10.02.2007
A Development Strategy for Russia’s Largest Cities
№1 2007 January/March



By virtue of their size, large
cities act as centers that service the needs of adjacent
territories and, at the same time, as junctions of diverse
networks, or hubs. This significance extends far beyond the limits
of their territories. While the former function deals with the
local characteristics of urban centers, the latter has a bearing on
their external properties, including involvement in globalization
processes. The duality of these cities’ nature provides them with
the necessary stability and adaptability. The local element plays
the role of a stabilizer of development, while the global element
stimulates it.

Proponents of globalization
believe that Russia’s largest cities must follow in the footsteps
of the ‘global cities’ and compete for command positions in the
global economy, using the geopolitical and geo-economic advantages
of their Eurasian location and Soviet-era heritage.

As good as all of this might
sound, it does not seem very realistic, and the crux of the matter
is bigger than just Russia’s backwardness or the lack of readiness
of its major cities to take on commanding functions on a planetary
scale. In the Western countries, truly ‘global cities’ are few in
number, too, and they have somewhat specific functions. Anthony
Giddens (2000) says they help form the institutional structure of
the global economy and global society instead of merely
redistributing the spheres of economic influence.

The last ten years have shown that
the conscientious separation of local and hub functions, which
could possibly set the whole mechanism of economic growth into
motion by the push of just one button, does not produce the desired
effect. In spite of the belief that development requires firm
reliance on one’s own strength, only a fraction of the cities with
a population between 300,000 to 500,000 people, and located near
export-oriented manufacturing giants, have been able to improve
their position thanks to support in the form of local resources.
These are the centers of resource production and/or primary
processing, like


Surgut in West
Siberia
, Cherepovets in the upper reaches of the Volga, Magnitogorsk in the Urals, Lipetsk in the south of
western
Russia, and some others.
A slightly bigger group of large cities have managed to use their
location at the crossroads of financial, commodity and human
resource flows as a lever for radical economic transformation. This
group embraces the capitals of
Russia’s constituent
national republics, the central cities of seven federal districts
that service the state governance system, the few resort places,
some seaports, and towns located along the state border, since they
act as gates to the outside world. The fact that some large cities,
including historical inter-regional centers with a population of
over a million people, have fallen off of this list testifies to
the importance of searching for a new paradigm of
development.

THE CRISIS OF THE
LOCAL: 
OLD SOLUTIONS TO
NEW CHALLENGES

The winds of
change have introduced the opportunity of independent action to the
governmental authorities of all levels, and simultaneously vested
in them responsibility for the decisions they make. However,
neither government agencies nor the people proved capable of making
such decisions in a situation where open markets and dependence on
global processes poured down like rain out of a clear blue sky.
Only the city of
Moscow, which
concentrated its financial and human resources, succeeded in
efficiently exploiting its status as a national capital. It
successfully transformed its monopoly over command and
administrative functions into big economic advantages. All of the
other large cities needed almost a decade to adapt to the changes.
A clear trend toward economic growth with attendant improvements in
incomes, as well as quality and standards of living, came to
replace the steady degradation of the urban environment and
economic decline only in 2001-2002. Evidence of this change was
found in many polls, which exposed the growth of
Russia’s
urban middle class (see Graph 1).

Source: Sotsium Foundation,
Yekaterinburg, 2004

Almost all regional capitals and
largest cities have drafted their own strategic development plans.
By 2005, six out of
Russia’s eleven cities
where the population exceeds a million people had designed and
endorsed those strategy documents. They are
St. Petersburg (1997), Novosibirsk (2002),
Yekaterinburg (2003),
Omsk (2002),
Rostov-on-Don (2004), and
Kazan (2003). Other major
cities incorporated the key concepts of the strategic development
in program documents, setting out the social and economic
guidelines for the coming years. Most typically, such documents
resemble a declaration of intentions – they mention objectives
without specifying the techniques for achieving them. They combine
far-fetched prospects with very detailed programs, but provide
little cohesion between them.

The basic reason why those
strategic plans are largely declarative is due to the difficulty of
identifying a city’s place in the system of political, social and
economic relationships. Their authors proceed from the assumption
that the municipal administration of those urban areas enjoys
considerable freedom in choosing the strategies of development,
together with the methods of attaining the chosen strategic
objectives. Yet the real situation shows that a huge number of
external and internal factors influencing a city’s development are
beyond the control of the local authorities.

The list of factors that interfere
with the social and economic decision-making process includes
political problems, covert conflicts between mayors of regional
capitals and governors of those same regions, and competition
between geographically divergent centers of administration and
centers of economic growth. An administrative center is rarely the
center of economic growth in, or a financial donor for, a
particular region. Not infrequently, it deprives the revenues
earned by the region’s second or third largest cities. The examples
of such couples or triads of cities are many:
Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk,
Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Tagil, Samara and
Togliatti,
Khanty-Mansiisk and Surgut/Nizhnevartovsk,
Krasnodar and Novorossiisk/Sochi, to name just a few. And yet, even if
one ignores the list of above factors, the cities will still have
to overcome managerial obstacles and revise the guidelines for
social and economic growth.

Postindustrial economies show in
bold relief that the places where money is consumed have greater
chances for advancement than the places of production. This means
that the sector of material production has reached a certain level
of efficiency and scale, beyond which a quantitative buildup of
output no longer brings the desired results. Apart from trading in
energy resources, the tertiary sector of the economy – most
importantly, the information industry, as it offers better wages
and consumes increasingly more labor resources – becomes the main
tool for generating super-profits.

In the meantime, a strategy of
development requiring a redistribution of resources in favor of the
innovative and tertiary sectors of the economy does not fit the
logic of routine decision-making at local administrations. No one
can resist the temptation to spend the money coming today, even
though this may have negative consequences for the future.

St. Petersburg offered a good illustration when it struggled to
win a
Toyota
factory on its territory against the
city of
Perm.
St. Petersburg’s authorities are touting their city as a
Russian Detroit, as they attempt to arrange the placement of
Renault and Nissan factories there as well. But the sizable
investment of $770 million to $950 million, which may breathe some
oxygen into the city’s construction industry and provide an impetus
to the economy through the creation of new jobs, will bring more
problems tomorrow since the factories will need  a large workforce, and the workers will need
housing and social services. Also, different business sectors will
begin to compete for placing their own facilities in one of the
country’s crucial postindustrial centers. Yet the experience of the
biggest Europeans cities – which eventually had to relocate
automobile factories from their territories – proves that the
abovementioned problems are unavoidable.
Moscow is now
following in
Europe’s footsteps and
has announced plans to move AZLK, the manufacturer of small cars,
from overly expensive city property.

Postindustrial trends in the
economy have predetermined shifts in the nature of interconnection
between population settlement and location of most efficient
economic activities. It is not the population that moves to newly
developed zones where relocated industrial facilities will be
situated; rather, the new branches of the economy emerge in the
places where the population possesses the appropriate
qualities.

Society’s moral guidelines and
values have changed, too. While industrial society struggled to rid
itself of poverty and ‘spongers’ (recall the campaigns on
‘parasites’ in the former
Soviet Union), the
postindustrial society looks at these things differently. It does
not generate money with sweat running down the spine anymore, as
the amount of consumption becomes excessive in many ways. This
society, the backbone of which consists of the middle class, does
not struggle with economic misfortunes – it simply fences itself
off from poverty. High-standard comforts, exclusivity and quality
of life replace the ownership of an apartment, an automobile or a
country house as the main criteria of success and prosperity. Spare
time also becomes a crucial value.

A changing configuration of the
relationship between the center and provinces is the third hallmark
of postindustrial society. These relations become more complex and
do not boil down to a simple formula under which the capital exists
as a pump for sucking the provinces dry. Instead, the system of
territorial governance receives an overhaul. An open economy that
has little restraint on communications and transcends
administrative borders demands that equal importance be given to
vertical and horizontal relations. It also demands that the
coordination of interests replace subordination. The coordination
of plans increases, pushing competition aside, and is substituted
by external investment and external demand, on the one hand, and
the redistribution of roles and exchange of services, on the
other.

THE CITY’S HUB FUNCTIONS
AND SOCIAL STABILITY

Anyone who
defines the strategy of a city’s development as a ‘network
junction’ has to admit that the city is embedded in several
dimensional systems at any given time. Therefore, the goals of
strategic development differ in each case, requiring a diversity of
political instruments and concrete steps. The process of
globalization has vastly expanded the dimensional relationships and
opportunities of the urban areas, and increased the variety of
options for development that provide for variable degrees of
participation in global and local processes. An intertwining of
these two concepts means that the old forms of governmental
mobilization based on the monopoly-concentration-competition triad,
which used to secure economic growth, have become far less
efficient in terms of practicality, although they have not lost
their significance altogether.

In light of the dominant role that
the junction functions of large cities play (with economic
concentration and competition as guidelines), all the flows are
drawn into the most powerful focal points of the economic space.
The policy of territorial administration based on these principles
resembles a casting to a club of select personalities, and the
local elites are fighting with all their might to gain membership.
Yet the artificial selection of “the most powerful” centers slashes
the number of centers that are capable of structuring a space
around themselves and ensuring regional integration. Thus, wealthy
centers emerge – “dissociated islands… surrounded by impoverished
lumpenplanet” (Riccardo Petrella, 1995). This policy has a side
effect in the form of a gradual decay of the once united space of
the country, and signs of this process are visible already
now.

In the meantime, the
abovementioned process is not inevitable and it can be channeled to
a different direction by leveling off disparities between
territories. This will be possible if city development strategies
revolve around a different triad, namely,
mobility-coordination-specialization.

Mobility implies
that interdependence becomes prevalent over geographic proximity
and administrative subordination, and accessibility turns into a
key parameter for development. These factors reduce the levels of
centralization in a natural way and help make the population’s
living standards more equal across the board.
Coordination is impossible without an openness of
information and a search for a balance of interests. Competition
and competitive advantages must not hamper a neighbor in this case
but, rather, bring benefits to society. Finally,
specialization means not so much a buildup of
competitive advantages but rather a complementary relationship
amidst high levels of development of a particular branch of the
economy in each city, given its importance for society as a whole.
Apart from a growing autonomy in the decision-making process of
each urban area, the tapping of a city’s identity implies the
importance of coordinated actions, the redistribution of functions.
Furthermore, it implies the responsibility among the centers of
various levels, together with an intensified exchange of
services.

In other words, the currently
predominant logic of ‘power and money concentration’ runs into a
systemic contradiction with the logic of ‘concerted effort,’ which
emphasizes the relations of partnership, as opposed to the
command-and-administrative methods.

Illustrative in this context are
classic examples of the global cities concept as regards the
driving forces of development. Although many Russian cities can
scarcely hope to achieve such a status, many of the approaches to
the global cities concept have relevance for us, too. Peter Taylor,
for example, believes that the transformation of cities into hubs
of the global economy arises from multinational companies, which
demand financial services, high-speed transportation, marketing,
consumer options, etc. Hierarchic relations emerging in networks of
cities and, consequently, the central roles they play are
derivatives of the companies’ business strategies. The presence –
or absence – of a major corporate headquarters, the proliferation
of globally acclaimed brands, and a high rate of international
flights are all indicators that a particular city falls into the
category of ‘global.’ Add to this the institutional element of
globalization and the role in the global political processes that
cities have inherited.

Manuel Castells offers a somewhat
different approach when he suggests that the role of manufacturing
is subjugated to that of information and knowledge in today’s
world. The cities engaged in the exchange of information, capitals
and state power grow into “relatively freestanding ‘nodal points’
of global flows” and augment their centralizing functions
regardless of their size and geographic position. All other cities
are heading for diminished status and will be eventually pushed to
the periphery of major processes.

Olaf Hunners, the author of a
third approach, addresses the human as opposed to the economic
dimension of the city, since global cities, above all, are centers
of human flows, and only then are they flows of state power,
finance, and information. Hunners’ concept appeals to the city’s
focusing role in the global cultural process. He asks why it
happens that only a handful of cities become the centers of
production of a new culture and draw in huge numbers of people from
around the world – and not just from nearby regions. Hunners shows
that cultural productivity is transitory and that the creativity of
cities dies out and re-emerges again. He perceives the cultural
process in a broad format and views the city as the marketplace of
culture, claiming that four very different categories of people –
business executives (and especially expatriates), tourists,
migrants and artistic professionals, including actors, artists and
designers – give shape to that market today. All of these
contemporary nomads are united by the brevity of their sojourns in
a city, where they actualize their careers and creative ambitions,
while maintaining close ties with their past or future
residence.

It follows from all three
approaches that a global city is a center generating and accepting
human flows, and its internal life depends solely on its ability to
adjust to the preferences of the nomads of globalization.
Sustainable development of a global city demands its unending
variability and its status as transit point is the most productive
form of its existence, determining to a great degree its image,
ability for innovations, centralizing role and its engagement in
global processes. It is not accidental that the ‘global city’
concept is developing in step with the concept of a ‘dual city’
which is a city of double standards or, to use the French
interpretation, a city with differing rates of progress.

If one takes a look at Russian
cities through the prism of Western theory, the overlapping of many
tendencies and risks becomes so apparent that it will not require
any special evidence. Quite obviously, Russia’s largest regional
centers have a very tentative access to the redistribution of
global wealth and get dividends from mediating in the export of
natural resources. This does not mean, however, that they do not
witness the problems typical of global cities. The domestic Russian
market is big enough, to say nothing of the country’s size, and
that is why it is the internal and not external impulses that play
a key role in the ongoing processes. As the largest cities stay
inside a general flow of economic, social and cultural change, they
gradually begin to act as partners, not subordinates, of the
national capital, taking part to one degree or another in the
economic, information and cultural exchanges. They are drawn into
inter-regional and international relationships and eventually get
independence on the global markets.

The basic transforming role in the
largest cities in Russia, as in all industrialized countries, is
taken by the banking sector, big corporations and main distributing
networks that locate their headquarters and/or offices
there.

The second crucial player that
stimulates urban transits is government that invests certain cities
with power-wielding functions. Russia has a well-tested and
original technique of raising a city’s status and wellbeing, and
this is to enlarge an administrative and territorial entity where
it is located or to create a new territorial entity and give it
additional administrating powers. Take the city of Tyumen, for
example, which has gained much from a partial reinstatement of its
former administrative duties, which gave it the functions of a
capital of three territorial units at a time – the Tyumen Region
proper, the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area and the natural
gas-rich Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area. The city – that once
received a meager three-percent regional investment – has regained
the role as distributor of tax money raised in the country’s most
affluent territories. One reaction to Tyumen’s growing
administrative importance was population growth that began in 2001,
together with increasing costs of living. Tyumen’s prices for
housing are 15 percent higher than in Yekaterinburg, 25 percent
higher than in Novosibirsk, and 30 percent higher than in Omsk.
This is happening at a time when wages in Tyumen are 60 percent
less than in the neghboring oil-and-gas producing areas, and only
1,500 rubles to 2,000 rubles higher than in nearby regional centers
of the Urals and West Siberia. Nonetheless, the expanding financial
opportunities and the imported demand for housing gave an impetus
to the city’s development.

Yekaterinburg, the biggest city in
the Urals, is implementing a similar but somewhat different
scenario. The city is the administrative center of a federal
district that does not enjoy the status of a constituent territory
of the Russian Federation and, consequently, does not have the
necessary taxation base. Yet the authorities position Yekaterinburg
as the capital of the Greater Urals and Russia’s “capital number
three,” uniting around itself the regional and industrial centers
like Tyumen, Ufa, Izhevsk, Salekhard, Orenburg, Magnitogorsk,
Surgut, Khanty-Mansiisk, Chelyabinsk, Sterlitamak, Kurgan,
Neftekamsk, Nefteyugansk, Nizhny Tagil, and – with some
reservations – Perm. The provisory boundaries of the Greater Urals
encompass a territory much broader than the geographical Ural
Mountains area and even broader than the Urals Federal District.
Thus, Yekaterinburg, enjoying its new status and traditional
closeness to the regions of West Siberia and the Southern Urals,
has not only maintained its leading position but has also expanded
its influence.

The story of Rostov-on-Don, the
“capital of Russia’s South,” looks less successful by comparison
and transformation processes there are developing along a different
scenario. The provisory Greater South is more multifaceted than the
Greater Urals, given the presence of the North Caucasus and regions
in the lower reaches of the Volga. The ethnic and cultural
divergence there is so great and the transport infrastructure is so
insufficient that people living in Volgograd or Astrakhan do not
view Rostov as a mini-capital of some kind. This means that “South
Russia” is reduced to the North Caucasus and that Rostov’s zone of
influence is much smaller than the territory of the Southern
Federal District.

The third important factor for
cities as transit points is migrants and ramified channels of
communication (traditional transportation, as well as mobile,
satellite and Internet communications) together with the
uninterrupted flow of human relations and contacts. An acquaintance
in Chelyabinsk I spoke to commented with sadness: “German
businessmen and their investments settle in the cities Lufthansa
flies to and that’s why we lose to Yekaterinburg a
priori.”

Russia’s migrant milieu is
heterogeneous, as the new arrivals have diverse social and
proprietary status. These people include top managers, actors and
guest workers, for example, who travel to Russia for very different
purposes – business, search for subsistence, tourism or performing.
But they all exert strong influence on the life of each city and
bring in new standards, opportunities, fashions, assessments,
demands for services and lifestyles.

Take dilapidated St. Petersburg,
whose feeble beauty and inherent air of decadence is now considered
in vogue among Moscow’s artistic glitterati, who travel and live
there; they enjoy the juxtaposition of the cultural intensity of
‘Northern Palmira’ to the businesslike bustle of overcrowded
Moscow. Now, business people have started making treks to St.
Petersburg  in the footsteps of the
arts professionals. This has pushed housing prices there sky-high
and kicked off the mushrooming of elitist apartment blocks,
especially on the city’s famous Vassilyevsky Island. The factor of
cultural reproduction plays an important role in the image of
Kazan, the capital of the constituent Republic of Tatarstan, now
going through a period of ethnic and cultural revival; it is found
in Yekaterinburg, which has evolved into a capital of
non-conformist arts and rock culture; and in Perm, which was named
the cultural capital of the Volga area in 2006.

Yet a much greater share of
influence on city life belongs to the migrating business class,
whose representatives fill airliners and high-speed trains. Local
sociological services in Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Rostov and
Krasnoyarsk say businessmen make up about 80 percent of all
inter-city and international passengers.

The growing transportation flows
and booming housing markets are not the only indicators of
intensifying activity and mobility of qualified personnel. The rate
of use of the Internet is illustrative, too. A comparison of
regular opinion polls, taken by the Public Opinion Fund, and
Internet indices drawn up monthly by the Yandex search engine for
Russia’s 50 leading cities, reveals a curious disparity between the
levels of Internet accessibility and its real use (See Table
1).

 

 

Source: Data cited
from a review of Yandex’s Internet index of cities (http://goroda.yandex.ru/ii_total.xml)
for February 2006, and the Public Opinion Fund’s research Internet
In Russia/Russia In Internet, vol. 13, autumn 2005 (http://bd.fom.ru/report/map/d051060).

The ‘dual city’ phenomenon,
which underscores differences between the inhabitants of cities,
highlights this disparity too. It implies that a person’s living
standards are dependent on his or her ability to keep pace with
ongoing changes. A large segment of urban dwellers live in a local
world that moves slowly and has little opportunities. Then there is
that part of the population that services the cities’ nodal
functions and exists amid the powerful current of life. These are
in essence two parallel worlds coexisting in a common geographic
space but confined to different social spaces at the same time.
They learn about each other’s problems mostly from
TV.

This disunity has existed in
all times, but it has become especially apparent today due to the
intensifying rates of change, increasing social polarization, the
transitory nature of the economy, increased significance of ties
with the outside world, and differences in
lifestyles.

There are few things that
link together the local and global worlds today, but contact points
still do exist. First, it is apparent in the ‘black labor’ market,
the tentacles of which touch every section of society. Next come
civil institutions, public associations and organizations, whose
activities work for the benefit of local communities and are based
on networking principles. Quite often these organizations are
financed from the outside. Third, there is the Internet – not in
the physical sense of infrastructure availability, but in the
organizational and institutional sense.

In the past three years,
regional markets of Internet services have matured into entities
autonomous from the all-Russia web market. In an analogy with
Ru-net (the national section of the Internet), some regional
sections of the web have begun using self-names, like Novonet in
Novosibirsk, Tonet in Tomsk, Irnet in Irkutsk, or Krasnet in
Krasnoyarsk, etc. Almost every regional section of the Russian
Internet has its own organizational structure, regional portals and
news agencies. The Internet in this country is de facto made up of
regional blocks that not only carry information or reflect
globalization processes, but also serve as instruments for building
numerous ties at the local level. They work toward strengthening
the cities’ identities and making them more recognizable in other
parts of the country.

It appears that the key
strategic objective in the development of large urban centers is
melting the advantages of the cities’ nodal location and networking
activity into benefits for the majority of the
population.

DO CITIES NEED UNIFIED
DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES?

The nodal and centralizing
functions of cities have changed places today. The center city
begins to play a service role for the hub city, thus ensuring jobs
where human labor can be applied, comfortable and attractive living
conditions, as well as entertainment for new generations of urban
nomads. Both functions are growing in equal importance and, more
importantly, each dimension of city life loses its sense in the
absence of the other. This situation never existed
before.

Cities are acquiring new
identities. They resemble one another less and less and each is
seeking its own way to modernization and a unique place in the
country and the world at large. But a closer examination of their
strategies reveals a number of common approaches that turns their
strategies – different in form and analytical content – into
conceptual twins.

In the first
place
, those strategies idealize the future, in which
everything must transform and acquire a new humanistic meaning. The
program part of their strategies outline the methods of curing
ailments of the past and overcoming the impact of economic decline,
things which the authorities and the population are all too
familiar with. These involve housing problems, the dismal quality
of medical services, insignificant wages and pensions, covert and
overt unemployment, the crisis-stricken education system, and the
polluted and littered environment of some urban
areas.

Second, the
analysts drawn into strategy development mostly rely on statistics
that by virtue of their origin can only reflect inertial trends
without pointing to any incipient processes. The space factor of
ongoing processes, the interlinks among neighboring regions
evidencing a growth or decline of their population, the economic
rise or decline, the proximity of urban centers that are included
in or excluded from the globalization processes – all these things
are more likely to determine the future of the cities than the
unified statistic data.

Third,
development strategies are presented as forecast documents drafting
a desirable future for the urban areas. They begin with defining
the mission of a particular city and its major development
objectives. These strategies are of very generalized character and
repeat the priorities of social policies mapped out in the Russian
president’s state-of-the-nation addresses. Local specifics glimmer
through the polished verbal exterior of those documents. Following
these preludes are the assessments of the city’s competitive
advantages and the opportunities for using them. The descriptions
of development resources (interpreted as the city’s wealth that is
capable of generating dividends on condition that current problems
– typically financial ones – are solved) occupy center stage. At
the top of the strategies are specific measures – or programs –
designed for reaching the targets.

For all their logic, these
strategy declarations resemble bombastic reports to the top
hierarchy, not programs of action, since they aim to mate local
ambitions with available resources.

Documents of that kind
usually fail to define the principles that a city would never
surrender even if it got alluring offers. These principles should
reaffirm the maintenance of identity and status of a center of
decision-making with a sizable share of autonomy. Today, as the
urban centers continue to retain slivers of independence and defend
their place in the ongoing social and political processes, these
principles are being attacked by the government. The future of some
regional capitals is at stake now: the government’s idea of
enlarging the regions (for example, the project of merging the
Yaroslavl and Kostroma regions) puts them at risk of turning into
towns of local-county, while the proposal to eliminate mayoral
elections denies the people the opportunity to actively influence
the life in their city. One more principle presumes transparency of
decisions. Although all documents state the importance of dialog
amongst the authorities, businesses and society, and ascertain
civic partnership as the foundation on which to build and implement
strategies, they do not mention anywhere how a greater openness in
relations can be attained given the current levels of
corruption.

A strategy must also provide
for a realistic assessment of the city’s position with respect to
its neighbors, partners and competitors. These assessments can
never be univocal and are liable to brisk changes of vectors from
positive to negative depending on the situation. St. Petersburg
offers a bright instance of this. It claimed at the end of the
1990s that it was the main contact center in connections between
the Baltic Sea littoral countries and northwest Russia. Today,
however, it is trying to position itself from a totally different
angle – as a reliable partner for Moscow that is capable of taking
over from the capital some extra governmental functions. An urban
metamorphosis is also evident in Nizhni Novgorod, which lost its
former status as the country’s main site for economic and political
experiments, and is now doing its best to break out of Moscow’s
shadow.

The problem has another
facet, however. A city’s advantageous position in the system of
economic and political connections is a more valuable asset for new
ideologies of development than the potential accumulated over
years. Proof of this is found in the success of agrarian centers,
such as Belgorod and Krasnodar. The two cities have never set the
tune to the style of urban development in the past, but they have
managed to transform the advantages of their nodal political
position into economic growth. Their future is contingent not so
much on the initial rate of development or underdevelopment as on a
matching of local policy with federal or international interests,
as well as on contacts with major corporations and federal
authorities, in which regional and city administrations act as
mediators.

Last but not least, a city’s
development strategy must determine the degree of maneuverability
of governance, that is, the observance of the balance between
stability and liability to change, together with the necessary
reforms and compensatory steps to cushion against their painful
effects. In the meantime, no city strategy provides for protection
against external reforming influences that might upset the balance
of local forces and interests. Nor do they envision the
establishment of a reform-friendly environment. For instance, no
city is strategically ready to reform the public utilities sector,
for example, or to enforce a law concerning the replacement of tax
benefits with cash compensations. All decisions and steps in that
sphere have been rather improvised.

City missions deserve a
separate mentioning. Cities copy their strategies from corporate
business strategies in many ways. Their internal documents position
urban centers as isolated organisms, the missions of which boil
down to self-development, the growing affluence of its residents,
and integration into the global economy. These objectives are
honorable but the actual sense of the cities’ existence and
development is much broader. Cities have always had a mission to
“gather lands” around them or, in other words, to consolidate the
population, to integrate the country’s territory and to ensure
national development, and not just to take care of their own petty
needs. This mainly concerns large cities. The elimination of their
territorial influence voids their existence of any sense,
regardless of their dominating functions. It is thanks to large
cities that regions of a country – one that is characterized by
vast natural, climatic, social, economic and cultural diversity –
form a coherent functional space. Ensuring this coherence – through
the realization of common interests as opposed to pulling at
administrative levers – is the basic mission of our cities.