On your Trans-Siberian trip, you may stay in Ekaterinburg for a while. A little background history will help understand the place.
Unknown Territories, part 7
The hardest part of the endeavour seems to be one of continual coaxing. M relates his efforts across six cities and the diverse mindsets encapsulated within. It was something of the luck of the draw as to whether the next Council representative/ figure-head that he would have to juggle would be receptive to any great degree or, as in too many cases; would just be “in it” to seize power/ money/ kudos for themselves.
The parentheses were wide indeed: containing those who realised cynically that they didn’t have to sell any city land at all (so not relinquishing their “ace” card for short-term cash), to those who returned converted from revelatory trips to the States, having witnessed free-market housing at it’s most self-sustaining and appealing. The idea in essence was for housing developers to take over where the outgoing CCCP had left off. Of course, this replaces “social’” housing for “capitalist” housing. Well, like so many aspects of the new Russian way of life: firstly, welcome to the Brave New World. And (yet again): be careful what you wish for.
Yes, if only the right minds could be gotten onto planes and over to the USA, around the showcase sites, through the tours and hospitalities, and ultimately back home, ejected from the Western “processing plant’” with the scales of scepticism stripped from their eyes, then real progress could be made. The success rate was about 90% for those who took such a mind-broadening approach and were prepared to suspend disbelief. Impressive.
As it was, getting over the last 50 Soviet years was unsurprisingly difficult, even impossible at times. Old prejudices die hard (or not at all) and when life’s self-serving middle/ upper-mangement decide to drag their heels, stack the odds/rewards massively in their favour, or just plain steal then the best efforts fall by the wayside. M acknowledges the “chequered success” of the endeavour as a whole but still recognises with a tone of satisfaction, maybe even a little pride: that yes they did indeed create something here, and that this manifested somewhere between revelation and salvation for those who bought into the process and embraced it’s potential. These exemplary candidates would start a lineage, of say, property management companies for when the gentle, coaxing, massaging and reasoning paid off and the spark finally caught.
The critical de-railing factor applies even today, according to M. That is the refusal to sell land for city housing development in the first place. It’s just seen as a developer turn off: knowing that the property could be pulled like a rug from under them (because they don’t own it) could certainly hamper proceedings. Or failing that: the lease price rocketing skywards at next renewal. One tier down; it’s what most real-life renters have to live with on a daily basis, with no profit-margin to soften the blow.
Next time: Unknown Territories, part 8 Risky strategies
[Photo by lil’latvian]