Re-Settling Asian Siberia To Create New Future Smart Cities

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Global warming is creating opportunities but relocating professionals needs careful planning 

The development of Siberia is a long-standing and important issue of the state administration of Russia. Some cities appeared there due to spontaneous market circumstances. Smaller settlements became large centers based on decisions made by Moscow during the USSR, such as Komsomolsk-on-Amur, developed along the West bank of the Amur River.

Russia’s Minister Sergei Shoigu now proposes to apply the same approach. The construction of several new cities, which would become sectoral economic centers, can contribute to both an increase in the standard of living of Siberians and the internal mobility of citizens. From the point of view of state influence on the socio-economic development of the country, the proposal is constructive, and important, yet very difficult to implement.

Shoigu proposes to create Siberian cities with a population of 300,000 to 500,000, a significant number in Siberia. Cities with smaller populations however are more expedient, since living conditions in Siberia, especially in terms of social infrastructure, are not well developed due to the climatic conditions and infrastructure remoteness.

Komsomolsk-on-Amur

Nevertheless, there are not enough scientific and industrial centers in Siberia. The industry there is represented mainly by mining enterprises. This means that any new cities should focus on processing industries and science. This will create new jobs and make such cities multi-industry bases.

In the USSR, there were many single-industry towns in which one – the city development enterprise dominated. Today, Russia’s policy is to avoid this: cities should not be hostage to one enterprise or one industry. This principle should be implemented in the creation of new Siberian cities.

For the successful implementation of such a project, the location of the city is a fundamental factor – it is necessary to consider transport accessibility, the proximity of railways and airports. Therefore, the possibility of reviving existing settlements can be considered. For example, the oil-producing city of Strezhevoy could become an oil-refining center. This would give an impetus to improve the quality of life of the townspeople and the influx of new population.

Strezhevoy City

In addition to economic and social circumstances, when it comes to living in Siberia, climate is hugely important. People need not only jobs, but decent living conditions that compensate for the natural and climatic difficulties. Displaced people can be encouraged with benefits and privileges that are not available in other parts of the country. Then, not only residents of this region, but also specialists from other large centers, including Moscow and St. Petersburg can migrate to new cities. There is also the USSR experience, when migration processes were directed by the State. Organizational recruits were held for new enterprises in distant cities, and people went because there were higher wages, housing was provided, a good supply of consumer goods maintained, and educational and cultural support provided.

At the same time, it is important that migration flows go to new Siberian cities and not only from the European part of the country. The Siberian region itself has great migration potential. However, instead we are seeing migration from Siberia to Central and Northwestern Russia. To stop this trend, the State will need to incentivize inhabitants.

Again, we can remember the Soviet experience. In the USSR, there were state structures for scientific support of the placement of workers, for example, a council for the study of productive forces. This was deployed to consider the selection of sites for the construction of new cities. Since its inception, many territories of the Soviet Union have been developing on the recommendations of the SOPS. Today this institute is moving away from solving such issues – the process of its merger with the Academy of Foreign Trade is underway.

The idea of ​​Minister Shoigu is a multifaceted task, for the implementation of which it will be necessary to carry out full-scale planning and create advance attractive conditions for the migration of the population to new Siberian cities.

This article has been translated and adapted from the original article by Alexander Shcherbakov under the title ‘The Smell Of The Taiga’ which appeared in Russia’s Investia newspaper. The original article can be viewed here Alexander Shcherbakov is a Doctor of Economics, Professor of the Department of Labor and Social Policy of the Institute of Public Administration and Management of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation (RANEPA). 

Siberia Fast Facts

Size: 13.1 million square km. (1.3 times the size of Canada)

Largest Cities: Novosibirsk, Omsk

Population: 24 million

GDP: US$440 billion

Assets: Among the world’s largest and most valuable deposits of nickel, gold, lead, coal, molybdenum, gypsum, diamonds, diopside, silver, zinc, oil, natural gas, timber, and fisheries.

Land Borders: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China

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