Russia: a capital in Vladivostok?

by Isabel Gorst

Now the elections are out of the way, investors are waiting to see if Vladimir Putin has any new ideas up his sleeve to promote the development of Russia and avoid economic stagnation.

One of the country’s leading political scientists has come up with a bold scheme: build a new capital at Vladivostok.

The creation of a new capital at the Pacific port would spur the development of Russia’s eastern regions and position the country to take advantage of its strategic location at the gateway to the vibrant markets of Asia and the far east, Sergei Karaganov, dean of the faculty of world economy and international affairs at the Moscow Higher School of Economics, wrote in the state newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta on Thursday.

“A town with some of the functions of a capital in the far east would …make Russia part of the rising world,” he said.

Sitting on a bay not far from Russia’s borders with China and North Korea, Vladivostok is run down and plagued by unemployment. But the city has had strategic importance for Russia ever since it was conquered by the Tsars in the late nineteenth century. It is home to the Russian Pacific fleet and the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

As a capital Vladivostok would become the focal point for the the development of Siberia and the Russian far east that have so far seen little investment outside natural resources. As it grew in importance the city could attract business and young educated professionals from central Russia, who frustrated by the lack of opportunities in their home regions, are crowding into Moscow or emigrating to the west.

Karaganov is not suggesting that Russia should give up on Moscow. To become a modern and globalised country Russia needs three capitals to reflect its historic and cultural ties with Europe and the new economic imperatives of the east, he said.

On his map, the government’s political, defense and diplomatic establishment would remain in Moscow, St Petersburg would be the seat of culture and “New Vladivostok” the economic base.

“If Peter the First (the founder of St Petersburg) were living today he would, without any doubt, build the capital not on the Baltic but on the Pacific Ocean.”

New Vladivostok would be an expensive project but Karaganov cites examples of other modernizing nations that have benefited economically and strategically from splashing out on new capitals.

Brazil for instance saw a spurt in economic growth after shifting its capital from Rio to the new city of Brasilia. Kazakhstan, central Asia’s biggest economy, has built a new capital at Astana in the north of the country to bolster its authority in lands close to the Russian border.

Vladivostok is beginning to see better days as Russia prepares to host the 24th Asia Pacific Economic Summit in the city this September.

More than Rbs600bn has been invested in new infrastructure including the longest cable bridge in the world linking Vladivostok with Russia Island where the meeting will be held. APEC will give Russia an opportunity to showcase Vladivostok to the world.

Karaganov would like the government to unveil the New Vladivostok project at the summit to boost flagging confidence Russian economy.

“Russia needs a project grander than the Olympic Games or even flying to Mars. It needs a new project to develop the Asian part of the country and create a third capital there.”



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  1. Anjali says:

    Non-stop, San Francisco to Tokyo is about 5,000 miles and 11 hours by plane, and costs about $1,400 to $2,000. Any other method of treavl will make multiple days to weeks or months. There may be some passenger ships that make that trip, but I don’t know of any. You can get passage on freighters across the Pacific. Lots of freighters have passenger berths that are pretty good. I have no idea of the cost. Aside from a plane, that is the only other realistic way to get from the US to Japan. Really.There are trains up the CA coast to Vancouver (900 miles from SF to Vancouver), but I can’t find any indication that there is any train route through Canada to Alaska, so you would have to drive from at least Vancouver. That’s 2,300 miles to Anchorage. You could probably arrange for a charter boat to take you from Anchorage to some port in Siberia but that gets very complicated and immigration might be tricky. Arranging transport from Eastern Siberia down the coast of Russia would be a daunting challenge to say the least. Vladivostok would probably be the end point of your journey through Russia, and then you would need to either take a boat or plane across to Japan. Straight line distance to central Japan is about 500 miles. Don’t have any idea if there is any commercial plane or ship service between those two points. If not, then it would need a charter arrangement again (lots of $$$), then the whole immigration/customs experience could possibly be quite interesting trying to explain why an American is arriving in Japan from Eastern Russia.From Anchorage across the Bering Sea, then by land to Vladivostok is about another 4,000 miles by a more or less direct route down the Russian coast (much longer, I imagine, by the roads and rails that exist). I cannot imagine how long that would take. Getting visas and permission to treavl in that part of the world might be difficult. The facilities would most likely be primitive. Total distance might be in the vicinity of 8,000 miles.Trying to treavl by land and sea through Alaska and Russia might be 10 times that cost of a plane ticket and I cannot imagine it taking less than a couple of weeks.References :

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