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6 Aug, 2021 11:00

Abandon Moscow! Russian defense minister says country should now move capital eastwards & build five new cities in remote Siberia

Abandon Moscow! Russian defense minister says country should now move capital eastwards & build five new cities in remote Siberia

Russian politicians could soon be packing their bags and piling onto trains eastwards, ditching the busy streets and glitzy nightlife of Moscow in favor of a new capital city located thousands of miles away in vast, snowy Siberia.

That is the bold proposal from Sergey Shoigu, the country's defense minister. Speaking at a meeting of scientists in the country's third-largest conurbation, Novosibirsk, the military chief called for the centre of Russian industry, research and politics to shift away from its European borders.

"We need to build at least three, but preferably five, large centers of scientific, industrial and economic activity in Siberia," he said. "In other words, they should be cities with a population of 300-500,000 or, better – up to a million people. And we shouldn't only build a city and move the capital here, but make each [new city] specifically aimed at one or another sphere of activity."

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In 2012, then serving as the governor of Moscow Region, Shoigu argued that moving the capital to Siberia would help reverse the outflow of citizens from the region, given that many move to the capital, or cities like St. Petersburg and Krasnodar, looking for work or to study. However, detractors criticized the scheme as costly and logistically difficult.

READ MORE: Most Russians dislike the idea of moving to the capital, Moscow – poll

During WWII, as the Nazi war machine pushed forward through the Soviet Union's western front, concerns that Moscow could fall to the invading army led to the preparation of a second capital around 500 miles to the east. The city of Samara, on the Volga River, was chosen as the backup destination should the Kremlin fall to the Germans, and a colossal set of command bunkers were built for wartime leader Josef Stalin. They were ultimately never used as, in December 1941, the enemy advance ground to a halt just 19 miles from Central Moscow and was then repulsed by the Red Army.

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