Russia’s Lack Of Infrastructure Makes It Hard To Improve Lives Of Arctic Zone Residents – OpEd


The majority of the 2,440,000 people living in Russia’s enormous Arctic zone are working-age men who are often do not remain there for long even with high wages because the conditions of life are so difficult, according to Anatoly Shirokov, deputy head of the Federation Council’s committee that oversees the region.

At the end of Soviet times, he continues, labor turnover in the region reached 30 to 35 percent; but since then, efforts by the government and private firms have reduced that number (

But improving the lives of people who live in the urban centers of the north requires improving the infrastructure that supplies them. At present, the absence of railways, highways and sea lanes means that goods needed in these centers often have to travel outrageous distances to get there at all.

Shirokov gives the following example which he describes as typical: The Deputatsky settlement in Sakha uses coal that is mined in Khakassia in southern Siberia. From there, the coal goes by rail to Murmansk, near Scandinavia, then is sent by ship to Indirka where it is loaded on barges and sent up a Sakha river to the settlement.

That lengthy route raises the price of coal by 11 times, and the residents of Deputatsky have to pay it – and companies and the government have to pay them higher salaries or they wouldn’t be able to do so. That slows development and means that residents of the north leave when they can, a pattern that makes northern development even harder.

Unless and until Moscow build the infrastructure needed to shorten such routes, the center’s plans for the north and its ability to ensure that there is a sufficient population there to guarantee the country’s national security in that direction at a time of rising international tensions will remain problematic.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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