Civilization Spreads to Russian Provinces; Good Infrastructure No Longer Just for Moscow, St. Petersburg
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Excellent living conditions are not limited to the big Russian cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The organization SuperJob conducted studies on roads and found that distant provinces like Tyumen and Naberezhnye Chelny have superior infrastructure relative to the Megacities.
Thus, provincial cities are avoiding the ill effects that often accompany urbanization and should be able to maintain high standards of living.
Let's start with a survey on the condition of Russian roads, conducted by SuperJob. There're a few surprises here. The best roads are in Tyumen and Naberezhnye Chelny. Moscow was only third, followed by the two administrative centers of Kemerovo Oblast, Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk. Krasnodar, Voronezh, Kazan, Tolyatti, and Penza also made it to the top ten cities with the best roads.
I don't want to exaggerate, but this interesting data speaks for itself. It's a good thing that Moscow and Saint Petersburg are no longer the only cities that are associated with high living standards.
Today, we're going to visit the rural town of Galich in Kostroma Oblast. We believe that the latest developments in the town are indicative of how our country is doing in general and where it's headed. Galich is where they manufacture vehicles that even non-technical people would recognize. Everyone has seen a Galichanin crane at least once in their lives.
The town has a so-called town-forming enterprise. Galich is a monotown, which means that it lives so long as its enterprise is running. Last Wednesday, the Galich plant opened up a new department. Also, the town has announced its plans to build a new plywood factory, which will create another 1,000 jobs.
Let's find Kostroma Oblast on the map and see how far away it is from Moscow. Moscow is over there and Kostroma Oblast is over here. It's not that far away, but life is different there. The cities have musical names: Susanino, Kologriv, Sudislavl... and Galich, which we're about to visit.
Let me be clear. Despite the fact that the region is part of the important-sounding Central Federal District, unfortunately, it remains a "non-chernozem region" of the former RSFSR. The resources of this region were exhausted by various tsars and general secretaries and it deserves to be finally taken care of.
So how do rural Russian towns survive and what can be done to help them? We reached Galich of Kostroma Oblast at dawn.
Liza is 12. She is a local talent. Let's devote this report to her since she will be the one living in Galich of the future. Today's Galich retains qualities from an entire range of historical periods. So what? Isn't it the same way in the rest of Russia? It's probably a little different. Here, as many or as few as 286 miles from Moscow, those qualities seem especially distinct. Some parts of the town feel like the old Rus', in others, you feel like today's Rus' has nothing in common with the old one.
“At the pike's behest…
At the pike's behest…
And at my request…”
It's no coincidence that Rou, the film director, filmed his Wish upon a Pike here. The magical pike is a local symbol. Here's one that the husband of our new friend, Marina, caught himself.
- Have you ever seen one that can speak?
- You mean a talking pike?
This pike will be our recurring character today. We're going to make a Galich-style coulibiac, as they call it here. But for now, let's move on to the town-forming enterprise and a family of workers: a father and a son.
– You are…
– Vladimir Vsevolodovich Lebedev.
– And you?
– Igor Vsevolodovich Lebedev.
But it wouldn't be a slip of the tongue to say that the local industry is beginning to look the way it should look in the 21st century. They now have unique cranes capable of lifting up to 100 tons.
“This is great. They're so powerful.”
It's not the first time Sergey Sitnikov, the governor of Kostroma Oblast, has visited the plant. But even he seems to be surprised to see this new ultrasonic tester from Canada, designed to measure weld quality.
- This gel is made specifically for ultrasound testing.
– I'm confused. Is this a doctor's office?
– Yes, he's a doctor of technology.
In the next room, which remained vacant after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there's now a new German press with a capacity of 1,600 tons. This town is no stranger to such changes.
“Actually, you're not supposed to touch things at the museum.”
At the local history museum, there is a scale model of the ancient town of Galich, which may be just as old or even older than Moscow. The town was home to all kinds of people, including the ancestors of Lermontov and Pushkin as well as…
- ...the Vyazemsky family.
- So... – It sounds like just about everyone is from here.
Although travel agencies from Moscow don't exactly portray it in a good light, Galich doesn't hold it against them.
“At first, we got upset when we found out about a tour called "Enchanted Backwoods". But the word "enchanted" has to do with magic.”
This town has seen plenty of magic in the last 100 years, just like the rest of Russia. Take street names, for example.
- I don't know if you have it here, but I find it surprising how popular the street name Third International Street is in this part of Russia.
- No, but we write a hyphen in "Clara-Zetkin Street."
Up until recently, the town was... in the same state as the rest of Russia. So you've seen it all? Today, the local cuisine is in demand even among tourists. We start by scaling the pike.
- Use a knife.
- Is it a long process?
- If you're patient and skillful enough, it won't take that long.
We gently removed the gills and cut off the head of the fish. I learned a couple of new tricks. It's supposed to look like a stocking.
But can you call this experimenting with nature as compared to how nature here was left in peace? When the majority of local factories got shut down, the number of wolves around here increased.
Irina Belova, Museum Curator:
- In tsarist times, there were 6,000 people in Galich and 120,000 peasants outside the city.
- So now the numbers are reversed?
- Now, there are about 16,000 people living in the city and 9,000 outside the city. And nature likes to have company.
It seems that new Russia is dealing with a new reality. First of all, the production has been modernized and it no longer smells here. The new ventilation system works well and the plant uses new infrared heaters. It would also be nice if all the metal used in production was produced locally. For now, Galich has to buy some of the required high-quality steel not from Severstal in the nearby Vologda Oblast but from Sweden.
However, a new production department was opened here last week. From now on, manipulators for Russian cranes will be manufactured here as well.
- So you employ hydraulics here, right?
Here's a comment by a man who's been working here since 1975.
Vladimir Lebedev, Senior Engineer:
“When we first started making manipulators, we had to do it wherever there was a little bit of unused space. Now we have an entire department.”
Meanwhile, Marina explained to me how to use her meat grinder, which seems to be made of local steel.
- Your task is to mince it with the meat grinder.
– Yes, ma'am.
– Get ready.
First, we minced the pike. As it turns out, we're also going to use some salo.
– Was this salo also produced in Kostroma Oblast?
– Yes, it's local produce.
Since we're making mince, we need to add some bread soaked in local, healthy milk as well. The next step is to fill the "stocking" with the pike mix and make what we normally call "gefilte fish", which will end up being a Galich-style coulibiac. We'll get back to it later. But first, we'd like to ask our friend from Galich about the town's economy.
- How many people do you think are currently employed in the tourism and hospitality industry? Is it dozens or hundreds of people?
Marina Skvortsova, Cook at the Palmira restaurant:
- Well, probably dozens of people.
For now, the town's plant remains the main employer. For a while, Marina worked at the plant's warehouse. Her brother still works there. If the plant got shut down, where would people go? To avoid running that risk, many people have left.
– How many of your former classmates have left?
Why else do people leave?
Sergey Sitnikov, Governor of Kostroma Oblast:
- Moscow and Saint Petersburg are close by.
- They're like vacuum cleaners that suck up people.
– Yes, exactly. They're drawing a lot of our working-age population and it's a major social issue. As a rule, men leave to work in a different city. Their families stay here so they need social aid.
So I asked the governor another question:
– What's the solution?
– We should not remain a monotown.
Sergey Sitnikov explained that since there're plenty of woods in the region, it was time to move on from logging to wood processing. Galich plans to build a large plywood factory, which will employ 1,000 people.
Meanwhile, Marina and I need to prepare the pike before we can place it on a pan.
- We're going to put a potato in its mouth.
– What for?
– So that its mouth will remain open.
As determined as the pike holding onto the potato, Galich is aiming to enter a new industry.
- Then it's time to bake the fish.
– May I give you a hand?
– Thanks. I can handle it myself.
It looks like feminism has reached Galich, too. Oh well. As for progressive views, Galich is no stranger to being in the lead.
- Yes, that's our famous reed organ.
– Does it work?
– Yes, we give concerts here.
- Could you show us?
Who's going to play the reed organ next? The first and, perhaps, the most important thing that has changed is the people's attitudes. In Yemelya's land, no one is waiting for a miracle to happen anymore.
In Russia, this would be a new plot for a movie.
“Those who are willing to work are making money.”
I saw a group of young men nearby and asked one of them about the main reasons why people were leaving before and why they might consider staying now.
- Was the plant different back then?
Evgeny Staselevich, Electrical Technician:
- Yes. I've been working here for ten years and the plant has changed a lot.
- Does this mean that today's high-school graduates might consider staying and have a career here?
- I think so. They pay us better now.
But what will happen if they open a new plywood factory amidst the woods?
- Maybe the wolves will go away?
- Yes, hopefully. It's scary living like this. They get very close and you can hear them howling. If you go into the woods, you'll see wolf and bear tracks on the ground.
– You can actually see them in front of you?
– Yes, right in front of you.
A Russian province in the heart of the country is ready for changes.
By the way, we also tried to help Marina cover the pike with batter.
“In the end, we made... ...an old Russian pike dish called "coulibiac".
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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