'Closed Cities' Are an Anachronism Russia No Longer Needs

Fortunately it is beginning to realize this itself and is closing them down

 

Does Russia need “Closed” cities?

 
OPED: by Sepheronx

Closed cities: What are they? And are they needed?

As I was rummaging through the Sdelanounas website’s discussion section, I came upon an interesting post by user: Great Russia:

Great Russia:

Office Ulyukayev very, very mildly, sparkle?

Ministry of Economic Development has prepared a decree on the abolition of the six “closed” cities

Moscow. October 23. INTERFAX.RU – Ministry of Economic Development has prepared a draft presidential decree on the abolition of the six closed administrative-territorial formations (CATF), follows from the materials of the site regulation.gov.ru.In particular, it is planned to abolish the largest but in Russia – the city of Seversk, Tomsk region.

In addition, it is planned to abolish the closed city, in which there were Zelenogorsk Krasnoyarsk Territory, the city of Novouralsk, Sverdlovsk area, the city of Zarechny, the Penza region, the village Star Perm Krai village locomotive Chelyabinsk region.

All of the planned abolition of the Closed from January 1, 2016. The Government of the Russian Federation in cooperation with the regional government assumed charge in the 9-month period to make the necessary arrangements.

But – special administrative-territorial units, which are located within the boundaries of the industrial enterprises in the development, manufacture, storage and disposal of weapons of mass destruction, recycling of radioactive and other materials, the military and other objects for which a special regime of safe operation and protection of state secrets.

The Closed fenced, admission to them made a pass.

In Russia, several tens of CATF. Seversk, Zelenogorsk, Zarechny and Novouralsk are the responsibility of Rosatom, Star and locomotive – to the Ministry of Defense.

http://www.interfax.ru/russia/475261

(Ignore the video also posted as it was picked apart by user78).

I am not overtly surprised about the concept of closed cities and I suppose during the Soviet era, such cities were important/ideal to keep around as methods to limit people coming in and out.  But these days, I wager it is expensive to upkeep and many of them no longer hold secrets that are really secrets anymore.  So I did a bit of research and first mention article is clearly going to be Wikipedia on the subject.  If the wiki article is correct (always be cautious with wikipedia unless it actually has a decent and objective source to back up the claims), then Russia still holsters a lot of closed cities!

The big one mentioned in the article is Tomsk-7 closed/secret city that was later given the name of Seversk (as mentioned in the article quoted by Great Russian).  This city houses over 100,000 residents and is home to a major group called Siberian Group of Chemical Enterprises (SGCE) which were responsible for producing weapon grade Plutonium and houses multiple reactors for both Uranium processing and Plutonium (which is a process of turning Uranium into Plutonium.  Since 2003 though, an agreement between US and Russia to both decommission Plutonium processing plants, had decommissioned the two reactors in Seversk) processing.  Now it is still believed they have a massive storage of the nuclear warheads, but outside of that, not much else is known about the town (there are more details and info found in the link above if you click Seversk).

So what am I getting at here?  Well, first off, I am bringing to the readers attention that such places exist.  But what I am also wanting to discuss is the actual need of these type of places.  The debate is apparently existent in the media in Russia and people seem to be on either side of the importance of keeping them closed or opening them to the public.  I just want to use this as a way to share my opinion.


Should they stay or should they go?

Well, let me address to the two big important factors: Security and Financial (economics).  It makes sense that a closed city/community would definitely have better security.  It comes down to limiting the flow of people coming in and out, as well as easily tracking where people within the city are doing.  But this comes at (clearly) a huge hit at personal freedom and high costs of security.  As I understand, from the example of Seversk, that people can indeed come through to the town:

Entry Procedures for Foreign Visitors

  • Foreign visitors requesting entry into Seversk must receive official invitation by the local host entity.
  • The overall invitation/clearance process takes 45-days and requires formal approval from the Russian Agency of Atomic Energy
  • Town officials in Seversk are working with the federal government to streamline town access procedures for foreign visitors.

But clearly from the sounds of listed above, it isn’t easy and requires a lot of bureaucracy.  Which in this case, limiting the flow of people greatly limits the town that has a 1,300 registered private businesses (data from 2012.  It is mentioned near bottom of page under Private Enterprises) access to other income and customers.  Doing so will limit these private enterprises in their growth.  As well, such towns could very well be classified as monogorods (monotowns; one business town) due to there being only one major enterprise and main source of income to the town, as is evident of the purpose for this city was SGCE.  This doesn’t mean all monogorods are closed towns (Togliatti, Avtovaz HQ and manufacturing plant), but this does mean that there is a massive discrepancy in terms of choice for employment and it is almost like putting all your eggs into one basket.

It is understandable that such towns needed to exist back in the Soviet Union (which wasn’t considered a free economy), and thus needed towns specifically tied to an enterprise that relies on specialized technological R&D, and since it was important for R&D of new reactor types and processing weapon grade Plutonium for Soviet Unions and Russia’s nuclear arsenal, it comes as no surprise that the Soviets would want to lock away its secrets from the outside world.  But, it was more than clear to many of SGCE’s operations in Seversk and the purpose it served.  So that was not really a secret, just an open secret.  And since the facility no longer produces weapon grade plutonium (agreement passed between Russia and USA to remove reactors from both their respective countries), it is safe to say that it deals specifically with nuclear civil R&D and as much as they have every right to keep that as a secret, it really isn’t something that needs to lock a whole town away as it isn’t considered strategic anymore.


So what are the benefits of opening up Closed Cities?

Well, it is the obvious: Economics.  In current times, facing some economic difficulties due to world economic downturn (growth of debt of various nations, quantitative easing to meet discrepancies, slow growth in China, slow trade in India, Brazil’s economic troubles, wars, sanctions on Russia and oil prices decline), that it would be better to increase ones standing in forms of taxation money for further growth in the cities budget.  To do this without having to eat into the pockets of the workers in the city or from the federal budget, is to seek out travelers to travel through and purchase goods produced in the town, business partners looking to invest in the town (creating more work, thus more people will come which means more taxable people) or expanding cooperation with nearby towns that will bring back capital (in this case for our example Seversk, Tomsk is only 15km away).  The other thing that will help is also dropping costs from the federal government in maintaining the city and keeping up with the security detail.  In this case, SGCE can still protect its enterprise and all its secrets by increasing the corporate security through building proper perimeter fences, security guards, security gates, security cameras, etc.  Having the smaller closed off areas will definitely be much cheaper to monitor and secure.  So that could reduce the needed budget for security (less to secure) while the city can generate more income.

There is another point that I almost completely forgotten: The laws.  After the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia produced a constitution regarding about privatization and rules/laws regarding about operation of businesses and ownership of property.  In accordance to user: Big Shuburshun:

It looks from the belltower. The fact that the offspring of the Closed of the Soviet system, and now they create a very large number of legal, and economic issues.

As a very simple example – the question of the privatization of housing, hiring workers, etc.

Gives the indication that these closed off communities may have legal issues in registration of simple things like housing and hiring workers.  Thus opening them up will mean that they have to transition to the standards of the region, which is Tomsk Oblast.


It is a wait and see game.

Everything written in this article is purely based upon my viewpoints and viewpoints of a few individuals from the discussion thread over at sdelanounas.ru.  The points mentioned are simply what I would consider ideas based upon basic viewpoints of economics and security.  There could be other factors that I am missing and not available openly to the outside public.  But I assume (key word here) that these basic ideas will end up following through as the outcome for some of these closed cities, especially my example city used: Seversk.  I can only hope that once these places are opened, they end up becoming tourist destinations and hot spots for trade to help boost their respective economies, as well as the economies in the surrounding areas.  I mean, wouldn’t it be cool, as a tourist, to go to a once considered “forbidden/Secret/Closed” city?  I sure think so.

So obviously it will be a game of wait and see.  We will find out I suppose in a years time or so if the opening of the closed cities will bring in growth and development, and expansion of the treasury.  So I will make sure to keep this article in mind for next year, and do an update (it was mentioned in the article posted above in quotes, that it will take roughly 6 months for the transition of the closed town to the Oblasts governance).


Sources:
sdelanounas.ru discussion thread
Wikipedia [1] [2]
Seversk English Website
Interfax news agency
My Head
 

 

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