Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#6 - JRL 7249
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003
From: Douglas.Merrill@t-online.de (merrilld@mindspring.com)
Subject: Moscow as a normal European Capital

I'm sure that all of what Richard Thomas (JRL 7247, #14) says about Moscow is true, but it proves the point the author of the original Newsweek article ("The Two Russias") were making. Moscow is becoming a normal European capital, and like many European capitals, it is dominating the country's economy.

This is visually obvious in almost all Central European countries. The standard of living, the degree of internationalization, the kinds of opportunities for young people, and often many elements of the physical infrastructure are better in the capital than anywhere else in much of Central Europe. Compare Budapest with Debrecen, Prague with Brno, Ljubljana with Maribor. I'll be in the Baltics in two weeks, so I'll be able to see the difference between Vilnius and Kaunas, or Tallinn and Tartu, and I'm willling to bet the situation is similar.

But just as the dominance of the capital is not a specifically Russian phenomenon, it's not limited to the post-communist world either. Greater London accounts for a fifth of the UK's GDP (according to the City of London Corporation). The eight departments of Paris-Ile de France produce a quarter of France's GDP, with per capita income 53% higher than the national average. Almost down the line, in countries large and small, European capitals bestride their national economies like colossi. Denmark has Copenhagen and, what, Legoland?

(In fact, this is probably not even a European characteristic. What are the second cities of Thailand, Taiwan or Argentina anyway? But this is outside my expertise.)

The notable exceptions to the pattern of dominance by the capital - Germany and Italy in the west, Poland to the east - have histories of internal division and/or foreign rule at the time of industrialization. Since Russian industrialization was anything but decentralized, it's not surprising that the common European pattern is repeating itself. That's as likely to change as Newsweek is to put its Russia bureau in Perm.

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