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Russia is planning a major reform of its population structure by concentrating the bulk of its people in 20 urban centres rather than scattered across the country, Vedomosti reports. The plan, which would mark an end to the Soviet vision of covering Russia's vast territory with urban areas, has been worked out by the government and Kremlin administrations.The plan could form a part of President Dmitry Medvedev's annual keynote address later this year and was in line with his drive to modernise Russia's economy. The secret document says that developing small towns with a population of less than 100,000 people — which make up 90 per cent of Russia's towns — had no perspective in the future. "There is no need to fight against the current and we need to develop big cities and urban centres," the document said, according to Vedomosti. "Changing the map of the country is a necessary but not simple task which needs to be done very carefully as any overreaction could lead to a fight for urban resources," a government official told the newspaper. The document said that the conditions had to be created to quicken the migration of the population from small towns to larger centres. The document also warned that if the process was carried out in a disorganised fashion there could be serious risks for the state due to imbalances between regions. The Kremlin declined to comment, Vedomosti said. http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/world/8332124/russia-plans-major-population-shake-up/
Nearly every day for the past 20 months, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, has been led handcuffed into a small courtroom here to defend himself against charges that could keep him in jail through 2017.“Much more than two people’s fates lie in your hands,” Khodorkovsky told the judge, referring to himself and his former business partner Platon Lebedev. “Right here and right now, the fate of every citizen of our country is being decided.” “I am ashamed for my country,” Khodorkovsky told the court, in a rousing 20-minute speech that ended with his supporters — and many Russian journalists — in the room erupting into applause. “A state that destroys its best companies, which are ready to become global champions — a country that holds its own citizens in contempt, trusting only the bureaucracy and the security services — this is a sick state,” he said. He decried President Dmitry Medvedev’s rhetoric on modernizing the economy. “Who is going to modernize the economy? Prosecutors? Policemen? Spies?” he asked. “We already tried such a modernization. It did not work,” he said, referring to the Soviet era. “This is not about me and Platon,” Khodorkovsky said. “It is about hope for the citizens of Russia — hope that tomorrow courts will protect their rights. It is hard for me to live in prison — I do not want to die here,” he said. “But my beliefs are worth dying for.”
“Modernization sounds more old-fashioned and Soviet than other slogans in post-Soviet Russia,” writes Russian film director Andrei Nekrasov. “Like octogenarian Soviet leaders Medvedev pays no attention to the style that emphasizes Russia’s backwardness. Medvedev’s call falls into the category of those grand authoritarian invocations à la sovietique. The irony of it seems to be lost not only on the youthful Russian leader himself, but on many ultra-modern westerners, who quote Medvedev with wishful seriousness.”
“We will never catch up,” writes Alexey Melnikov, member of the bureau of Russia’s liberal opposition party, Yabloko, in Gazeta.ru. “Twenty years of unsuccessful reforms, propaganda lies, theft, corruption, and brain drain have deprived Russia of the possibility to develop and compete with other nations. Our lot is to rot away, selling the only thing that anybody still buys from us: oil and gas,” Mr Melnikov laments.
Lengthy visits of Russian officials to the United States usually contribute to if not sensible decisions, then at least to some clarity in the minds of our rulers. The visits serve to remove any thought of Russian economic power and the workability of our crony capitalism, and help understand how backward Russia really is.
I wonder, did Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sense anything of the sort on his latest visit to the US? Be it as it may, what ever went through the president’s mind and what ever measures he intends to take, is of no consequence. Change will not happen in Russia.
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs has published a working paper by Russia expert Katri Pynnöniemi on the political constraints on Russia’s economic development. The paper looks at the current discussion about modernization in Russia, which has stemmed from the weaknesses of the country’s economy, laid bare by the global economic crisis.
The global financial crisis has hit Russia hard. The country’s gross domestic product declined almost 9 percent in 2009, and income from energy sales have dropped sharply. Inflation and unemployment are both rising, and the number of anti-government protests is increasing across the country. Against this background, Medvedev has sought to highlight the need for a thorough political and economic modernization of Russia. He has described Russia as “a primitive and chronically corrupt economy based on raw materials” and fixated on the old habit of relying on the state to solve its problems.