Thursday, May 13, 2021

Linking Smaller Russian Cities Together Will Boost Birthrate and Reduce Pressure on Megalopolises, Urban Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 11 – Smaller cities in Russia are depopulating as their residents leave and more to the megalopolises, something that puts more pressure on the latter, reduces birthrates and increases unemployment, urban experts say. One way to stop this trend is to link smaller cities together with high-speed transit so that people won’t feel the need to leave.

            Aleksandr Polyakov, head of the Urban Transport Institute in Moscow and co-author of Terra Urbana, urges the creation of what he calls “sinurban traingles” in which three cities located not far apart will be linked together so that people can live in one, study in another and vacation in a third ( and

            Over the last eight years, Russia has lost 100 cities, all of them smaller ones, and between 1991 and 2013, 801 of the countries then 1100 cities lost population. All of the losers were smaller cities, and the gainers were overwhelmingly the megalopolises, where population increases led to a variety of social pathologies and problems.

            “The idea of combining three cities into a single transportation network and a single economic zone gave birth to the idea of creating a sinurbia, where three mid-sized cities are linked together by rail journeys of from 30 to 90 minutes … People can live in one and then relax in another,” he says.

            His co-author, Taras Varkhotov, an urbanist at Moscow State University, says that Yaroslavl, Kostroma and Ivanova might be combined in one and Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, and Derbent in another and that the country as a whole might eventually have 24 to 25 such sinurbias which would increasingly dominate the landscape.

            Polyakov agrees. At present, 25 percent of Russians live in cities with more than a million residents each, 25 percent in sinurbias, 25 percent in villages, and 25 percent in places with unique locations such as ports. In the future, he would like to see 30 percent living in megalopolises, and 60 percent in sinurbias.

            On the one hand, this proposal builds on the idea of Russia of urban agglomerations that has been pushed by Aleksey Kudrin (, but on the other, it is less radical in its impact on existing federal subjects.

            Thus, it may represent a kind of compromise between a wholesale redrawing of regional and republic borders that Kudrin’s ideas would and the maintenance of the status quo which is not working out in ways that the Russian government wants. As such, Polyakov and Varkhotov’s proposal may be far more significant than it may appear at first glance. 

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