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Feature Story June 26, 2002
 
Living There
 
Page 2 of 2
 

Most young Russians find it funny that this city was founded as a weight point for forced labor heading north to Stalin's gulags; after all, who wouldn't want to visit Tynda? Since its humble beginnings, Tynda was refashioned as a Utopian development under the Brezhnev era and infused with the spirit of perestroika during the final stages of the construction of the BAM railroad. Times have changed, but the frontier spirit still permeates our small city in the wilderness. While it doesn't have any institutes of higher learning, Tynda is something of a magnet for 20-something culture in Russia, creating such a progressive scene that it is often labeled "the Seattle of the East Siberia." A disproportionate number of bands from the Amurskaya oblast get their start playing gigs on the bohemian Krasnaya Presnaya ul. The young and unencumbered flock here to live the adventure of taming the Siberian wild. Our lovely city is also the favored destination for many guest workers from North Korea, many of whom are employed as contract labors by local giant, the lumber company Tynda Les. The Koreans claim to be attracted to the gastronomic paradise that is Tynda, as well as the wealth of job opportunities for hard working immigrants, making this a multicultural paradise. The (relative) proximity of Korea has also made this city something of a point of pilgrimage for those seeking eastern spiritual enlightenment, and Moonies thrive on the youthful enthusiasm. Authorities here take pride in encouraging religious freedom. Furthermore, environmentalists hold the city up as a sustainable example of clean living, and it is among the least polluted cities in the world. This is in no small part due to the impracticality of building factories in such an isolated locale and the active local environmental movement. Our city's services are limited in scope, but the proximity of a major hydroelectric dam insures that the lights won't go off in the middle of a jam session. The long winter is tough on the roads but it's no matter

the level of social consciousness in Tynda is such that few people own carss. Still, the high salaries paid in Tynda can be deceptive. The cost of living in such an isolated city is among highest in Russia and, therefore, the world. But as we say here, "It's [...] worth [....] it!"

VLADIKAVKAZ

Vladikavkaz

Vladikavkaz

Rank 15 (Oslo, Norway)
Oblast North Ossetia (Caucasus)
Population 500,000
Founded 1784
Chief Employers VladZinkZav, Dioscuria
Transportation Trams, Trolleybuses, Buses
Average Temp. summer 17C; winter 1C
Average Monthly Salary 1200 rubles

Vladikavkaz may have been subjected to three name changes over the last fifty years, but one thing has remained stable

this city is widely though of as the gem of Russia's interior Caucasus. A cosmopolitan spirit rare in Russia thrives here, and it is not uncommon to hear several languages while strolling down the tree-lined Prospekt Mira. The university culture only adds to this image of international image, with North Ossetia State University's reputation as a world leader in the study of the Ossetian language and unification movement. The cafe culture on Pushkinskaya ul. is home to a thriving poetry slam scene, as the street's name itself suggests. The city's architecture is a picturesque study in the Soviet post-war Reconstruction period, with Stalin, Khruschev and Breznev all contributing to the decades-long process. Basic city services and plumbing have held up remarkably well considering much of the city's housing stock consists of Khruschevki, thanks in part to the devoted corps of committed city workers. The Terek River provides the city with a natural green corridor, and nature lovers can escape the pollution that gets trapped in the mountain valley by a short drive to the other side of the mountains, where there is a different pollutionn. The only thing holding Vladikavkaz back from breaking into the upper echelons of Russia's cities is the current situation in Chechnya. The occasional marketplace bomb, widespread kidnapping and proliferation of weapons are a slight minus on this city's Quality of Life rating. The frequent tank columns have also played hell with the roads. However, the large military presence has caused trade to boom in recent years which adds funds to the city budget. As the increased government spending trickles its way down into concrete improvements, look for our city's Infrastructure rating to shoot up. Besides, the army bases are in keeping with our rich local history, as Vladikavkaz was originally established as a fortress to secure the Georgian Military Highway. This is a city of the future.

TULA

Tula

Tula

Rank 18 (Toronto, Canada)
Oblast Tulskaya (western Russia)
Population 900,000
Founded 1176
Chief Employers Tulsky Oruzhinyi Zavod, Tulsky Patronnyi Zavod
Transportation Tram, Trolleybus, Bus
Average Temp. summer 21; winter -13
Average Monthly Salary 1600 rubles

Tula was named a "Hero City" for the role it played as a war base in World War II. And to this day we take pride in supplying the Russian army with high quality munitions that are no worse than American and British arms on the world market. As the war in Afghanistan has proved, most primitive cultures actually prefer armaments made in our city because of their accessibility. Our economic forecast anticipates a real boom in production, just as soon our newly designed advertising campaign stressing this point is released in countries throughout the Third World. The dramatic drop off in production after the collapse of the USSR has improved our air quality to the levels of some of the cleanest cities in Europe, ranking up there with Luxembourg and Brussels in terms of breathability. And, even with our industrial potential picking up slowly, the occasional power outage maintains that crisp, delicious black earth air. Our factories boast an impressive safety record, with only 38 workers killed on the job in 2001. That's less than one a week, a fact we emphasize to young working class families thinking of making the move here. Tula prides itself on being a nice place to raise a family. Our schools can't be beat, and there are plenty of institutes for parents who can't bear the idea of sending their children away for a higher education, with Tula State consistently ranking on US News and World Report's Internet exclusive on higher educational institutes in Eurasia. The leading specialties are metallurgy and electronics, and it caters to students who don't think of themselves as Tolstoys (who lived on Yasnaya Polyana, just outside the city). Tourists love to visit, especially the biker clan nochni volki, who make an annual pilgrimage here to buy spare parts for their Tula-made Ural bikes, helping to wean the factory off of barter deals. But our chief concern is for our citizens' Quality of Life. Just look at the happy families promenading along the leafy main drag Prospekt Lenina, where we like to say that a tree was planted every time a Tulan died in a war! Another unique draw to this city is our central Lenin statue, which is the only one in all of the former USSR where the leader is looking at his shoes.

NIZHEVARTOVSK

Nizhnevartovsk

Nizhnevartovsk

Rank 35 (Singapore)
Oblast Tymenskaya (western Siberia)
Population 233,300
Founded 1972
Chief Employers NizhNefZav, GAZaplus
Transportation Tram, Trolleybus, Bus
Average Temp. summer 12C; winter -18C
Average Monthly Salary 1800 rubles

Everybody's heard about how high oil prices have provided a much-needed boost to Russia in the last several years, and nowhere has gotten more of a boost than Nizhevartovsk. This boomtown is attracting speculators from all across Russia and the world hoping to cash in on some of that black gold. But the real progress stems from the people out to make a buck off of the oil majors - Nizhevartovsk is a veritable Wild West of homegrown Russian capitalism and our city is perhaps the most Americanized of all Russia's cities. SUVs are all the rage among locals. Along ul. Lenina it's as common to find a "gamburger" as it is pirozhki. Aggressive and ambitious mid-level executives have been flocking to this regional hub for years, hoping to work their way up the company ladder the hard way. Of course, these types don't have much time for families, which might contribute to the lack of parks and only average schools. Still, the municipality more than makes up for these drawbacks by putting an emphasis on road quality, so that the suspension on locals' inomarki won't get worn down. Flashy new construction is visible all along the up-and-coming ul. Dzerzhinskogo, which is fast becoming the center for club scene that many claim to be no worse than London. The contemporary art scene here also has no trouble finding patrons, and the Nizhevartovk school of neo-realist portraiture is now on the tips of gallery owners' tongues from Flatbush to Venice Beach. With some of the lowest gas prices in Russia and a surplus of electricity, the cost of living here is as low as the average salaries are high. The housing stock is abundant and comes primarily from the golden age of Soviet engineering in the 1970's, making our city one that can only move up.

CHELYABINSK

Chelyabinsk

Chelyabinsk

Rank 41 (Winston-Salem, U.S.)
Oblast Chelyabinskaya (southern Urals)
Population 1,097,000
Founded 1736
Chief Employers Chelyabinsky Traktornyi Zavod, Chelyabinsky Truboprokatnyi Zavod
Transportation Tram, Trolleybus, Bus
Average Temp. summer 14C; winter -14C
Average Monthly Salary1000 rubles

There've only ever been two slow periods in the history of Chelyabinsk: its first 100 years or so in the 1700s, and a couple of years in post-Soviet Russia. But, with the current renaissance, our city hopes to overtake Milwaukee as the worldwide leader in tractor production. Uraltrak is becoming a darling of the RTS, as investors seek out companies that are undervalued and have a tangible product to offer. The crime rate here is among the lowest in Russia, thanks to the extracurricular activities of our citizens, who patrol the streets with a zero tolerance policy towards drugs and prostitution. They have also made significant inroads against public alcoholism and vagrancy, two problems that virtually don't exist in the new Chelyabinsk. The safe streets are one of the reasons that girls in our fair city have children almost immediately after graduating school, and sometimes even before. As it is safe to walk the streets at all hours of the evening these girls find it easier to meet a potential husband and, in turn, end up settling down at an earlier age. In short, order is the key advantage that Chelyabinsk holds over other Russian cities. Order and civic boosterism. Our companies give back to the community, financing the local sports teams and always on hand to offer the city government advice. The parks along our central street, Prospekt Lenina, have been renovated entirely at the expense of the area neighborhood association. The city has also witnessed a boom in the culinary arts over the last five years, with the self-styled "McDonald's of the Urals" Arabskaya Kukhniya opening up franchises throughout the city and even expanding as far as Ekaterinburg. Our downtown features whole blocks of pre-Revolutionary architecture, and over 80 percent of these homes have been retrofitted with plumbing.

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