Putin Condemns Siberia to Exile

Paul Goble reports:

For the first time in more than a century, a Moscow-based politician and scholar from the Altai says, Russia’s central government has “cast aside” Siberia, a region that is not only rich in natural resources but whose unique spirit is critical for reform, thus putting the future of Russia as a whole at risk. In an interview in Baikalskiye Vesti yesterday, Vladimir Ryzhkov, currently a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that “Siberia, which for the course of a century was celebrated not only for its natural but its human wealth has been converted into an ever poorer kray, forgotten by God and Moscow.”

The region’s population is not only declining, he says, but its level of education and culture is falling as well, trends that mean “if the political elite does not recognize fully the seriousness of the situation, it will soon become too late to engage in any talk about ‘the fates of Siberia.’” Ryzhkov says that he is talking about Siberia as “a geographic term,” the two federal districts that extend from the Urals to the Pacific that constitutes 80 percent of Russia’s territory, 22 percent of the country’s population, and is responsible for 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

But the population is declining. Since 1990, five million of its residents have died or left. As a result, the population of Chukotka has fallen by more than half, of Magadan by 40 percent, Kamchatka by 18 percent, and so on. And this is happening despite the wealth of the region and security considerations with regard to China with its enormous population next door. What is surprising, Ryzhkov says, is that this trend reverses the one that the Russian government had promoted in the past. “From the beginning of the conquest of Siberia,” he notes, “that is the region to which came the strongest, most progressive, and most freedom-loving people.”

Until the 1980s, the average income of Siberians was higher than in Central Russia, the share of those with higher education was greater, and the fraction who subscribed to newspapers was also larger. “In a word,” he says, Siberians were “a highly educated, cultural, dynamic and urbanized” people.
Ryzhkov acknowledges that some of the current problems of the region reflect the fallout from Soviet economic development strategies, strategies that promoted the company towns whose basic industries are failing without their managers or workers having any other economic options in the same place.

But now the collapse of these cities has been accelerated by Moscow policies which mean that it is cheaper to fly from Moscow to Western Europe than it is to fly from the Russian capital to Vladivostok. As a result, Ryzhkov points out, “six of the ten poorest regions of the Russian Federation are Siberian.”
Asked whether there is any “way out” from this situation, Ryzhkov says that there is but that the political elite in Moscow, which he notes includes “few Siberians” besides Sergey Shoygu, must begin to focus on the region and recognize that Moscow must “leave a greater part of the taxes collected there” to Siberia.

In addition, he argues, Moscow must come up with a special program to transform company towns, something that does not exist at the federal level, so that the people who live in them will not flee but redirect their energies to new purposes for their benefit and the benefit of the country as a whole.
Moreover, he says, Moscow should intervene to make sure that no private company has a monopoly on air travel so that Siberians don’t have to pay such high prices for tickets. And he suggests that the Russian Federation should “restore the Soviet system” of quotas for students at higher educational systems so that those from areas far from Moscow will get a chance.

But Ryzhkov’s most important comments concern what he called “the special qualities” of Siberians. Unlike Russians in the European portion of the country, “in whose blood is the memory of serfdom,” Siberians never knew landowners, and consequently, they are “more brave and direct in politics and in life.”

Moreover, he says, “they are very entrepreneurial, show initiative, and are businesslike. It is no accident that an enormous number of businessmen [in Russia] are Siberians.” And Ryzhkov concludes, if everything else were equal, “the first who would run ahead [in that sector and presumably many others] would be the Siberians.”


15 responses to “Putin Condemns Siberia to Exile

  1. The biggest beneficiary of the declining demographics and the Kremlin’s neglect is China.

    Give it a couple generations and China will colonize Siberia to the point their influence is irreversable. They need the minerals and oil and gas.

  2. Yes Penny, things are not going well for Pootler. Even in the Kalashnikov Factory there is trouble.
    Molot employees have not been paid in seven months. At a recent demonstration, some Molot employees suggested that instead of giving them flour, sugar, pasta, and canned meat, management should instead start passing out the factory’s signature product — Kalashnikov assault rifles.

  3. ” They are building cottages all over the place that cost millions. It is offensive that some live like sheiks while we live like this.”

    Seven months without a salary, it would be hard to image in the US or the EU that the factory wouldn’t have been set on fire and demonstrations wouldn’t be daily, loud and huge.

    Whether it was the Czar, the Politburo, and now Putin’s regime trating the masses like serfs that’s the eternal Russian condition and it can only be changed from the bottom up.

    Polish union workers in the 80’s were willing to risk their lives or be imprisoned for their basic rights and ended up forming a government in August ’89 which speaks to the big difference in attitudes and cultures.

  4. Probably the biggest reason the Polish Workers were so willing, this was the hated Moscals government. The rest of the the Soviet Union was being exterminated and Russified for much longer. However even the Russian Colonists in Ukraine voted overwhelmingly not to be a part of Russia. Siberian areas are already being supplied by China for their basics. If it came to a war there would be surrender of a large Rooskie army just to be fed. They would like to becaome even Japanese Citizens on Shakalin Island. The indigenous peoples of the island are the Sakhalin Ainu, Oroks, and Nivkhs. Most Ainu relocated to Hokkaidō when Japanese were expelled from the island …Wiki Now Shell maybe giving it back to Gasprom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlqbGZGk4NU&feature=related

  5. Penny brings up an interesting point about China. On the one hand, China has subreplacement fertility levels and the is no assurance that ending the restrictive family size policies would suddenly change that. And while evey year more Chinese working in Russia put down roots, a lot of the Chinese in that country are still temporary migrants.

    On the other hand, with such a large population in China (even if it is not expanding) and such a large, resource laden, depopulated land to the north, the pace of entry could pick up. Whether or not China will be able to wield as much influence over its emigrants remains to be seen but I doubt they will show much love and loyalty to Moscow.

  6. If death and emigration continue to reduce the populations of the Siberia region, will the roads and power and other needed infrastructure be maintained to a degree needed to exploit the resource wealth of the region? If not, will immigrant populations from places like China even want to colonize it?

  7. I think, George, that Poles being historically western oriented and Catholic is the biggest reason for their success. And, let’s never leave out of the equation their having a Polish Pope as a unifying symbol.

    Africa and the ME are mired in tribalism. Islam is a toxic anti-secular, anti-democracy force in the region.

    What was it about the Irish that they tenaciously kept up civil insurrection against British rule in spite of horrific poverty?

    Culture matters.

    Seven decades of brain deadening Communism plus the autocracy of the ROC, now good friends of the Kremlin – compare the ROC to Pope John Paul II’s attitudes – have left far too many Russians pretty much permanent herdable sheep.

    • “Catholic is the biggest reason for their success”
      Какой такой success?

      “Islam is a toxic anti-secular, anti-democracy force in the region”
      Что ж так не политкорректно то а? Прям как русские.

  8. hhh comments allowed again? No more censorship? Hurray!

  9. Народ, да здесь статьи пишутся и дискуссии ведутся русскоязычными людьми. Скорее всего, разного рода националистами из соседних республик. Чё выпендриваться? Давайте уж покиздим на том языке, который нас объединяет, который ближе

  10. aglyamoff, no way, that Rashan language is an artificial dialect of Bulgarian and Fino Ugric and Unites nobody from your “near abroad”.
    While native Rooskies learn English and would have us waste our time on learning the language of the oppressors which is garbage, and has the fewest words of any slavic language. Why do you insist on using Rasha Language here?

  11. Amazing, what a great exhibit we have here for anybody who wants to study Russian Sharikovs (by the way, unlike others here I don’t claim that all, or even majority of Russians are Sharikovs. I only claim that majority of decision-making Russians are Sharikovs, and majority of the rest are content with serfdom… but I digress)

    aglyamoff feels quite comfortable to switch the language of somebody else‘s blog! Isn’t it Russia in miniature. I am not even talking about changing Georgian government, Ukrainian economy, or Estonian legal system. It’s Russian underbelly (“near abroad”) and Russia still feels that the separation is artificial.

    I am talking about “adversaries” – when Medvedev hops around the world and suggests that Wall Street changes the financial policies, and NATO changes security fundamentals. So, study aglyamoff, people! You will learn more about sovok than you’ve ever cared to know!

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