient, including urban infrastructure. There will be more funds left in the city budget that can be invested in ensuring that everything in the rest of the city is kept in good condition, that the polyclinic is normal, that there are one or two good schools.READ ALSO

The legacy of good robots Maxim Trudolyubov – about how housing was built in the USSR (and how it is being built now)

5 years ago

– And what could the authorities do, if we talk specifically about Siberia?

–  There were several amazing stories in Siberia. First of all, this is Tomsk and its cluster of strong universities. They are listed on the international market, albeit primarily among Asian countries. It is a city that produces a ton of educated people  its universities have successfully integrated into Russia’s corporate recruitment and migration networks. In the 2000s, a completely innovative environment was emerging in Tomsk, small technology startups arose. But in the 2000s, the startup space was not as heavily regulated. Support this, you have a strange innovation center located simply in oblivion! 

Isolation in Siberia in itself does not exclude such things, but natural paths must be maintained. Do not try to overcome the force of gravity, you need to adapt to it. The idea of space management  this is nonsense. The only thing we can do is to adapt to the existing processes, to activate those of them that are favorable for us. The production of technologically savvy guys in Tomsk is favorable for us, so let’s make the environment in this city favorable for them to stay. 

We have the city of Yakutsk, which is growing at a fabulous pace due to the ongoing urbanization of the population in Yakutia. Its own suburbia is being formed around Yakutsk. This does not require government funding, and large construction companies do not need to be supported. You just need to give access to land and building materials. But Yakutsk hangs on the northern delivery of fuel and lubricants, this is unnatural for a city of several hundred thousand people. The development of the city is constrained by the fact that for many years they have not been able to build a bridge across the Lena. Support those cities that already accumulate population.

– Maybe some more steps?

–  Support the existing natural processes of population redistribution in the settlement system. This is metropolisation – the movement of the population to large cities and their environs. Officials are now like the word agglomeration, but what they understand under it, and the fact that geography is called agglomeration  these are two different objects. Agglomeration of settlements occurs naturally. And what the officials are doing now is an attempt to simply circle several large cities with a red pencil on the map and say: now it is an agglomeration. Due to the fact that you outlined Perm, Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk with a red pencil, they did not merge into a single agglomeration. 

– The authorities are also talking about the agglomeration – they want to build a 300,000th satellite city between Vladivostok and Artem . In the future, a million-plus city may appear in the Far East.

–  This is a somewhat adequate idea of ​​at least real geography: the distance from Vladivostok to Artem is small. However, between Vladivostok and Artem, the terrain is rather difficult  hills, rocky soils, it is difficult to build it up. Plus, it has already been partially used by Soviet sanatoriums and private buildings. The second oddity is that in the late 2000s and early 10s, an APEC summit was held in Vladivostok, and enchanting bridges were built. They lead to Russky Island, south of Vladivostok. The idea, most likely, was that the basic vector of Vladivostok’s development will be there, to the south   on the islands there is a more convenient relief, they are now connected by transport. What will happen to this project? 

And most importantly, Vladivostok has been losing population throughout the entire post-Soviet period, and this trend has only intensified over the past three years. Who are these people to whom you are going to sell square meters of real estate between Artyom and Vladivostok? Unclear.

In principle, it is not clear what is the magical meaning of the figure of a million people? In Soviet times, it was believed that the millionaire gets the metro and more money. Now there is no such budgetary policy. But some cities in Russia are trying very hard to keep the number of a million people, although the population is leaving there. Therefore, they are engaged in a fun exercise: before each census, they slaughter neighboring municipalities. 

– So, in your opinion, this project is not very meaningful either?

–  You can help the processes that go on in the course of self-organization of resettlement. The main thing that can be done is  to increase the local transport connectivity of settlements that are close to each other. For example, there is the same Vladivostok and there is Artyom, the development of the territory between them will occur naturally, if there is an influx of population –  but there is none, these people will not come from anywhere. But you can connect Artyom and Vladivostok with a high-speed train, which would create a single labor market in the cities: a person could get from his home in Artyom to a workplace in Vladivostok within 50-90 minutes. And then it will give some effect, launch some kind of agglomeration process.

– I have heard more than once that people in Siberia and the Far East perform such a role as border guards. There should be a lot of them so that the neighbors do not occupy the territory.

– “ They are holding the square”  this construction is widespread in many government offices. In the Far East, for example, in Kamchatka, people also think so. But theoretically, we have an official statement that China is our main strategic partner. Are we keeping territory from him? This ideology of a besieged fortress hinders the development of the Far East. The only thing that can save the Far East economically  it is cross-border cooperation.

Heilongjiang Province, bordering on Russian territories, is losing population. Its population and residents of other northern provinces are moving to southern, central China, where life is easier, wages are higher, where the warm period is longer. The northern Chinese provinces are losing population. Who will exert tremendous pressure on the Far East? Look at the statistics, damn it, where are these tens of thousands of Chinese moving to the Far Eastern regions of the federation? There is no such migration, simply not, physically.

– Sergei Shoigu spoke about the construction of new cities and the transfer of the capital to Siberia. Maybe this is the case – they will move the capital and the meaning will appear in new cities?

–  In principle, it is possible to move the capital to Russia. The question is why? Usually they talk about two goals – to hold the country together if it falls apart. This option was, for example, in Nigeria: the northern part of the country is Muslim, the southern part is Christian. They decided to place the capital in the middle, but it did not become the largest city in the country, although there is active urbanization and people are migrating. The second goal is to give impetus to the development of the interior regions. The classic example is , of course, Brasilia. It is a large city, but it is not even close to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. 

Let’s even assume that officials move, what will their family members do in an official’s monotown? Where will the children of federal officials study, who, as we understand, are not the last stratum of applicants to elite Russian universities. Will you move MGIMO there too?

In Russia, we have been observing the transfer of the judiciary to St. Petersburg for many years, only one of the courts has moved there , and the court quarter has not yet been built . The resistance of this administrative machine is so great that it cannot be overcome, although [the judges] are encouraged to leave for Petersburg, not for Siberia. They wanted to move the State Duma first outside the Moscow Ring Road , and then to Mnevniki , that is, we are talking about Moscow and the region. But it still stands at the Kremlin.

–  What exactly he was told from the Soviet urban planning concepts, I will not say for sure, but the basic concept of a unified system of settlement existed in the Soviet Union. She assumed that all cities in the USSR should develop as an associated system of settlement. Soviet planners, Soviet geographers believed that there are common processes in the system and, most importantly  you can control. It was believed that the placement of productive forces leads to the fact that the population is displaced. 

Now the consensus is still the following: in the post-industrial economy, in which, on the whole, Russia already lives, including, the primary location of the population. Because most of the economy is now either produced by people without special means of production like factory blast furnaces or machine tools, or is associated with serving each other’s population. In an industrial economy, when a significant part of the gross product is produced in the industrial sector, in the mining and manufacturing industries, this is not the case. Since the 1970s, when there were these last reflections on a unified system of settlement and how it can be controlled, the prerequisites have already changed.

– How did this system of settlement and the creation of new centers of development regions go on in the Soviet Union?

–  There was such a magical, I would say, mystified concept of a territorial production complex. It was assumed that it was possible to create such a territorial combination of industries that would give many multiplier effects. These were complementary industries that “sit” on some natural advantage  for example, cheap energy.

In fact, this is how enterprises were located in Eastern Siberia. Large cascades of hydroelectric power plants were built on Siberian rivers, energy-intensive industries were planted on them, they produced a certain product that was then economically effective. Thus, we have the production of aluminum in the Irkutsk region, for example. The deposits are very far from this region, but the benefits from free energy are  enormous. Some people come there, these people start working at the factory, everything is fine. We read the poem “Bratskaya HPP” by Evgeny Yevtushenko. 

–  The difficulty is that the industry has changed since then. The current production system of the same aluminum no longer requires such a number of employees at the enterprise. Today, the very idea that we can build a large city, which will be connected with some kind of city-forming industry, looks strange. 

Moreover, there was no competition in the Soviet economy. The state built factories that did not compete with each other. Today, the development of large enterprises in Russia is associated more with corporate dynamics than with industry dynamics. In modern economic geography, we interpret the district effect as follows: several adjacent industries are connected with each other rather through corporate networks, and not through geography –  as a location next to each other on the territory. Soviet mantras no longer work today.

The second big story associated with the Soviet system of settlement and development of territories is population growth in the USSR. The increase was in the Central Asian republics, the southern part of the RSFSR and Transcaucasia, or in rural areas. The authorities needed to occupy this population with something and resettle it somewhere. Today the population of Russia is shrinking, while the population of Siberia and the Far East is shrinking dramatically. This trend cannot be changed. During the post-Soviet period, the population in the Far Eastern District has decreased by about 22%, in the Siberian District by 10%. All programs, attempts to keep the population in these not very favorable places for life fail. The same “Far Eastern hectare”   most of the certificates were bought by local people, especially in infrastructure-provided places. READ ALSO

– Is it possible to reverse this demographic trend? 

–  In principle, it is rather impossible. Now the population of the Far East and Siberia is surplus. This is due to massive Soviet population movements. The shift of productive forces to the East unbalanced the natural system of settlement, which for centuries was taking shape within the borders of the Russian Empire. The people lived more in the main zone of settlement central and southern Russia, Ukraine. This strip ended approximately towards Altai, further the settlement acquired an insular character. People lived where either there were good climatic conditions, or some resources were located, or in a few ports. The rest of the area was sparsely populated. It can be populated if you pump crazy money there, apply some forced methods of population transfer. But in a normal capitalist economy this is impossible, and most importantly, it is not necessary. 

– That is, the relatively small population of Siberia and the Far East is normal?

–  We often compare ourselves to Canada. 80% of Canada’s population lives in a narrow border strip with the United States. Everything, there is nothing further. Conventionally, this is Siberia, which did not know Bolshevism, did not know the shift in productive forces, but knew natural development. 

– But rumors about at least one new city – Electrograd  – are already going on.

– A  magical story. All neighboring cities are losing population, around an extremely unfavorable economic situation, except, perhaps, Krasnoyarsk. But let’s even forget about that. It is important that the creation of any new large settlement, even for one hundred thousand people, is a gigantic indignation in the settlement system. You can’t just take and build hundreds of millions of square meters of real estate and drag hundreds of thousands of people there, no one knows how.

Let’s say it happened. The settlement system is designed in such a way that there are large, medium and small cities, a balance must be observed between them. For example, the settlement system of central Russia has too big a “head”  Moscow. Therefore, this system is all loose, there are not enough cities with an average population, and around Moscow there is a demographic desert. In the 1990s and 2000s, the outstripping development of the Moscow labor market and services led to the fact that all neighboring regions became insanely depressed. Their population, especially the young, mobile part of it, with terrible force migrates to Moscow, even if they cannot afford to live there permanently, then there is a phenomenon of total otkhodnik .

Let’s go back to the Siberian cities. Suppose we are building a large city in the same Minusinsk Basin. For people who could come there, some kind of arguments are needed. We hear about the new quality of the urban environment: “In Siberia and the Far East, the cities are terrible, they were built in Soviet times, there is no urban environment there, they are built up with Khrushchev buildings, five-story buildings, and here we will immediately do it cool.” Maybe they really will, but this will lead to the formation of a gigantic demographic desert around. It will not work to drag the population there from European Russia  which, apparently, the calculation is – will not work.

First, there is a demographic law  when a migration opportunity arises, migration from nearby regions and nearby settlements is more likely than from remote ones. You need to offer substantially more income to get people across a long distance. Secondly, there will be competition for a small mobile part of the Russian population. In Russia, population mobility is very low, people migrate little compared to the United States, Canada and even Brazil.READ ALSO

– As far as I understand, people move mainly to Moscow and St. Petersburg?

–  We can talk about four options. Among them are  Moscow and St. Petersburg. The third option is  some kind of local center, for example, if you live in the European north, it will most likely be Yaroslavl, which is perceived as Peter’s deputy. In St. Petersburg, the competition is high, everything is complicated, everything is expensive, but in Yaroslavl it seems to be good and at the same time not as expensive as in St. Petersburg or Moscow. In the Chernozem region, this may be Belgorod. The fourth migration decision is to move to the south, it is usually made by middle-aged people who have worked somewhere in Western Siberia or the Urals, earned some money or served in law enforcement agencies and retired early.

You will need to give something that will compete with these migration solutions, and this is extremely difficult to do. Suppose that a territory of advanced development is created in a new city, taxes are zeroed, but even this will not allow creating a competitive environment here. This territory of advanced development should be based on something.

We are told: “there will be innovative industries here, IT specialists will come, everything will be fine.” In principle, we have such a city  it is called Innopolis, not far from Kazan. This is a grandiose project of the Tatarstan authorities to build a new city, several thousand people live in it . It is indeed a rather curious few quarters, this is a university, not very large, but relatively dynamic, several strong laboratories supported by large Russian companies, including Yandex. But once again  this is several thousand people, despite the fact that Innopolis is located God knows where. This is essentially a suburb of Kazan, where you can use all the services of a developed city.

Valery Limarenko, the governor of Sakhalin, has a flagship project to build a new city near Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Designing is already underway there, there is some kind of economic strategy, demographic plan, town planning plans are also being prepared. But again, this is not the scale: we are talking about thousands of people, the ceiling is several tens of thousands of people. It is a port city for trade with Asian countries. Indeed, the new urban environment canattractsome population from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from the conditional Nakhodka or Vladivostok. This is a more rational story. 

But if the same Innopolis was built 200 kilometers from Kazan, it would not work at all. People are being sold to move to Kazan, or rather to its comfortable suburb, and, conventionally, a dream job, for example, in a laboratory that deals with robotic travel. Super. But there will be few such people. New cities in Siberia will not solve the problem of its depopulation, just some part of the population may move from existing cities.

– That is, will suffer, for example, Novosibirsk or Krasnoyarsk?

–  Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Barnaul, maybe partly Tomsk – these are donors from where you can bring someone. But once again , these are not some new people coming to Siberia. The existing centers will weaken.

You can also dream up: in Soviet times, there was a program of resettlement of unpromising rural settlements. Now there are problems with northern urban-type settlements and rural settlements. In the Soviet economy, they were at least somehow effective, but now there is an abandoned population who periodically writes letters to Macron,  Merkel, or Santa Claus: take us out of here. You really need to do something about this problem.

– For example, offer to move to a new city with jobs?

–  Yes, here’s a city for you! But here, too, many problems arise. The first problem is that everyone who could and wanted to leave has already left. They tried to resettle some of these settlements: the World Bank subsidized the distribution of housing certificates to residents. In the overwhelming majority of cases, people took certificates, sold them in the regional center, returned to their villages with the proceeds and could continue to live there for several years, gradually becoming alcoholic, since the enterprise was closed.

Suppose all this is being started in order to load some building capacity, and this is all a big scam related to the building lobby. Suppose that the state will finance this construction in full, but why, in this case, does the state not finance the use of the same construction facilities on the outskirts of existing cities: Tomsk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Abakan and resettle people there? That is, obviously, this is not the logic. 

Even if we collect several tens of thousands of people from these various villages forgotten by God and the Russian authorities and collect them in one place, we must understand that this will be a social catastrophe on such a scale as the world did not know. That is, it will be Pruitt Igoe, the legendary multi-storey social housing complex in St. Louis, which had to be blown up after a while, because all hell began there .

– Are there any other problems associated with the possible construction of new cities?

–  Their future. At the beginning of the 20th century, the most advanced industry was the textile industry, it generated huge profits. In the Ivanovo region, there are cities, for example, Shuya and Vichuga, which have become incredibly rich from the end of the 19th century until around the October Revolution. If you go there now, you will be delighted with the chic red-brick factory architecture  not only factory, but also hospital, workers’ townships. But now these are depressive territories. Any innovative industry in 30 years loses its relevance, ceases to generate super-profits. If your city is associated only with this industry, you will lose anyway. There is a huge problem of transit from one mono-specialization to another. America also has such cities, a typical example is Detroit, but in fact there are several dozen such examples.

– What to do with such settlements?

–  Here we need other mechanisms for managing the settlement system, in Russia we absolutely lack them  this is a controlled compression. The settlements in the North, in the Far East, in Eastern Siberia are losing population, but someone remains, and for them it is necessary to reconfigure urban systems. I recently heard a wonderful expression: palliative urban planning. These cities need palliative care. It is necessary to gradually reduce those areas that are supported by infrastructure, to relocate the remnants of people to the central parts of the city.

Yes, you need to spend a certain amount of money on this, but it will pay off by the fact that you will not support the gigantic, unnecessary and, most importantly, outdated, energy inefficient, including urban infrastructure. There will be more funds left in the city budget that can be invested in ensuring that everything in the rest of the city is kept in good condition, that the polyclinic is normal, that there are one or two good schools.

– And what could the authorities do, if we talk specifically about Siberia?

–  There were several amazing stories in Siberia. First of all, this is Tomsk and its cluster of strong universities. They are listed on the international market, albeit primarily among Asian countries. It is a city that produces a ton of educated people  its universities have successfully integrated into Russia’s corporate recruitment and migration networks. In the 2000s, a completely innovative environment was emerging in Tomsk, small technology startups arose. But in the 2000s, the startup space was not as heavily regulated. Support this, you have a strange innovation center located simply in oblivion! 

Isolation in Siberia in itself does not exclude such things, but natural paths must be maintained. Do not try to overcome the force of gravity, you need to adapt to it. The idea of space management  this is nonsense. The only thing we can do is to adapt to the existing processes, to activate those of them that are favorable for us. The production of technologically savvy guys in Tomsk is favorable for us, so let’s make the environment in this city favorable for them to stay. 

We have the city of Yakutsk, which is growing at a fabulous pace due to the ongoing urbanization of the population in Yakutia. Its own suburbia is being formed around Yakutsk. This does not require government funding, and large construction companies do not need to be supported. You just need to give access to land and building materials. But Yakutsk hangs on the northern delivery of fuel and lubricants, this is unnatural for a city of several hundred thousand people. The development of the city is constrained by the fact that for many years they have not been able to build a bridge across the Lena. Support those cities that already accumulate population.

– Maybe some more steps?

–  Support the existing natural processes of population redistribution in the settlement system. This is metropolisation – the movement of the population to large cities and their environs. Officials are now like the word agglomeration, but what they understand under it, and the fact that geography is called agglomeration  these are two different objects. Agglomeration of settlements occurs naturally. And what the officials are doing now is an attempt to simply circle several large cities with a red pencil on the map and say: now it is an agglomeration. Due to the fact that you outlined Perm, Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk with a red pencil, they did not merge into a single agglomeration. 

– The authorities are also talking about the agglomeration – they want to build a 300,000th satellite city between Vladivostok and Artem . In the future, a million-plus city may appear in the Far East.

–  This is a somewhat adequate idea of ​​at least real geography: the distance from Vladivostok to Artem is small. However, between Vladivostok and Artem, the terrain is rather difficult  hills, rocky soils, it is difficult to build it up. Plus, it has already been partially used by Soviet sanatoriums and private buildings. The second oddity is that in the late 2000s and early 10s, an APEC summit was held in Vladivostok, and enchanting bridges were built. They lead to Russky Island, south of Vladivostok. The idea, most likely, was that the basic vector of Vladivostok’s development will be there, to the south   on the islands there is a more convenient relief, they are now connected by transport. What will happen to this project? 

And most importantly, Vladivostok has been losing population throughout the entire post-Soviet period, and this trend has only intensified over the past three years. Who are these people to whom you are going to sell square meters of real estate between Artyom and Vladivostok? Unclear.

In principle, it is not clear what is the magical meaning of the figure of a million people? In Soviet times, it was believed that the millionaire gets the metro and more money. Now there is no such budgetary policy. But some cities in Russia are trying very hard to keep the number of a million people, although the population is leaving there. Therefore, they are engaged in a fun exercise: before each census, they slaughter neighboring municipalities. 

– So, in your opinion, this project is not very meaningful either?

–  You can help the processes that go on in the course of self-organization of resettlement. The main thing that can be done is  to increase the local transport connectivity of settlements that are close to each other. For example, there is the same Vladivostok and there is Artyom, the development of the territory between them will occur naturally, if there is an influx of population –  but there is none, these people will not come from anywhere. But you can connect Artyom and Vladivostok with a high-speed train, which would create a single labor market in the cities: a person could get from his home in Artyom to a workplace in Vladivostok within 50-90 minutes. And then it will give some effect, launch some kind of agglomeration process.

– I have heard more than once that people in Siberia and the Far East perform such a role as border guards. There should be a lot of them so that the neighbors do not occupy the territory.

– “ They are holding the square”  this construction is widespread in many government offices. In the Far East, for example, in Kamchatka, people also think so. But theoretically, we have an official statement that China is our main strategic partner. Are we keeping territory from him? This ideology of a besieged fortress hinders the development of the Far East. The only thing that can save the Far East economically  it is cross-border cooperation.

Heilongjiang Province, bordering on Russian territories, is losing population. Its population and residents of other northern provinces are moving to southern, central China, where life is easier, wages are higher, where the warm period is longer. The northern Chinese provinces are losing population. Who will exert tremendous pressure on the Far East? Look at the statistics, damn it, where are these tens of thousands of Chinese moving to the Far Eastern regions of the federation? There is no such migration, simply not, physically.

– Sergei Shoigu spoke about the construction of new cities and the transfer of the capital to Siberia. Maybe this is the case – they will move the capital and the meaning will appear in new cities?

–  In principle, it is possible to move the capital to Russia. The question is why? Usually they talk about two goals – to hold the country together if it falls apart. This option was, for example, in Nigeria: the northern part of the country is Muslim, the southern part is Christian. They decided to place the capital in the middle, but it did not become the largest city in the country, although there is active urbanization and people are migrating. The second goal is to give impetus to the development of the interior regions. The classic example is , of course, Brasilia. It is a large city, but it is not even close to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. 

Let’s even assume that officials move, what will their family members do in an official’s monotown? Where will the children of federal officials study, who, as we understand, are not the last stratum of applicants to elite Russian universities. Will you move MGIMO there too?

In Russia, we have been observing the transfer of the judiciary to St. Petersburg for many years, only one of the courts has moved there , and the court quarter has not yet been built . The resistance of this administrative machine is so great that it cannot be overcome, although [the judges] are encouraged to leave for Petersburg, not for Siberia. They wanted to move the State Duma first outside the Moscow Ring Road , and then to Mnevniki , that is, we are talking about Moscow and the region. But it still stands at the Kremlin.

(C)MEDUZA 2021

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