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RUSSIA: Siberia

From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer comments on the report about Siberua: "I think the report means that Yeltsin s reforms condemned the regional governments to destitution, not the people. Yeltsin s reforms cut them off from large wealth transfers from European Russia and made the regional governments fend largely for themselves. Other than the artificial settlements in the far north, where the entire economies depended on subsidies, and which are, logically, suffering badly now, Siberia is mostly doing very well particularly the many Siberian regions which are awash in oil (like Tyumen), but also the prospering belt of cities along the Trans-Siberian like Novosibirsk. That is understandable because Siberia s economy is mostly based on the export of raw materials timber, gas, minerals, metals, besides oil and these sectors are doing a land office business, particularly in trade with China and Japan. There are some exceptions Vladivostok, which depends on the now-impoverished Pacific Fleet, is not doing too well, and some border cities like Khabarovsk are staggering under illegal immigration of Chinese and Chinese criminal gangs. These cities, by the way, are technically in the Russian Far East, and not Siberia.

Tyumen Region, by the way, is by far the wealthiest region of Russia on a per capita basis, whose residents enjoy per capital income of about three times that of the residents of runner-up Moscow Region. Most of Russia s natural gas and in fact something like a quarter of the entire world s proven reserves of natural gas are in Tyumen Region, and two thirds of Russia s proven oil reserves are there. Oil and gas production just in Tyumen Oblast accounts for about 7% of Russia s GDP. The local oil company, TNK, merged with British Petroleum a few months ago in a $6.75 billion deal. As if all that were not enough, some of the world s richest timber reserves are also located here, and Tyumen agriculture has probably made the most successful transition in Russia to private enterprise. The hunting and fishing there are legendary. Tyumen Region is one of the brightest spots in Russia. See Novosibirsk is a pleasant city of about 1.5 million people, with an unusually good cultural life for a city of its size with a very fine opera company, ballet company, conservatory, and numerous dramatic theaters. Novosibirsk is the financial and business capital of Siberia, and has quite a dynamic economy. If you decide to go for a visit, reserve your hotel room far in advance Novosibirsk hotels are booked solid for months at a time".

RH: Tyumen is on the Trans-Siberian Ralway , just east of the Urals and about halfway between Moscow and Novosibirsk. Khabarovsk is in the Far East, where the Trans Siberian Railway makes a sharp bend south along the Amur River, which roughly forms the boundary with China. Vladivostok and Nakhodka, two ports, are at the end of the line, also close to China.

Ronald Hilton - 7/11/03