Bye Bye Moscow?  Photo: Reuters/Andrey Volkov
Bye Bye Moscow? Photo: Reuters/Andrey Volkov

When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a policy to promote and invest in the economy of the country’s Far East, he probably wasn’t expecting a proposal to move Moscow to the Pacific coast.

That’s what Yury Krupnov came up with as chairman of a think-tank on Russian regional development.

In the so-called “Doctrine of De-Moscovication” Krupnov argues development of Russia’s Far East and Siberia regions is hindered because the country’s population, finances, resources and economic development is concentrated around Moscow.

“The unrestrained and unstoppable growth of Moscow, against the background of desertification, depopulation and the shriveling of the rest of Russia, has over the past half-century turned into the main risk and problem for our country,” he said.

Extreme measures are needed, said the head of the Supervisory Board of the Institute for Demographics, Migration and Regional Development.

Russia’s Far East region in red. Wikipedia commons.

“Putin said that the country’s Far East should become an absolute priority for us for the entire 21st century,” Krupnov said.

“And this reflects our realities, because our Far East is located in the very heart of the modern geo-economic map. It is next-door to China, South Korea and Japan, and the U.S. is just across the ocean.”

But the Far East region with a population of just 6 million cannot represent Russia in the development of the Asia-Pacific region, so the transfer of the center of power is required, he said.

“The region around Moscow city alone has absorbed almost one fifth of the total Russian population while accounting for just 3 percent of the overall territory,” according to his proposal, a copy of which was obtained by Asia Times.

In his study of population dynamics, Krupnov says that half of the country’s population of 144 million now lives and works in the 15 largest cities and the government’s policy focuses on development of these megacities.

In his study of population dynamics, he says that half of the country’s population of 144 million now lives and works in the 15 largest cities and the government’s policy focuses on development of these megacities.

His counter proposal aimed at more balanced growth throughout the country includes 11 measures, the first of which is “the transfer of the capital of Russia beyond the Urals, to the east of the country.”

In an interview, Krupnov said it should be a city in the area around the Tsiolkovsky space-science academic city, which is just over 100 kilometers from China’s border in the Amur territory of the Far East region.

Krupnov’s proposal got the attention of Russia’s media, with most officials and parliamentarians interviewed opposing the idea, especially Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

“You’re talking about spending a trillion or two to send bureaucrats 8,000 kilometers away from the 110 million or so Russians living in the European part of the country,” Sobyanin said in a post on the social media site VKontakte.

“We used to have officials and bureaucrats exiled to Siberia and Far Eastern areas, and that was a far less costly way” to achieve such a goal, he added.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the State Duma Committee for State Construction and Legislation, said he did not see the necessity for the move and noted it would be an “expensive affair.”

Not sure I’ll drink to that idea. Photo: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

However, one mainstream politician did argue the proposal needs to be taken seriously.

Dmitry Orlov, a member of the Supreme Council of Putin’s United Russia party, published his view on Facebook, later specifying that it was a personal opinion, not the party’s position.

“Moscow is far from the geographical center of Russia, and its development leads to hypertrophy — from the super-concentration of tax revenue in the capital to its overpopulation.

“These two conditions alone should be enough to start a serious discussion about the transfer of the capital to the Urals, or somewhere in the Volga region or Western Siberia. However, I would estimate the likelihood of implementing such a scenario as low,” Orlov wrote.

State-run Russia Today media conducted a survey that gathered more than 5,000 responses, with more than 50% supporting Krupnov’s proposal.

Krupnov said he is still awaiting an official response from Moscow.