Conference: The 3rd World Conference of the Society for Urban Ecology “CITIES AS SOCIAL-ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS”

Place and date: Poznan, Poland, 07. - 09. July 2021

Authors: Boyko Dmitry

Over the past 30 years, Moscow has grown in absolute terms much faster than any other city in Russia. The concentration of the headquarters of all leading Russian taxpayers in the Moscow jurisdiction has led to a huge gap in wages and living standards between Moscow and any other region. Moscow is called a “vacuum cleaner” because of the internal migration inflow that it generates, pulling the most active population out of all other urban centers [1]. This determines the continuing rise in real estate prices in Moscow and the interest of business in the implementation of new construction projects.
Ensuring the fulfillment of the tasks of housing construction, the authorities of Moscow, the Moscow region and a number of adjacent constituent entities of the Russian Federation create conditions for the most favorable conditions for construction companies, including through the provision of additional land plots, the coordination of programs for the creation of transport and social infrastructure, the removal of existing restrictions for the development of specially protected natural areas , forestry and agricultural lands. As a result of this policy, the area of ​​the built-up area is increasing not only within the boundaries of Moscow, but also in the orbit of its influence, which forces us to speak of signs of urban sprawl.
The observed features of Moscow’s urban growth are largely due to the transitional state of the spatial planning system in Russia, when the centralized administrative-command system that existed in the USSR was destroyed, and the new system that ensures the observance of public interests in the real estate market has not yet formed or is providing insufficient influence. The accelerated urban development of Moscow is becoming one of the consequences of the policy of centralizing powers and resources on a national scale. Following the traditions of the Soviet administrative approach led to the expansion of the administrative boundaries of Moscow at the expense of the Moscow region in 2012 with an increase in the area of the territory by 2.5 times. At the same time, in terms of the concentration of built-up areas and night lights, the real Moscow agglomeration goes beyond the boundaries of not only Moscow as a subject of the Russian Federation, but also beyond the boundaries of the Moscow region.
The political reaction to the emerging contradictions is closely related to the special status of Moscow as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation and the greater independence corresponding to this status in determining the target guidelines of urban planning policy and ways to achieve them. Despite the obligation to introduce urban planning zoning as a new tool that increases the degree of freedom of real estate rights holders, and provided for by the City Planning Code since 2004, in Moscow this requirement is formally fulfilled while maintaining actual administrative control over any changes.
The peculiarity of Moscow is manifested in the fact that, due to high land prices, Moscow remains the leader in the transformation of built-up areas among the cities of Russia. At the first stage of this process, compaction development in Moscow took place in territories that were free of construction or were used ineffectively, which was regulated by market conditions and the investment attractiveness of the sites. At the next stage, the transformation of territories that have the potential for cost-effective compaction began to require the forced redistribution of land, in particular, transport, production, and utilities, as well as the participation of the budget in the creation or reconstruction of expensive infrastructure. The current stage (since 2017) is associated with the spread of transformation processes to residential buildings in 1956-1968 and later, including both dilapidated buildings and suitable for living [4]. At the same time, as a rule, 5-storey buildings are demolished and replaced by 17-20-storey buildings.
Based on remote sensing data [3], we estimated the growth of built-up areas and population density for the period from 1991 to 2015, taking into account the distance from the city center, for which Red Square was taken. It was found that the change in indicators was heterogeneous in space: within 20 km of the “central” zone, the population density increased by 40%, while in the “peripheral” zone 20-60 km from the center, the density increased less significantly than the share of built-up areas. At the same time, the average population density within 60 km from the center increased during the period under review. Based on the definition of the urban sprawl [4], we believe that in Moscow there was no urban sprawl, but uncontrolled urban growth associated with further densification of the central part and simultaneously with territorial expansion in the periphery.

[1] N. Kurichev, E. Kuricheva, Regional Science Policy & Practice 2020, vol. 12, 4, 689-703
[2] Ye. Eryomenko, Forbes Business, 27.04.2017
[3] M. Schiavina, S. Freire, K. MacManus, EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) 2019
[4] OECD, Rethinking urban sprawl: Moving towards sustainable cities, OECD Publishing, 2019

Moscow urban growth