Urban Policy, Russia

  • Irina IlinaEmail author
  • Evgenij Pliseckij
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_2969-1


Rural Settlement Urban Agglomeration High Economic Growth Rate Backbone Region Interagency Working Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



A course of action adopted and pursued by government, business, or some other organization, which seeks to improve or develop cities or towns through land use planning, water resource management, central city development, policing and criminal justice, or pollution control.


Urban population was 73.7% of the total population in the Russian Federation in 2016. The highest urban population rates occur in the North-Western Federal Okrug (83.5%); very similar rates were recorded in the Central Federal Okrug (81.3%), with the lowest rates found in the North Caucasus Federal Okrug (49.1%). The most urbanized constituents of the Russian Federation are Magadan and Murmansk Oblasts (regions) with respective rates of 95.4% and 92.8%.

At one point, the industrial revolution and industrialization prompted establishment of new industrial cities in Russia. Even today, all major cities, including Moscow, are also large industrial centers. Production efficiency is achieved through exogenous economies of scale in major cities. Innovation diffusion, however, may move the production facilities to peripheral areas, where labor costs are lower. Easier transport and communication links facilitate fragmentation of production but remain insufficient for making access to the markets from remote areas easier.

Another driver of big cities further growth is the availability of a large range of public services, absent for residents of smaller settlements. Dense and efficient transportation and communication networks play a decisive role, because better connectivity is the main urban function. Social infrastructure facilities may serve a big number of users, while a larger local tax base facilitates their funding. In other words, cities in general may be considered as a local public good, attracting users as magnets.

Forms of Settlement. Usually one distinguishes between urban and rural settlements. The main criterion of telling an urban settlement from a rural one is the number of residents, employed primarily outside the agricultural sector. The current definitions of a city integrate functional and legal properties. Federal Law #131-FZ On General Principles of Organization of Local Self-Governance in the Russian Federation defines a concept of a city (urban settlement) as a city or a town where the population executes local self-governance itself and/or through elected and other local authorities. Regardless of a city category, its economy is a unity of city-forming and city-servicing entities.

Cities are broken down into categories by the number of functions (poly- or monofunctional) and by the character of special functions: industrial, transportation, research, historic, and multi-sectoral). City’s functions may change over time because of geopolitical reasons, the city’s role, and importance in the national economy.

Rural settlements in the Russian Federation have mostly retained their traditional forms, determined by the natural and climatic, historic and cultural, as well as ethnic properties of the Russian regions. The Central European parts of Russia have mostly crop and livestock farming rural settlements, while villages in Northern Europe are mostly dependent on fishing and forestry, and Urals townships are traditionally dependent on mining sectors. The rural settlements are going through a transitional stage now.

The Russian Federation is traditionally favoring large urban developments. More than half of the RF population lives in 130 cities with more than 100,000 residents each. The Russian Statistics Agency registered 12 cities with 1 million + inhabitants in 2010: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Omsk, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Rostov-on-Don, and Volgograd. In 2011, Perm recovered its status of a city with 1 million + inhabitants, and in 2012, Voronezh and Krasnoyarsk joined the list. As of 2016, Russia has 15 cities with 1 million + inhabitants.

Development of cities with one million + inhabitants is known to result in agglomerations involving all settlements around big cities into the area of its economic activities through better connectivity. Strengthening of various links facilitates rural agglomerations. The latter are more sophisticated forms of population concentration, dominating the landscape of developed countries and the modern world in general.

Agglomeration is a territorial and spatial formation including constellations of human settlements connected by transport, economic, and cultural links. Urban agglomerations concentrate large number of people and industries (e.g., Moscow and Saint Petersburg agglomerations).

Experts and managers use a number of approaches to define an agglomeration. According to V. Glazychev, the Russian research community has not worked out a well-defined agglomeration term yet and still operates its Soviet interpretation. The Soviet tradition understood an agglomeration as a “clustering of settlements, mostly urban ones, sometimes merging with each other, united by intensive economic, labor and cultural links.”

Given the current trend in regulation of this area at the federal level, it would be appropriate to give an official definition of the term used in the Russian Federation:

Urban agglomeration is a set of municipalities (townships and urban districts) with a number of settlements, mostly urban ones, situated within the boundaries of a set of municipalities, united into a complex dynamic developing system with intensive production, infrastructure, social, and economic links, sharing the use of adjacent areas and development resources. (Recommendations on selection of pilot projects for pilot testing and improvement of governance mechanisms of urban agglomeration development in the Russian Federation. They were approved by Decision No.1 of the Interagency Working Group on Socioeconomic Development of Urban Agglomerations on March 21, 2014. Link: http://www.minregion.ru/uploads/attachment/a5ee9fc5-6dd4-4ec9-a712-02635c77a469.pdf).

In Russia, Moscow agglomeration is followed by Saint Petersburg one, while Samara-Togliatti agglomeration ranks the third. There are 936 cities in Russia (out of total 1,100) with less than 100,000 residents, but the prevailing majority of the urban Russian population (67%) lives in the cities with 100,000 people or more. The number of people in such cities in 2010 was almost two million more than in 2002. (Preliminary outcomes of the Russian Census of 2010: Statistical Digest/Rosstat. М.: Statistics of Russia, 2011. – 87 p.)

Concept for Long-Term Socio-Economic Development of the Russian Federation until 2020 (Concept for Long-Term Socio-Economic Development of the Russian Federation until 2020, approved by Instruction #1662-r of the RF Government of November 17, 2008. (version of 08.08.2009). Link: http://www.economy.gov.ru/wps/wcm/connect/e150a080409c1cf38861e92c73e16b99/rp_1662_p.doc?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=e150a080409c1cf38861e92c73e16b99) treats agglomerations as centers for socioeconomic development of the RF constituents, federal mega-regions, and the country as a whole.

There are 22 most populated urban agglomerations in Russia, with about 200 cities where almost 45 million people live: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Rostov, Samara-Togliatti, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Chelyabinsk, Volgograd, Ufa, Krasnodar, Omsk, Vladivostok, Voronezh, Krasnoyarsk, Perm, Novokuznetsk, Saratov, Naberezhnye Chelny (Nizhnekamsk), Irkutsk, and Tula-Novomoskovsk.

Urban agglomerations are rightfully seen as a policy tool for comprehensive territorial development to benefit both the core city of an agglomeration and its periphery. Moving manufacturing facilities outside the city boundaries, unification of transport and communications infrastructure, and improvement of sociocultural space promote the life quality and comfort and attract qualified labor resources to support high economic growth rate in the agglomeration. These developments boost the peripheral capacity building and involvement.

Notwithstanding all the benefits of large city agglomerations, there are some issues and limitations to their development, on the one hand, and some types of growth do not depend on the city size and number of its residents, on the other. High technology sectors require knowledge, creativity, innovations, and favorable business environment.

Agglomeration governance processes play a key role. Some attempts to build agglomeration management systems took place in the later part of the twentieth century, but the conceptualization and practical implementation of them still do not meet the current requirements. In 2013, the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation prepared a roadmap of agglomeration development in Russia and specified conditions for selection of agglomerations for pilot project implementation.

Draft roadmap of agglomeration development in Russia includes the following milestones:
  • Development of proposals on government regulatory and support measures for urban agglomerations

  • Development of mechanisms for urban agglomeration governance

  • Development of proposals on draft regulations to address the urban agglomeration challenges

  • Preparation of analytical information materials and promotion of best practices to improve urban agglomeration development

The roadmap under review contains its mission: “to initiate and merge organizational, regulatory and institutional measures to streamline and accelerate agglomeration development as a basic condition for postindustrial economy development in Russia in the mid-term (6 years),” and “to remove restrictions and smooth out disproportions in the development of existing agglomerations, to develop urban communities and real self-governance”. (Draft action plan (roadmap) Development of Agglomerations in the Russian Federation, para. 1// Link: http://www.minregion.ru/uploads/attachment/445f2dd6-dc64-49be-b4ee-118ae5abce04.docx).

The main purpose of this roadmap is to attach the status of agent (Draft action plan (roadmap) Development of Agglomerations in the Russian Federation, para 2, p.2 // link: http://www.minregion.ru/uploads/attachment/445f2dd6-dc64-49be-b4ee-118ae5abce04.docx) of development to agglomerations, including definition of the concept of urban agglomeration, its place in the system of government policy and territorial planning, incorporation of agglomeration in the Master Plan for Population Distribution in the Territory of the Russian Federation, and update of the regulations to facilitate agglomeration formation.

The roadmap calls for the development of a conceptual government program Agglomeration Development in the Russian Federation. It should result in the alignment of government regulatory and support measures related to agglomeration development.

The Ministry of Regional Development selected 14 pilot projects in 2014 to test and improve the agglomeration governance mechanisms.

While focusing on mechanisms of governance, it is important to remember that they relate mostly to the infrastructure development of territories and institutional frameworks of the main markets. Three priority areas of such development are as follows:
  • Development of economic advantages of agglomerations, growth of labor productivity

  • Development of transport infrastructure to support the territorial connectivity

  • Development of public utilities and social infrastructure, to support higher living standards and comfort

Concentration of spatial economic activities would drive further development of agglomerations. At the same time, concentrated development of agglomerations would result in higher interregional differentiation.

Experiences from most countries reveal considerable spatial variations resulting from development of regional agglomerations. The Russian Federation is no exclusion from the rule: Moscow, occupying 0.1% of the total area of Russia, produces more than 21% of the gross regional product (as of 2015), having less than 8.4% of the total population and leading among all other RF constituents. Saint Petersburg ranks second with its 4.6% share in GRP and 3.2% of the RF population.

In line with its long-term plans, the Russian Federation needs to strengthen the exoskeleton of settlement and distribution of productivity factors based on major urban agglomerations where innovative and investment activities are concentrated. Agglomerations combined with transport communications and border areas of Russia promote the establishment and development of backbone regions that may save the growth points (zones) even in the situation of economic crisis, depopulation, and lack of labor resources. Functions of backbone regions should be defined depending on the international market situation, national and regional development priorities, production capacity, and territorial specialization.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Social SciencesInstitute for Regional Studies and Urban Planning, Spatial Development and Regional StudiesMoscowRussia