I don't know if you've heard about Moscow expansion in the news, but that's really happening these days.
The old Moscow borders seemed too narrow to the government, and now there are plans to make our city bigger by attaching a piece of Moscow region to the Russian capital.
This isn't going to be something small by the way, because small areas were granted to Moscow in the past as well. For example, after Moscow ring road was built, it kind of fixed the city's borders. However, even after that several new districts like Butovo and Mitino were added to Moscow, and they all lie beyond the belt way.
Now, a huge piece of land will be added, spanning some 50 kilometers south-south-west from the present Moscow limits. To be short - it's a real Moscow expansion this time!
So what's the difference, you would say? Everything is going to remain the same except that now all that territory will be called "Moscow", right?
Well, you see, it was always very prestigious to be a Muscovite in Russia. This probably started in the Soviet Union, where in order to live in Moscow you had to have a license called "propiska".
Propiska was a sort of Moscow visa - you were either had to be invited by the authorities, marry a Muscovite or be born in the city. Without propiska you simply couldn't stay there. Well, nothing really changed except propiska was cancelled and replaced with a more democratic registration procedure.
It doesn't matter if you live in some remote neighborhood and get to see the Kremlin once in a year - if you're a Muscovite then you by default have a higher status then any other Russian.
It's not about money for sure. Although Moscow salaries are higher then the average Russian ones, there are still many people in Russia (especially in the oil-rich regions) who make much more than the average Muscovite.
It's not about comfort either, because Moscow is well known for its high levels of air pollution and overpopulation. There are many cities and towns in Russia with a higher quality of life.
If you're talking about Moscow theaters, concerts and exhibitions then yes - you have an opportunity to enjoy more cultural events if you live in the capital. However, the problem is that most of the Muscovites simply do not have enough time for that - we're either working or moving around the city, and when we get home all we want is lie down and get some rest.
So, despite the fact that being a Muscovite may not be as attractive as it sounds, it has become an obsession in Russia to live in Moscow. And since there's not enough place to accommodate everyone, there even was that joke in the Soviet times that "Moscow isn't made of rubber", meaning it couldn't stretch to allow everyone to live in it.
In order to solve that issue, the new Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin decided to increase the city's territory by 2,4 times. Well, I guess Moscow expansion is going to be one of those Russian mega-projects we love to tell the world about.
This time it's not going to be an even expansion everywhere around Moscow, but a huge "spearhead" that will go south between Varshavskoye and Kievskoye highways and span for dozens of miles.
The authorities decided to fight Moscow traffic jams that way, because the city is too round-shaped and center-oriented these days. After Moscow expansion, it will hopefully become more loose and de-centralized.
It's hard to say how the new district of Moscow will look like. Right now, it's a just a piece of Moscow region, with several small cities and towns, plus a lot of fields, woods and of course Russian dachas. I sure hope all of that won't just be destroyed to make way for office centers and huge living blocks.
In addition, it is planned to move a lot of government offices in that area to ease the traffic in the center of Moscow. Plus, the authorities state they will create thousands of new jobs there, although I can't see how.
What is certain, however, is the fact that the real estate prices skyrocketed already, even though nothing is really happening yet. I don't want to think what will happen when this territory is going to really become part of Moscow... :s
I also don't understand how the Moscow government is planning to solve the transportation issues. After all, 2 million people are supposed to live in the new district, and that means there will have to be access to Moscow metro at some point. Maybe they will use the legendary Metro 2 for that? Who knows...
Right now, there are only plans being drawn for Moscow expansion. However, three things are going to happen for sure - the degradation of environment, the insane increase of real estate prices and of course - a huge opportunity for corrupt officials to get even richer.
As you can see, I am not a big fan of the idea because I think right now Moscow (and Russia) has other things to worry about, and traffic jams - they can be solved in much less dramatic ways. But - we'll see.
...as you know, I'm an optimist.
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