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The modernization of Khasanskii Raion in the Russian Far East: potential, problems, and perspectives.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY THE ROLE OF Khasanskii Raion was reinvented as a border area of Pacific Russia. To unravel how this change occurred, we need to consider prospects for the development of the Russian Far East (hereafter RFE), focusing on the modernization of Khasanskii Raion. We analyze it from two main perspectives: historical, through the prism of national security and Russia's participation in international projects in Northeast Asia; and humanitarian, through the subjective accounts and views of the local population.

Creating an International Transportation System

According to the strategic plans of the Russian state, the territory of Khasanskii Raion must be integrated into the international transportation system. A dedicated program titled Development of Russia's Transportation System defines the "eastern vector" as the highest priority. Once developed, that vector is expected to increase Russia's competitive advantages as it integrates into the system of Asia Pacific economic cooperation ("Razvitie transportnoi" 2001). Recognition of the RFE's importance is reflected in the existence of the dedicated federal program known as Economic and Social Development of the Far East and Baikal Territory to 2018 ("O federal'noi tselevoi" 2013, 6). One of the most important programs for years to come, it includes increasing the capacity of marine port-railway complexes for international traffic ("O federal'noi tselevoi" 2013).

The development of Zarubino port is also part of the Program for Social and Economic Development of Primorskii Krai, 2013-2017, another government development program under the Economic and Social Development program just mentioned. The port forms the Russian segment of the Primor'e-2 International Transportation Corridor (ITC). The ITC connects the Chinese province of Jilin to Zarubino port via Hunchun and Kraskino. Furthermore, Zarubino port is, along with the ports at Posjet and Slavianka, a link in the Tumen River corridor (see Figure 1). An ITC is a "part of a national or international transportation system that ensures significant international cargo and passenger traffic between certain geographical areas. This system includes rolling stock and stationary appliances for all types of transportation operating on the specified route, as well as an aggregation of technological, organizational and legal facilities to guarantee this traffic" (Vinokurov, Dzhadraliev, and Shcherbanin 2009, 10). The goal of Zarubino's modernization project is to develop maritime, road, and railway infrastructure under Primor'e-2 to facilitate Russia's rapid entry into the international transportation and logistics market. At the same time the ITC is also supposed to spur the development of the area, a fact that has bearing on the concepts we are interpreting here.

Assessing the current situation, Russian scholars conclude that the main risk for Russia is that it will fail to participate in the process of establishing an area of security and joint development in the Pacific (Larin 2012; Strategicheskii global'nyi Prognoz 2011). In our opinion, however, the designated course of development for the Primor'e-2 ITC in the form of a public-private partnership will enable Russia to strengthen its position within the Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI). In the 2000s, Russia determined the format and nature of its participation in the GTI within the framework of the northeastward vector of its foreign policy (Rasporiazhenie Pravitelstva 2008).


Our research approaches geopolitical and political questions in the context of retrospective analyses of Russia's participation in the GTI. Yet, since such analyses of the Tumen project in Russia have previously been conducted by several others (Bazhenov 2012; Burlakov 2007, 2013; Granberg 2013; Gulidov 2012; Podberezkina 2015; Tsvetkov, Zoidov, and Medkov 2012), we will instead focus on milestones in the development of the idea of a transportation corridor in the southern part of the RFE.

Initiatives for developing a Eurasian ITC date back to the 1980s and 1990s (Podberezkina 2015). For example, in 1992 the Chinese government officially included the Tumen zone in its plans for long-term economic development up to 2010, granting it concession status. On June 15, 1999, a meeting was held in Vladivostok under the rubric of "East-West transportation corridors" (Burlakov 2007). The government of Jilin province declared its intention to take out a long-term lease on Zarubino port for fifty years, but its request was denied. Nevertheless, the Zarubino port development project was a milestone in the history of RussianChinese economic cooperation, so that today we see Russia's participation in the Primor'e-1 ITC, another initiative established within the framework of the GTI.

Since 2001, the political basis for developing the ITC has broadened as part of growing cooperation between Russia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea). Negotiations between Vladimir Putin and the heads of the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) and the DPRK saw the adoption of the Moscow Declaration under which the parties committed to undertaking all efforts necessary to implement a railway transportation corridor connecting the north and the east of the Korean peninsula to Russia and Europe. This would be based on the mutual benefit principle common in global practice. It was also announced that connection of the Korean and Russian railroads had reached the stage of active implementation (Moskovskaia deklaratsiia 2001).

Russia's Political Interests

However, we consider the years up to 2008 to be a period characterized by intentions only and not by visible results, although it was a time when the groundwork was laid for the Primor'e-2 transportation and logistical modernization project in which many parties were interested. As far as Russia was concerned, these parties comprised central, regional, and local authorities, as well as medium-sized and large businesses. Each of them possessed their own resources, including existing agreements with regions of other states (China, the ROK, and the DPRK). The notion of interest is pivotal to the subject under exploration here.

The slow implementation of the project resulted not only from Russia's position and conditions for entrepreneurial development in its transportation industry but also from the alignment of political forces in Northeast Asia. Foremost among the region's distinctive features is a high propensity for conflict (Pestsov 2012). Besides, unlike the states of Southeast Asia, Northeast Asian countries were very cautious about making comprehensive economic integration with the region a priority. Instead, development of bilateral contacts or cooperation has always been emphasized when it comes to implementing international projects. Several theses predominate in Russian research papers on this subject. These hold, first, that programs for development of the Tumen River basin gradually evolved into local bilateral projects, and second, that Russia's Primorskii Krai was given a subordinate role in the project. The Tumen project was initially conceived of as a primary tool to stimulate economic cooperation between peripheral territories in Northeast Asian countries (Burlakov 2007).

But looking back on the history of the project in Russia, researchers have hardly considered the question of the development of local border areas as a platform for the current pivot to the Pacific in Russia's domestic and foreign policy. We believe that the issue of the local population's involvement in the modernization processes, which aimed to strengthen Russia's role in Northeast Asia, has not been covered sufficiently. Following Putnam (1996), we adopt the premise that the success of any development project is not guaranteed unless it is grounded in the needs of the elite, the expectations of the population, and the authorities' ability to implement it. For this reason we focus on the issue of compatibility or incompatibility of basic opinions of different social actors (authorities at various levels, businesses, and the local community) about the direction and nature of transformation.

We should highlight that in Russia the state, as a system of governance and a source of power, retains the major role in the eyes of the public. Within this, the ruling government (the president) is its "substantive aspect," while the "mediate authorities" (the bureaucracy) represent its functional aspects (Pivovarov 2006) and incur all responsibility for inefficiencies in governing. One more feature of this situation is that the idea of the common good presupposes neither consent nor the encompassing of diverse interests in most cases. Since the time of Peter the Great, the idea of the common good had to be "hammered into the heads of citizens" to achieve a breakthrough in modernization and the social mobilization associated with it (Kharkhordin 2011, 48-49). Nowadays, as Gelman (2015) writes, attempts at reform confront the incompatibility that exists between the goals of modernization and those of the neopatrimonialist institutions operating within the country in the interest of ruling groups. The focus on earning maximum rent for a few agents often runs counter to the interests of the local community, which is the case in Khasanskii Raion. Our exploration of these issues via use of our own in-depth interviews constitutes the primary innovative feature of our research.

Khasanskii Raion as a Platform for Russia's "Pacific Pivot"

An Economic and Commercial Profile

Khasanskii Raion as a platform for implementing economic cooperation projects has both limitations and advantages. Constraints include inadequate social and utility infrastructure, which discourage investors, (1) as well as insufficient human resources in the area. The region's population reached its peak in 1989 during the Soviet period but later declined following a general trend in the RFE. By 2014 the level of population decline since 1989 was greater in the border area than the average for Primorskii Krai as a whole, and in 1995 natural population decline began in the region. Although the rate of decline has slowed significantly since 2007 (Primorskomu Kraiiu 70 let 2008; Sotsial'no-ekonomicheskoe polozhenie 2012, 2013), its share of the total population of Primorskii Krai has failed to reach not only the 1989 proportion but also the level it had reached in the precrisis year 2008.

Khasanskii Raion occupies 16 percent of the total area of Primorskii Krai, yet only 1.83 percent of the latter's population resides there. In 2008-2009 its labor force was 25,600 and in 2011, 25,400 (Trud i zaniatost' 2012). In 2011, 43 percent of the total regional population worked locally. After 2008 the region saw a decline in many industries. Between 2010 and 2011 the most significant declines in employee numbers were in the construction industry (by 180 percent), in real estate (by 150 percent), and in fishing (by 34 percent). This situation was largely due to the overall state of small businesses in each of these respective fields.

Khasanskii Raion is part of an agglomeration cluster centered in Vladivostok in which it plays a transportation and logistics role. Three ports make up its core: Zarubino, Posjet, and Slavianka, with additional components comprising the Hunchun (China)-Zarubino (Russian Federation) road and the railway border crossing point at Makhalino-Hunchun. Zarubino and Posjet ports also have functioning border crossing points, and Vladivostok and Hunchun are connected by a motorway. The Hunchun-Kamyshovaya (Russia) railway border crossing point was launched in 2003. All these connections accelerated the development of the Russian section of the Primor'e-2 ITC.

A regular land-and-water transportation route was launched in 2008: it begins in Hunchun and reaches Zarubino port by land, and thereafter goes to Sokcho (ROK) and to Niigata (Japan). It takes two days at most to deliver cargo from northeast China to its destination if the goods are transported via this corridor. A transportation route connecting Hunchun and Zarubino to the southern Korean port of Busan and to Akito port in Japan was also launched owing to Russia's participation in the Tumen corridor.

The Zarubino Joint Venture

August 2010 saw the launch of a joint Russian-Chinese venture to develop Zarubino International Port. Fifty-one percent of its stock was owned by Seaport of Troitsa Bay OJSC (Russia), while 49 percent belonged to Chang Ji Tu Logistics Group (China). In fall 2010 on Russia's initiative, the secretariat of the GTI assessed the potential of this project--a move announced at the first meeting of the GTI Transportation Board. The secretariat concluded that the port offers good conditions for the transshipment of steel, timber, perishables, and other types of cargo. The project, Construction of the Zarubino Big Maritime Port (implemented by Summa Capital), mandates the construction of a universal port with high production efficiency and adherence to global standards (Federal' naia tselevaia programma 2014). The key aim of the project is to transfer large volumes of transit cargo to the Russian port and send additional cargo traffic to the Trans-Siberian Railway (Drobysheva 2015). The port was included on a list of platforms ready to become Priority Development Territories (hereinafter PDTs) within Primorskii Krai. (2) But despite enactment of a federal statute concerning PDTs, many issues pertaining to the mechanism for their implementation remain in dispute, and the views of experts and politicians on this matter are mixed. Nevertheless, options for its implementation have been actively discussed by political and business communities in China.

A project for the technological modernization of another Khasanskii Raion port (Posjet) requires investment of 5 billion rubles; by January 1, 2015, 3.17 billion rubles had already been invested. The port is controlled by Mechel Company. The operators of Posjet maritime port and Slavianka maritime terminal (TransitDV Group of Companies, Vostokbunker CJSC, Slavianskii Shipyard OJSC, and International Sea Reloading Terminal CJSC) are interested in increasing cargo traffic. In May 2014 Transit-DV tested a roadstead transshipment complex (RTC) at the Slavianka terminal roadstead. As a result, the ports of Khasanskii Raion possess the technological capacity to support transit cargo traffic from northeastern China and the DPRK to consignees in the United States, Asia Pacific, and Europe.

The Primor'e-2 project therefore logically fits into global transportation schemes and appeals both to the authorities and to entrepreneurs in Primorskii Krai, China, and the DPRK. On June 20, 2014, an agreement was signed in Harbin, China, between the Transit-DV and the Chinese company for management of state assets JungGung Xin (Dal'nevostochnyi capital 2014). In 2014 the Russian Federation's Ministry of the Development of the Far East initiated a new project that is likely to strengthen the role of Russia, and Primorskii Krai in particular, in the international transportation and logistics system. This was the introduction of a free port regime as a type of special economic zone. In 2014 the Primorskii Krai ports at Vladivostok, Zarubino, Posjet, and Nakhodka were included under the overall scheme of Vladivostok free port. Prospects for integrating the Russian transportation system into international networks largely rely on its transit potential.

In retrospect, for many years the implementation of the Russian component of the Primor'e-2 project had been facing a number of problems, including modernization of the railroad segment. We discuss those problems next.

Problems with Modernizing the Russian Transportation System

Difficulties of Implementation

When in 2001 the Russian government adopted the dedicated program for Development of the Russian Transportation System (2010-2020), it assessed that Russia's position in the Far East was at risk of weakening and concluded that successful implementation of geostrategic interests would depend largely on the development of transportation. Solving the issue of connectivity between Russia's remote periphery and the country's center would also play a role. Therefore, several problems were targeted to be solved in order to ensure Russia's competitiveness in the global market: underutilization of transit potential, failure of transportation infrastructure to meet the needs of foreign trade, and a lack of competitive advantages for Russian carriers in the global market. In 2001 transit across Russian territory comprised less than 1 percent of cargo traffic between Europe and Asia, which meant that only 5 to 7 percent of its transit potential was employed ("Razvitie transportnoi" 2001). Developing large transportation corridors in an east-west direction (via the Trans-Siberian Railway) has become part of the general transportation strategy and of national policy for the RFE. The Primor'e-2 ITC and the Trans-Siberian Railway were highlighted among the primary platforms for development ("Razvitie transportnoi" 2001).

However, between 2002 and 2008, Russia could not overcome impediments to the implementation of this strategy. Primarily, it was difficult to eliminate all the legal and organizational deficiencies that held back implementation of the ITC in Primorskii Krai, and these deficiencies blocked outside investment. Based on the estimates of experts from the United Nations Development Programme, Primorskii Krai lost from $120 million to $150 million of investment annually due to these deficiencies. Infrastructure for customs and border crossing points developed slowly, limiting options for attracting cargo from China's northeastern provinces to Primorskii Krai's transportation network. This alone accounted for a loss of 45-50 million tons of cargo, including 300,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit, used in container transit) a year (Programma razvitiia 2004).

The first progress toward implementing the Primor'e-2 project was achieved with the announcement of plans to form a transportation corridor connecting the Trans-Korean Main Line and the Trans-Siberian Railway. The route--Busan (Pusan)-Seoul-WonsanChongjin-Rajin-Tumangang-Khasan-Trans-Siberian Railway-was the most attractive one for the Russian state, the DPRK, and businesses (Denisov 2007). October 4, 2008, is the date when reconstruction of the Trans-Korean Main Line began, with work starting on the Tumangang section.

Another issue is that the Primorskii Krai administration has for many years been working on the project only on the level of intentions and discussions. Despite a favorable international response and the positive outcomes of assessments of the project made between 2008 and 2010, the Russian side took little action for various reasons. As a consequence, the transition to market relations in Khasanskii Raion was accompanied by a conflict of interests between a private and a public company.

Progress on Linking with International Transportation Routes

The situation in this border area demonstrated all the drawbacks associated with the development of entrepreneurship in the transportation industry. One of the first modernization projects was initiated by a private railroad company, Zolotoe Zveno OJSC, which was incorporated on June 3, 1992, for construction and operation of the Kamyshovaya-Hunchun border crossing. (3) The company relatively quickly constructed Russia's first private railroad to the border, and 40,300 tons of cargo (or 762 railcars) were carried through the new crossing point. However, the failure of Zolotoe Zveno OJSC to meet its obligations to equip the crossing point in line with the requirements of the surveillance authorities led to the suspension of customs and border control operations, as well as the halting of rail traffic. The management of Russian Railways subsequently decided to purchase the railroad, and although Zolotoe Zveno's management initially refused this transaction, in 2010 the public company won the litigation that followed.

This legal case was one of the reasons why the transport corridor remained idle. Russian Railways OJSC brought a new managerial style to the transit development project. In 2015-2016, Russian Railways OJSC plans to invest more than 2.1 billion rubles in the development of infrastructure at the Makhalino-Kamyshovaya state border (over a total length of twenty-one kilometers) (Dementiev 2015).

The Primorskii Krai administration has since realized the importance of its participation in the implementation of the ITC project. It has taken steps toward learning the lessons of Tumengang by organizing a research and applied science conference titled "The Tumengang Project: Past, Present, and Future Potential of the Issue." (4) The conference was held in Vladivostok on February 25, 2011. In the same year, the annual meeting of the GTI was held in Pyeongchang (Gangwon province, ROK). The meeting included a conference for GTI national coordinators, a forum for economic cooperation in Northeast Asia, a forum for local development, and the twelfth meeting of the GTI advisory committee. The Primorskii Krai administration expressed hope that the organization would become an important platform for cooperation between regional and local authorities (Krechetova 2012), but evidently intentions still took precedence over actions even after 2008.

Among the other reasons for the slow implementation of the project were organizational and logistical factors, in particular, problems surrounding the technology for cargo registration employed by the Russian and the Chinese parties. From the Russian side, emphasis was put on restoring the railroad and stations. In 2012 the necessary work was completed on the Makhalino-Kamyshovaya-Hunchun section of railroad (Sdelanounas 2013; Usov 2011), and on August 2, 2013, the first train with thirty railcars passed through the border crossing for the first time after a nine-year break.

Indeed, since 2013 the Russian authorities, Russian Railways OJSC, and the Ministry for the Development of the Far East have paid more attention to this border area. Meetings and visits from politicians from the DPRK and China have become more frequent. Since the potential volume of cargo traffic from northeast China amounts to tens of millions of tons of cargo per year, the prospects for transit development are extensive. Any increase in cargo traffic will necessarily be predicated on the construction of multimodal manufacturing and logistics complexes as facilities for handling cargo at Khasanskii Raion's ports, and the establishment of a bunkering terminal became a lingering problem for the development of the ITC on the Russian side. The Transit-DV Group of Companies undertook to solve this issue and in May 2014 they organized the trial passage of several high-capacity containers along the Hunchun-Zarubino route.

Among the achievements from the Russian side we can also count the opening in September 2013 of the Khasan-Rajin railroad section by experts from Russian Railways OJSC and the DPRK. This was the first stage in the implementation of the project for restoring the Trans-Korean Railroad and its connection to the Trans-Siberian Railway. After long discussions lasting five to seven years and yielding few results, we are now finally seeing actions designed to integrate Khasanskii Raion into international transportation routes. But are these actions seen to constitute real modernization that has a positive effect on the social and economic life of the territory?

Modernization Projects and the Social Environment

The development of the transportation system has impacted the local labor market, a fact reflected in the employment balance of the population. Statistics show that most of Khasanskii Raion's workforce is employed by large- and medium-sized organizations, 21 percent of which are in transportation. Furthermore, in 2011 the number of those working for financial organizations increased by nearly three times, and the number of hotel employees more than doubled. Most of these changes can be accounted for by the development of the transit system. In 2012-2014 this trend of structural changes continued (Sotsial'no-ekonomicheskoe 2012, 2013). In 2013, 1,298 individuals worked in transportation enterprises, primarily in Slavianka, Zarubino, and Posjet. However, Primor'e-2 has not given significant impetus to the development of small and medium-sized businesses. In 2013-2014, the share of people employed in small and medium-sized businesses was only 23 percent of the total employed in the region, while in other regions this number was around 30 percent (Materialy kruglogo stola 2013).

The sociodemographic potential for entrepreneurship in Primorskii Krai's southern border area is also much lower than that on the Chinese side. For example, the population of Kraskino is 3,834 people, Posjet's is 2,311, and Khasan's is 728. The level of social activity is low, and the profile of these urban settlements vividly demonstrates the asymmetry in social and economic development between the Russian and the Chinese border areas. The most densely populated settlements are the regional center Slavianka (13,759) and Barabash (6,880), but population forecasts are far from encouraging and predict even further reductions. As a result, the demographic problem is currently a key concern for the region. Although it had been an effective method in the 1970s and 1980s, the earlier model whereby workforces were drawn into the area for large-scale economic projects was destroyed beginning in the early 1990s.

In Khasanskii Raion the largest-scale economic project and backbone enterprise was Slavyanskii Shipyard, which employed about 3,500 individuals at its peak (compared to 600 employees at present, including contractors from other regions). There were also several dozen other smaller projects affiliated with the shipyard, and although these were not highly profitable enterprises, they did provide jobs that contributed to the region's economy.

The proportion of dilapidated housing here also remains one of the highest in the region, a situation that did not change from 2008 to 2013. For example, construction of a single building containing eight apartments is planned in Posjet under a program for rehousing residents of substandard buildings. Local people treat this program with skepticism, however; in their opinion, only the lowest social class will benefit from it. Living conditions must be analyzed based not only on statistical data but also by looking at individual settlements where enterprises that have previously implemented modernization projects are mainstays of the local economy.

The greatest contrast between the social results achieved in an urban settlement and the goals of local industry may be found in Posjet, where the main contradiction is in environmental safety and revolves around differences between the interests of the local residents and those of Mechel--the company that controls Posjet Commercial Port. The company management wants to remove the port and its surroundings from the territory of the Primorskii Krai nature reserve in which it is located (Zolotoi Rog 2015). (5) Although Posjet Commercial Port is the settlement's economic mainstay, it does not contribute to its social environment or to establishing comfortable living conditions. Its focus is instead on deriving maximum profit, and the company plans to increase the volume of transshipment at its coal terminal to 7 million tons a year. However, at the same time the commercial port is the main employer for the local population and salaries paid by its departments are somewhat higher than average wages in this area, including those paid by railroad enterprises and military border control divisions.

In Soviet times Zarubino settlement was promised a bright modern future since, following the construction of the fishing port, the construction of a large shipyard for repairing the fishing fleet was planned there. Experts designed a project for a future city of about 70,000 residents. However, perestroika (political and economic reform) and the economic collapse that followed held back implementation of these projects. Having changed ownership, the port managed to stay afloat in the years that followed, but when describing the results of efforts to implement transit projects, one Zarubino resident called it "a process which crawls along and brings about no results for locals." (6) Summa Capital, the company carrying out the project for modernization of the port at Troitsa Bay, is known to participate in social projects, but these are primarily in Moscow and other large cities. Zarubino's social problems remain out of the company's sight since undertaking social projects there will not contribute significantly to the company's image.

As for the area around Posjet settlement, it has a well-developed transportation network (railway and automobile) compared to other areas. However, in 2014 the settlement still lacked regular bus service between Posjet, Kraskino, and Slavianka, where residents have to go for medical services. The social and residential convenience of the area is determined solely by its proximity to the Ussuriisk-Khasan railroad and the Razdolnoe-Khasan federal highway. Despite this, Russian Railways has shown no interest in developing this territory, as evidenced by the everyday reality that villages around Khasanskii Raion appear to lag behind the Chinese border area when it comes to conditions at border crossings and living conditions in general.

Private Judgments of Modernization: Views of the Local Population

Meeting People's Needs in the Face of State Rigidity

In 2009 Russian president Dmitry Medvedev officially announced a state strategy for modernization that discussed the objective of developing the country "by bringing together the interests of individuals, the public and the state" ( 2009). These discussions were reminiscent of perestroika in the second half of the 1980s. The preceding decade, from the year 2000, had already seen examples of inconsequential reform efforts and their unpredictable results, which were caused by lack of interest in changes on the part of the upper bureaucracy (Gelman and Starodubtsev 2014). In light of this, we ask, What views are held regarding the current modernization projects being implemented by various parties (either the state or private business)?

First, opinions expressed by the region's residents lack a clear interpretation of the notion of modernization as it is not well rooted in the vocabulary of the local authorities and has not been the subject of public reflection. While modernization is on the agenda of the federal authorities and features in their domestic policies, for local residents it has become merely a ritualized embodiment of the notion of being able to lead a normal life, something for which there is still a high demand in post-Soviet Russia (Auzan 2010). Here we are dealing with the technological components of modernization, namely, the opportunity to improve both the industrial facilities of enterprises operating locally and the deteriorating infrastructure of urban settlements (roads, bridges, gas and water supplies, and the heating system).

As the source of an overall vision and the manager of cash flows, the federal authorities are viewed as the initiator of all changes on the ground. We observe that this is largely a result of the wholesale destruction of Soviet economic structures on the periphery, which has left few opportunities for locals to overcome economic decline independently (Savchenko 2014). Local authorities and businesses have apparently sought to find a place in the modernization process that allows them to solve their most pressing needs first. Employees of the local authorities (as well as members of the wider population) often lack necessary information regarding the views of the federal authorities and are unable to foresee the likely consequences of proposed changes such as PDTs and the free port of Vladivostok. An increase in unverified information has also contributed to this situation; as one local official put it, we are often forced to "pick things up as they go along and skim through documents without analyzing them." (7)

Designing uniform development programs for all territories and municipalities, implementing complex investment plans (CIPs), and establishing uniform criteria to assess the results of the work of different administrations has mostly been ritualistic, performed without coordination or specific prior arrangements. Since plans have been mandated (imposed from above), they have largely existed in form only. Their executors, municipal officials in other words, are responsible for making federal orders meaningful by adapting them to current needs and local settings (Ryzhova 2014). Under such circumstances, which are aggravated by a lack of financing for certain governmental functions that are nevertheless stipulated as necessary by law, generating new ideas and planning developments becomes an almost fruitless endeavor for local authorities. As a result, any changes have to be made primarily by using existing resources and infrastructure.

We can see evidence of the same limiting circumstances that restrict the approach taken by local municipalities in their general urban planning operations. For example, currently no new industrial objects are planned for construction in Slavianka settlement. The only plans are for the "compacting and alignment of existing platforms" (General'nyi plan 2009, 25).

Construction by Gazprom OJSC of a liquefied natural gas production facility (Vladivostok-LNG) at Lomonosov Cape with a capacity of 15 million tons a year is viewed as a driving economic force for Khasanskii Raion and Primorskii Krai. According to the plan, the first line will be launched in 2018. Municipal authorities hope that, as was the case with Slavianskii Shipyard, additional "cars" can be attached to the locomotive of the overall project. In this case the extra cars are concomitant industries and the roads that will ensure access to the shoreline. When investment into the factory was significant, such "trifles" were considered by state authorities to be a fair contribution to the development of the territory--"we would have never been able to build this on our own," as one district employee said. (8)

However, the project also has its opponents. Their main concerns have been uncertain social returns and delayed outcome. Moreover, alternative proposals from ecologists and scientists regarding the choice of location have not been put forward, and issues surrounding the Vladivostok agglomeration's civil and industrial safety have not been considered. The current project does not take into account the location's fire and seismic risks or the uniqueness of Khasanskii Raion's ecosystem--the district is home to the Land of the Leopard national park, the Kedrovaia Pad nature reserve (a UNESCO world heritage site), and a marine conservation area (PrimaMedia 2014). Besides, the project is incompatible with both the raion's and krai's priority plans to promote ecological tourism and water-farming, which have been leading activities for local private business in recent years. The region was also recently shaken by a corruption scandal involving illegal distribution of plots of land at the location of the proposed construction site.

Kordonsky (2010, 21-22) notes that, when trying to modernize a territory in accordance with a general policy, the state confronts physically existing space "as it is" where life is lived according to "local rules." The optimal role of the state from the business community's point of view is to draw closer "to the common people who live here, and not only to those in the Center [central Russia]." (9) Their needs are long-term loans, amendments to the subsidy procedure, and protection from pressure from the taxation and law enforcement agencies. "The best government," concluded one local referring to Japan's experience, "is one you know nothing about, one you don't see and don't hear, i.e., one which allows beneficial conditions for work to be created." (10) In short, the interests of the state and those of residents of peripheral areas are incompatible because, in the opinion of the latter, the parties think according to different categories and set goals of different scales. (11)

Resisting State-Led Modernization

Local approaches to solving problems on the way to a desired future often prove more adequate compared to the ideas of "high" modernization policies that disregard practical knowledge. James Scott wrote that a designed and planned social order is necessarily schematic; it ignores essential traits of reality and social order that operate in real life, a fact that often accounts for the failure of a project (Scott 2011). Bliakher has shown how local communities ("the poor") resist the modernization plans of the state ("the rich") using the example of small towns in the RFE (Bliakher 2013). The attitude of the RFE population toward the federal authorities has been influenced by a number of consistent mythologies over a long period of time. Among these is a view of the Far East (a Russian outpost) as a rich area where wealth nevertheless does not end up in the hands of the locals (Bliakher 2014). During the late Soviet period, local authorities were viewed as accomplices of the central government, which treated local natural and human resources as a colony. (12)

Nowadays, besides ministries and state agencies, state-owned corporations and large economic entities registered in Moscow and abroad are also in the area, their presence justified by regional authorities on the basis of the need for investment. Vertically oriented, these companies are not built into the local social environment; their economic activity and modernization programs are often rejected by the community and can even lead to open protest. Protests are provoked by situations in which economic discrimination, a very painful issue for locals (and one that leads to deterioration in both the industrial and social spheres), combines with conflict revolving around basic concepts of fairness. Discussion of the expediency of concrete projects often transforms into discussion of whether to trust the government at all.

The history of construction of a transshipment complex on the territory of Slavianskii Shipyard reflects the many antagonisms between a local community's notions of the common good and those of businesses and the authorities at krai (frontier territory), raion, and local (village) levels. International Sea Reloading Terminal OJSC planned to begin transshipment of bituminous coal, a commodity much in demand abroad, from a location situated in almost the very center of Slavianka. Subsequently, an impromptu initiative group launched an information campaign to block implementation of the project. In a March 2013 meeting backed by the local administration, the constitutional rights of citizens to live in an ecologically balanced environment were put forward as inviolate. Among the opinions expressed at that meeting were that "without solving environmental issues ... you can just as well put an end to Slavianka's development" (Video 2013 a), and that "the authorities ... deceive us.... What do they have planned for us? Is it a cemetery for the residents of Slavianka that they want, or economic development?" (Video 2013b).

One blatant example of lack of government concern for local welfare was the situation in nearby Posjet, where over ten years of aggressive economic development of the port had resulted in massive pollution of both land and water and an outflow of the population. After all possible methods had been tried--protests, signature collection, participation in public hearings, and petitions to federal and local authorities, the public prosecutor's office, and the foreign coinvestor in the project (Arsen'evskie vesti 2013)--the initiating group started to prepare a referendum. The management board of International Sea Reloading Terminal OJSC stated in turn that "the practice of holding referendums in response to any attempt to modernize existing coal reloading facilities in Primorskii Krai, and to construct new ones, may undermine the implementation of state development programs on the territory, including programs for the development of the Far Eastern and Baikal districts, and slow development of the Russian coal industry" (PrimaMedia 2013). However, an extended confrontation was interrupted by the personal intervention of the governor of Primorskii Krai, after which the terminal construction project was postponed.

The consolidated efforts of the local community, ecologists, and deputies from the local legislative body helped to establish the previously unaccustomed practice of civil participation and to increase interest in public policy in general. The unusually high turnout for elections to the local legislative body in 2014 and the subsequent victory for members of the initiative group (fourteen out of fifteen seats are occupied by members of the We Are Slavianka political bloc) demonstrated the immediate need for local residents to be able to define their image of the territory. V. S. Nersesiants has written that "in a place where there are no free individuals, no overall public order and no state organization of public authorities as a res publica and a res populi, there can be no common good and no good for any individual" (Nersesiants 1997, 72-73).

Slavianka residents defined their common good based on the principle that "the state is us." This principle helped to enhance their sense of local solidarity and to see that solidarity applied when the problem gained social legitimacy and received a broad public response. Moreover, mobilization became possible as a result of the stable local collective identity that emerged, a phenomenon attributable to the particularities of Slavianka's makeup. Reference to this symbolic resource was one of the arguments for shutting down the project, which locals invariably saw as technologically outdated, obsolete, and not modern. "The constituency is different here. Slavianka has people from all over the former USSR; they are educated and qualified people.... Things will not work here as they did in Kraskino where locals stayed silent, working for ridiculous salaries." (13)


The urgent nature of ecological problems, reactions to which capture the full range of disparate approaches to development, became the main topic of the eighth Nature Without Borders International Ecological Forum (held in Vladivostok in 2014) whose theme was "Ecology and Business: From Opposition to Common Ground." The forum's resolution contained specific proposals for federal and regional legislative and executive bodies. These included the following specific suggestions:

* Introduce into regulatory compliance practice a requirement that approval from the local public chamber and other social organizations must be obtained concerning all critical decisions pertaining to the location of industrial facilities and territorial planning which affect the interests of local populations;

* Develop a special regime for the management of natural resources in Primorskii Krai's Khasanskii Raion, and before state or commercial projects are launched in the region conduct strategic ecological assessments followed by public discussion;

* Initiate the drafting of a strategy for ecological development in Primorskii Krai for the period up to 2030. (Rezoliutsiia 2014)

The events of 2013 led to a decline in the reputation of the raion authorities in the eyes of the community, and the conflicts of interest between the raion administration and that of the settlement (Slavianka) continued into 2014. That year the head of the raion proposed the dissolution of the Slavianka administration in the interests of "conserving budget funds and improving the quality of territorial governance" (Kuchina 2015). Local residents unequivocally supported the settlement administration at public hearings (Protokol publichnyh slushanij 2015), leading to the withdrawal of the proposals.

Thus, the local administration's obvious focus on the interests of the population meant that Slavianka's local government bodies were much in demand. Strategic projects proposed under the state's modernization agenda have often been viewed by locals as an attempt to disturb the smooth running of the social order, with unpredictable or even negative consequences. Such projects have involved the placement in Khasanskii Raion of hazardous industries, including coal transshipment. The local response to challenges from "outside" (seen from the point of view of this peripheral territory), against a backdrop of mistrust in institutions, has been collective opposition based on cognitive mobilization.


The question of Khasanskii Raion's modernization is not only an interregional one but also an international issue. The evolution of the region as an important platform for the transportation corridor between Russia and Northeast Asia has begun, although for a certain period the Primor'e-2 project was suspended on the Russian side while the social and economic potential of the territory stagnated. Step by step, these impediments limited Russia's opportunities to take part in the Tumen triangle project. Implementation of the project after 2008, and in particular from 2011 to 2014, helped reveal the advantages of public-private partnership.

However, use of the ITC, which runs through Khasanskii Raion, has demonstrated that there are problems with the compatibility of technological systems, the efficiency of various types of shipping (domestic, export, and import), and Russia's transportation system in general, which is particularly important given the competitiveness of the logistics market on general routes. The transit model employed along the international transportation corridor has brought results primarily for large companies, although it has also helped some Primorskii Krai entrepreneurs to develop their businesses.

Between 2010 and 2014 the project did not, however, represent any sort of breakthrough or turning point in the eyes of the majority of Khasanskii Raion's population. Moreover, against the backdrop of incompatible interests and a lack of shared ideas in respective understandings of modernization as a common good for various parties (the state, businesses, the local community), projects have often aggravated latent conflicts and created new ones.


Angelina Vaschuk is head of the Division of Social and Political Studies at the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Ethnography, Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok. She specializes in the study of the sociopolitical and demographic history of the Russian Far East. She has published numerous books and journal articles in Russian, including editing Ethno-Migration Process in Primory 'e in the 20th Century (2002), The World After the War: Far Eastern Society in 1945-1950s (2009), and Far Eastern Politics: The Strategies of Sociopolitical Security and Mechanisms of Realization (2014). She can be reached at

Anastasia Konyakhina is a research associate at the same institute. Her research interests lie in the interrelationship between authority and society in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, the theory and practice of civic participation, and social protests in the Russian Far East. She has published on civic participation in Rossiia IATR (Russia and the Pacific), and has contributed to the edited volume Far Eastern Politics: The Strategies of Sociopolitical Security and Mechanisms of Realization (2014). She can be reached at

The authors acknowledge the support of the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Foundation, project #13-01-00199 (Social Transformation and Modernization Processes in the South of the Far East, 1985-2012: Contradictions and Interaction) for support of the field research data in this article.

(1.) Interview with employees of the municipal administrative body of Khasanskii Raion in Slavianka settlement, July 14, 2014.

(2.) A PDT is a part of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation where a special legal regime of entrepreneurial and other activities is instituted pursuant to a Russian Federation government resolution. The idea is to attract investment, ensure rapid social and economic development, and provide convenient living conditions for the population (O territoriiakh 2014).

(3.) Among the shareholders of the open joint-stock company were the Estate Fund of Primorskii territory, Far Eastern Railways, the administration of Khasanskii Raion, and Transsviazstroi OJSC. The joint-stock company Northeast Asia undertook to maintain the railroad on the part of China in Jilin province. This company constructed the road simultaneously with Zolotoe Zveno. The first train traveled this route on February 25, 2000.

(4.) The conference was held under the auspices of the administration of Primorskii territory, the Legislative Assembly of Primorskii territory, the Far Eastern Maritime Research Institute (FEMRI), the Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of History, Archeology, and Ethnography of Peoples of the Far East of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

(5.) Interview with the director of the Museum of Regional Studies, Posjet, July 18, 2014.

(6.) Interview with a resident of Zarubino, Primorskii Krai, July 17, 2014.

(7.) An employee of Khasanskii Raion administration, Slavianka, Primorskii Krai, interviewed in July 2014.

(8.) Ibid.

(9.) Entrepreneur in Sh., Kavalerovo settlement, Primorskii Krai, personal communication, July 1, 2013.

(10.) Interview of an entrepreneur and deputy of the legislative body of Khasanskii Raion, Slavianka, Primorskii Krai, July 2014.

(11.) "All global-scale intentions and statutes fail in the end because of the discrepancies between what they [the authorities] want and what those who do their humble work down here can do," said an entrepreneur in Slavianka, Primorskii Krai, interviewed in July 2014.

(12.) State Archive of Primorskii Krai. Fonds R-68, Inventory 117, file 1025, p. 88.

(13.) Interview of a resident of Slavianka, Primorskii Krai, July 2014.


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Author:Vaschuk, Angelina S.; Konyakhina, Anastasia P.
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Date:Jul 1, 2016
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