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Feature Story June 26, 2002
 
Living There
 
 
When Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko tore open the envelope containing the winner of this year's Most Developed City in Russia Award on Thursday, June 6, the whole of Russia sat glued to the TV, waiting with baited breath. The coveted award for most livable city is seen as acknowledgement of the progress Russia has made in the ten years since it shed the mantle of Communism as it integrates itself into the Global Community. Most view the award as a chance for Russian cities to take their rightful place among top European and world capitals. But there can be only one winner.

That winner is determined every year by an elite group of impartial Russians -- editors, city managers, architects, and businessmen. They are instructed to consider a broad range of factors, covering everything from intangibles like cultural atmosphere to quantifiable sanitary issues, such as the general wear and tear on the city's water pipes. Then, after long closed-door sessions at the State Committee for Construction (Gosstroi), the announcement is made. And this year, what a surprise it was!

This year the sleeper Cheboksary, the capital of Russia's Chuvash Republic in central Russia, burst onto the international scene when it pulled in the award. Long-admired business-friendly Tambov ranked second, with export hub Astrakhan and southern belle Makhackala sharing third place.

The prize, often called the Tomsk-13 Memorial Award after the first city to win the honor in 1997, creates innumerable opportunities for the lucky city, acting much as the Guggenheim did for Bilbao. Just look at what Tomsk-13 has become in the 5 years since its victory. Aside from the initial 700,000 dollar cash grant, it has witnessed an influx of young professionals looking for the right place to raise their family, students in search of Russia's most cutting edge scene, foreign capital and the inevitable wave of free-spending tourists. Other past winners have reported the same trend in their cities.

Three factors, considered equally, are tabulated for the contest. Infrastructure, which includes sanitary conditions, the state of housing and the development of motorways, is the easiest factor to rate quantitatively. The Social Services category covers the availability of high-quality medical assistance, parks, playgrounds, and educational opportunities. Intangibles like the political and public atmosphere, economic privileges, cost of living, and cultural life are all graded in the Quality of Life factor.

While just the chance to win an award of such high prestige is reason enough to compete, the government guarantees plenty of competition by requiring Russian cities to participate with special governmental decree No. 922 of September 7, 1999. Cities which fail to compete can be prosecuted.

The eXile wholeheartedly salutes the winners, but will use this space to take a look at some of the also-rans who didn't make headlines this year. Thanks to inside sources at Gosstroi, we were able to obtain the applications of some other cities striving for the indisputable title of Russia's best city, but which failed to make the cut. What follows is a brief snapshot of selected cities, along with the cover page that the city governments submitted along with the applications. Also note the rank Gosstroi assigned each city and, in parentheses, the world city that is its equivalent.

TYNDA

Tynda

Tynda

Rank 6 (Auckland, New Zealand)
Oblast Amurskaya (eastern Siberia)
Population 53,000
Founded 1928
Chief Employers Tynda Khlebozavod, Tynda Les
Transportation Bus
Average Temp. summer 14C; winter -28C
Average Monthly Salary 2200 rubles

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