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'Gennadii Iudin, the Krasnoyarsk distiller made millions in the liquor trade and built Siberia's greatest private library'
W.Bruce Lincoln

Russia's capital city should move from Moscow to Siberia

03 February 2014

Historic cities of Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk ideal to connect country to buoyant Asian markets

'I believe the capital should be located somewhere further away, in Siberia'. Picture: A. Kupriyanov, Krasnoyarsk

'If we really want to develop Siberia, people who are present here today, including the governors, must move the capital to Siberia,' told Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska at a business lunch on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland. The issue of looking east and integrating Russia into the Asian markets was a 'question of the country's survival', the billionaire was quoted as saying. 

'Moscow means excessive centralization and corruption,' said the chief executive of Rusal, whose business empire is largely based in Siberia. 'To boost the development of southern Russia, a decision was made to host the Olympics there. The country strained, and a new cluster appeared in the south.'

His proposal, which echoes a suggestion from close Vladimir Putin ally Sergei Shoigu in 2012, was heard by deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who was present at the lunch. 'Moscow has no significant value for the [surrounding] region, and we realise that keeping the capital in Moscow means corruption and excessive centralization,' he claimed. 

Putin in his third term as president has made the development of the country's eastern half a top priority, but this part of Russia starts from a low base with major infrastructure problems. He has shown no public inclination for moving the capital. 

Krasnoyarsk was hailed by Chekhov as the most beautiful Russian city while Irkutsk was once known as the Paris of Siberia. Shoigu, a native Siberian who is now the defence minister, said two years ago: 'I believe the capital should be located somewhere further away, in Siberia,' he said.

For a long period, St Petersburg acted as Russia's royal capital, even though the tsars were crowned in Moscow. There have been some calls to restore St Petersburg as a Western-facing capital but critics say the European economy is stagnant and Russia has more in common with Asia. In 1998, the capital of neighbouring Kazakhstan was moved from Almaty to Astana, closer to the centre of the country. Other countries where the largest city is not the capital include Australia, Brazil, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

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