The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold

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The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold

By Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy
Brookings Institution Press, 2003
240 pp. $46.95
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Everyone knows that Russia is big and cold. Hill and Gaddy argue that Russians, during the Soviet era especially, have treated the first condition as an advantage and the second as surmountable -- and that in both respects, they are deeply mistaken. Distance and temperature, they argue well with ample data to back them up, have been critical drags on Russia's economic development. Efforts to populate and industrialize the frozen reaches of Siberia have always been economic folly. If Russia is to escape the past, it must, as Canada, Sweden, Finland, and Norway have, concentrate people and activity in large urban areas in the country's warmer regions: Europe should be its target market, fifteenth-century Muscovy its heartland, and Siberia a commodity-producing hinterland (as is northern Canada). How is this to be accomplished? Make other cities livable, not just Moscow and St. Petersburg; rethink internal migration policy; reverse the development strategy for Siberia; and economically link the Russian Far East with Northeast Asia.