Eurasia, Lecture 4: R. James Ferguson © 2002

INTR13-304 & INTR71/72-304, The Department of International Relations, SHSS, Bond University, Queensland, Australia

Lecture 7:

SIBERIA, THE RUSSIAN FAR-EAST,

AND THE "FUTURE LAND"

Topics -

1. Early Russian Expansion into Siberia

2. Farmers, Exiles and Dreamers

3. Imperialism - Early Relations with the East

4. World War II and Beyond: Reserve, Resources and Bastion

5. The Cold War: From Bastion to an Indo-Pacific Strategy

6. Contemporary International Relations: Friendships and Stalemates

7. Interrupted Development: World Resource or the Never-Never Land?

8. Bibliography and Further Resources

 

1. Early Russian Expansion into Siberia

The theme for this week is Siberia, Russia, and Far-East Relations. Today, we will begin to see Russia, Central Asia and Northeast Asia operating as an integrated security system, and to some extent as an interlocked economic zone. Before beginning our lecture, a brief note on terminology is required. The West tends to use the term Siberia for all of Russian territory east of the Ural Mountains and north of Central Asia, but Soviet and Russian terminology usually speaks of three zones. West Siberia is just east of the Urals, East Siberia includes much of the central Siberian plateau and the southern region around Lake Baikal, and the Russian or Soviet Far East includes the Pacific coastline and the main peninsulas to the north east. I will use either the term Siberia to include all of these three regions, or speak of them separately as West Siberia, East Siberia, and the Russian Far East.

The first thing to note about this region is its huge scale: the entire region has an area of 13 million square kilometres, or one and a half times the size of the U.S.: the Far East sector alone is almost the size of Australia. The second factor to note is that though the southern regions do have sectors of temperate climate, most of Siberia is extremely cold, with much of the ground frozen in winter (in the north as permafrost), and turning into marshes and swampy land in summer. The Pacific coast-line is more temperate, but suffers from regular gale-force winds, as well as geo-tectonic and geothermal instability, earthquakes and tremors (see Shaw 1987). For these reasons 'Pacific Russia' cannot not be considered comparable to California, and conditions are considerably harsher than those found in British Columbia (Shaw 1987, p32).

As we saw in Week 2, Russian expansion was driven eastward by several factors, including access to new material resources for an expanding population, as well as the need to control a dangerous eastern frontier from which numerous groups might have challenged the existence of the early Russian kingdom. Furthermore, as Russia expanded westward and became more deeply involved in European affairs, the resources of the steppes, of the Ural Mountains, then of Siberia and Central Asia became extremely useful in building up the power of the Russian state.

Siberia was an important resource very early in this process, with the lucrative fur trade drawing Russian trappers and explorers further and further east as hunting regions became over-exploited. During the 15-16th centuries, furs became one of the main exchange bases of the Russian economy (Brobrick 1992, p68), and thus by the 17th century came to account for more than 10% of resources going into the state treasury (Brobrick 1992, p72). Alongside the Silk Road through Central Asia, there soon emerged a Great Sable Road linking the Far East via South Siberia to Byzantium (Brobrick 1992, p68), later on called Istanbul, as well as to Eastern Europe.

Fur also had a role to play in control of the native populations east of the Ural Mountains. Alongside the blockhouses built for security purposes, the main method of control of the vast regions of the east was the imposition of the yasak, or fur tribute, whereby all native peoples were expected to produce a certain number of furs for the state Treasury, thereby declaring their loyalty to the Russian head of state, the Tsar. This system had originally been imposed on the Slavs by the conquering Mongols during the 13th century. Now in turn it was imposed on Mongol and Tartar groups in southern Siberia (Brobrick 1992, p69; it must be remembered that Tartar raiders burned Moscow as late as 1571, Stephan 1992, p496), and later on to more remote tribes in the north. By 1582 the Russian had attacked the Khanate of Sibir, opening up routes into Siberia in earnest (Wood 1987a, p36; see lecture 2 for more detail). The Cossack leader Yermak was involved in these activities, as well as early probes east of the Ural mountains (Rasputin 1996, pp41-43).

The treatment of native people's was harsh and exploitative: if they resisted the use of hostages and the punitive burning of villages were common methods of intimidation, (Brobrick 1992, p69; Wood 1987a, p45). However, this system had one advantage over the American reservation situation. It left large remnants of the native peoples intact continuously on their traditional lands, allowing them some continuing contact with their subsistence economic system (for a too optimistic interpretation, see Mandel 1985). Although these lands have since become exploited by Moscow, with pollution affecting fisheries and large dam projects disturbing some homeland areas, there is now some effort to redress some of these issues.

One of the key groups involved in the exploration and conquest of Siberia were the Cossacks, who oven moved out ahead of official Russian government control. The Cossacks were a special group in Russian history: -

Cossack . . . is a Tatar word that translates as daredevil, bold spirit, someone who has severed ties with his social class. The Cossacks arose in Rus shortly after the Tartar yoke was thrown off and became a distinct group during the sixteenth century, when the Russian people were increasingly subject to feudalism and serfdom. Those who did not want to endure any sort of yoke, including a paternal one, fled to the White Field - the lower reaches of the Don and Volga Rivers - where they founded their own settlements, elected chieftains called atamans, established laws, and began a free new life that was not subordinate to any khanate or czardom. Later on the Russian Cossacks were still forced to submit to the czar's rule . . . (Rasputin 1996, pp37-38).

Furthermore, in Siberia there was considerable intermarriage between natives and Russians or Cossacks, and from the 19th century native leaders were often integrated into the local administration (Wood 1987a, p46). It should also be noted that the institution of serfdom was not used in Siberia - indeed, many Russians who migrated into Siberia were themselves liberated serfs who became peasant farmers. Early plans to set up some kind of slave-based economy also failed. Today, it is often these indigenous autonomous Republics, e.g. Yakutia, which though having a majority of Russian ethnic citizens, are able to claim more financial independence from Moscow (see below).

External Resource:

For a map of the Autonomous regions within the Russian Federation, go to the PCL Map Library at: -

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/russia_auton96.jpg

At first powerful noble families, such as the merchant family of the Stroganovs, developed the Ural Mountains and provided the finance for expeditions into Siberia (Wood 1987a, p38). The first groups to penetrate all the way to the Far East were Cossacks led by Poyarkov and Khabarov during the 1640s and 1650s (Stephan 1992, p487). Although the Cossacks were often at the forefront of this expansion, and often the harshest in their raids against the natives, they were also deeply affected by the new life they found in the east: -

Even as the natives gave way, for example, the Cossacks found they often had to adopt native ways to survive. They emulated the manner of their encampments, native forms of shelter and dress, and their techniques of hunting and tracking game under local conditions, which they developed from experience over hundreds of years. The Russians, in short, had to become expert in wilderness survival, at which the peoples they subdued were already adept. (Brobrick 1992, p120).

The speed of Russian penetration into West and East Siberia can be demonstrated by the founding dates of the future cities of the region: 'Tyumen (1586), Tobolsk (1587), Mangazeya (1601), Tomsk (1604), Yeniseisk (1619), Bratsk (1631), Yakutsk (1632), Okhotsk (1647) and Irkutsk (1661)' (Wood 1987a, p39).

 

2. Farmers, Exiles and Dreamers

Siberia is often conceived of in the Western imagination as a place of Tsarist exiles and then huge GULAGS (= GULag, Russian initials for Main Prison-Camp Administration, Wood 1987a, p51) or concentration camps created by the Soviet state from the 1930s through the 1950s. Although both were sources of labour in Siberia, in fact both systems never accounted for more than 10% of the total population of Siberia (only 6% in the 19th century, Wood 1987a, p48), which was mainly settled along its southern band by free Russian emigrants, and later on by a wide and diverse group of Soviet citizens, including Ukrainians, Kazakhs, Armenians, Tartars, and Koreans.

The exile system, however, was widely used by the Tsarist government to remove criminals, political prisoners and the unemployed (in fact all troublesome elements) from European Russia (Wood 1987a, p44). One of the few positive aspects of this policy, aside from aiding Russian expansion in the east, was that it reduced the use of capital punishment (Wood 1987a, p49). At the beginning of the 19th century only 2,000 exiles were sent each year, but by the end of the century this had risen to 19,000 a year - altogether more than 1 million exiles were sent out during the century (Brobrick 1992, pp272-286).

This rugged new environment, with its great opportunities and great dangers created its own kind of frontier mentality, just as some thinkers suggest occurred on the American frontier (Rasputin 1996, p48). Although conditions were harsh, central control from Moscow or St Petersburg was always slow, and police and administrators were very thin on the ground. Many people found Siberia a land 'of escape and freedom from the constraints of serfdom, officialdom and religious persecution' (Wood 1987a, p51). As a result, Siberians gained a reputation for civility, independence, and a growing trend towards a democratic way of life (Brobrick 1992, p348). These trends have left a strong impact on the social culture of Siberians which is only being eroded now under the impact of capitalism (Rasputin 1996, pp50-56).

In this environment, intellectuals and political prisoners from 1864 began to dream of independence for Siberia, even of a United States of Siberia, and created the oblastnichestvo, or Siberian regionalist movement (Brobrick 1992, p348, p348; Wood 1987a, p54). There was even an abortive uprising of 'Polish political exiles around the shores of Lake Baikal' (Wood 1987a, p54). Ironically, Siberian born Grigory Potanin would find himself exiled to the north of European Russia for supporting the idea of Siberian autonomy (Brobrick 1992, p307; Stephan 1992, p498). Before Russian discarded her Alaskan, Aleutian and Californian interests, Russian pioneers during the period 1849-60 acquired the Amur region, and even dreamt of the creation of a United States of Siberia and America (Stephan 1992, p498).

At the same time, we should not dismiss the indigenous peoples of Siberia. Though they found themselves soon outnumbered by Russian emigrants (they now comprise only 4% of total Siberian population, Wood 1987a, p47), many tribal groups managed to continue elements of their independent and/or nomadic life down into the 20th century. This was the case of the Koryaks, with their large herds of reindeer (Brobrick 1992, p324). We can sense some of their independence of thought from a story of their encounter with an American expedition early this century. An American major on an expedition tried to impress them with tales of his wealth and power. 'The old Koryak . . . . listened . . . without moving a muscle of his face; but finally, when the interpreter had finished, he rose slowly, walked up to the Major with imperturbable gravity, and with the most benignant and patronising condescension, patted him softly on the head.' (Brobrick 1992, p324).

Likewise, the Buryats (near Lake Baikal) managed to keep their Buddhist religion though most of the non-Moslems of Siberia eventually converted to Christianity. As noted by Brobrick ". . . the Buryats were swept during the eighteenth century by a Buddhist revival generated by missionaries from Mongolia and Tibet. The monastic temples of the lamas (or priests) were known as datsans, or lamaseries, where the sacred white elephant was worshipped, as in contemporaneous Siam. In the early nineteenth century, the great lamasery at Goose Lake, with its Sino-Tibetan architecture, lama orchestra, images, and so on, was an exotic tourist attraction. Located near Selenginsk (a garrison town founded in 1666 on the far side of Lake Baikal), it had an impressively large library of sacred books, and was the residence of the Grand Lama of Eastern Siberia." (Brobrick 1992, p326).

Other important groups include the Chukchi in the north-east, the Mansi and Khanty peoples, as well the Evenk, Tuvan, Nenets, Nanay, Nivkhi and Komi groups (see Mandel 1985). The Nivkhi and Yakut peoples have been particularly active in pressing claims for regional cultural control, and for improved environmental standards (TED 1996a & 1996b). The Khanty, however, have had a much harder time in asserting consistent claims to their oil-rich land, even though land documents were given out to some of them (Ecologist 2000). In fact, in spite of Russian ethnic dominance, Siberia came to include Ukrainian, Korean, Chinese, European, Central Asian, and for a time, Japanese minorities. Along with indigenous groups like the Chukchi (who during the early 20th century might speak English rather than Russian and sometimes sent their children to American schools in Alaska), this resulted in a rather cosmopolitan flavour to the Far East during the early 20th century (Stephan 1992, p498, Stephan 1987, p217).

From the international relations point of view, one of the most interesting peoples in the Arctic region are the Inuit people, who live in the most remote parts of north-east Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. After massive declines in population and self-rule under the impact of Europeans, they have in recent decades begun to rebuilt their cultures and their economic bases. They have recently made successful claims for partial autonomy or at least shared control of Arctic resources (in Canada, Alaska and Greenland, to a much lesser extent in Russia), and have created their own international organisation for shared help and information across national borders, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), which has an on going role in sharing and promoting Inuit views (see Mastny 2000). In Soviet Russia, the Inuit and Chukchi, found largely in the remote Chukotka region near the Bering Sea, were forced to settle into villages, and were integrated into employment schemes in fisheries and reindeer farms. However, after 1992 they were struck by a great reduction in investment in the region from 2% of GDP down to 0.1% and a population decline from 185,000 to 85,000 on Chukotka, as well as by pollution problems and growing evidence of climate change (Mastny 2000).

External Resource: -

For photographic images from the history of Siberia and the Russian Far East, go to

the 'Meeting of Frontiers Project', at http://frontiers.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfhome.html

 

3. Imperialism - Early Relations with the East

By 1650, small groups of Russians had penetrated most of Middle and Eastern Siberia, and reached the south part of the Far East, at last reaching the Amur River, known to the Chinese as the Black Dragon River, which the Chinese administration claimed as their own territory (Brobrick 1992, pp81-3). Early conflicts occurred over control of land in the Amur region (the Russians had seized territory on some of the northern inland stretches of the river), as well as on Russian rights to trade with China.

There were certain ironies and misunderstandings in this period. The Russians had developed some knowledge of China via Mongolia, but had no reserve of Chinese linguists. The situation in the early 17th century is described by Benson Brobrick: -

The route from Siberia to China led in part through outer Mongolia, which enabled the eastern Mongols (as distinguished from the western Mongols, or Kalmucks, of the Altay Mountains and northwestern Sinkiang) to become the intermediaries in the trade. Directly and indirectly, the Russians themselves therefore also quite early on became acquainted with Mongolian politics and geography and through the reports of their envoys, learned something of Chinese power - of the Great Wall, mounted with cannon, with monumental towers rivalling those of the Kremlin, and of the contemporary grandeur of Peking. They also knew that the Chinese had an appetite for such luxury goods as satins, velvets, and silks, wore gold and silver, and cultivated fields of wheat, barley, and oats. In pursuit of the commercial bounty that might flow from relations with such a highly developed state, Ivan Petlin, Russia's first envoy to China in 1618, had returned with a letter of invitation to trade. But unfortunately the Russians were unable to find anyone able to translate it until 1675! That lapse in linguistic competence within the Russian foreign service had such drastic consequences for their later relations that seldom has the lack of a little academic knowledge means so much. For even as hostilities arose, the negotiation of a bilateral trade agreement - the Kremlin's original objective - remained the principle motive behind Russia's bellicose acts (Brobrick 1992, pp83-4).

For their part, the Chinese claimed control of large parts of Mongolia and southern Siberia via tribute relations, but soon adapted their policies to the fact that they had little ability to project power far into the north. After conflicts over control of the Amur River proved costly to both sides, talks were held in Selengisk, in 1687, with protocol according equal status to both sides (Brobrick 1992, p90-2). This led to the first treaty with a European power by China, made in August 27, 1689. This was not an unequal treaty, with Benson Brobrick suggesting that the Chinese came out slightly better in the terms than the Russians (Brobrick 1992, p93). The Russian lost control of the mouth of the Amur River, but de facto recognition was given to their presence in the Far East as well as control of the Buryat people of Transbaikal (Brobrick 1992, p94; see lecture 5). The treaty was also successful in allowing 170 years of peace between these two great empires, as well as in promoting extensive trade - in fact smuggling would also become widespread (Brobrick 1992, pp94-5). Russians exchanged furs for imports of silk, gems, gold, silver, porcelain and tea (Brobrick 1992, p221).

Russian relations would become more negative with China in the second half of the 19th century, when the weakness of the Manchurian dynasty (Seagrave 1992) encouraged both Russian and Japanese interests to expand into Manchuria and Korea. The Russians from this time on also began to fortify the coast of Siberia, with the region between the Ussuri River and the Pacific Ocean down to the coast of Korea being ceded to them by the Chinese (This was in return for the successful mediation between the aggressive British and French stance over the siege of their embassies in Beijing, Brobrick 1992, p2610. In 1860 the Russians founded the port city of Vladivostok, whose name literally means the Lord of the East. Thereafter, Russia sought to gain access to Manchurian resources along the North China railway which branched off from the Trans-Siberian railway. The significance of these financial interests made it an issue of international concern: -

To the south, Manchuria (China's northernmost province) emerged as a "rich economic and strategic prize." It had the ice-free ports of Port Arthur and Talienwan, which the Japanese had almost gained, but also gold, iron, and coal, grasslands with thriving cattle, and a fertile soil. By means of the proposed railway (which would shorten the Trans-Siberian by 350 miles) Russia therefore began the takeover of Manchuria "by commercial subterfuge." Having appeared (in conjunction with Germany and France) to defend Chinese territorial integrity, Russia now offered Peking a loan towards the payment of its indemnity obligations (which it was too impoverished to meet without outside help) in return for a railway concession through northern Manchuria 900 miles to Vladivostok. This concession, however, which included the right to secure and defend the railway with armed guards, was not granted directly to the Russian government but to the Russo-Chinese Bank . . . (Brobrick 1992, pp360-1)

However, this strengthening of the Russian position in the Far East would have the result of encouraging a British-Japanese agreement to limit Russian expansion (Brobrick 1992, p365). Britain, fearful of a Russian Great Game of Eurasian domination, tried to contain Russian influence in Northeast Asia.

Russia, following the American lead, tried to force the Japanese to open their doors to trade. In 1855 the Japanese signed the Treaty of Shimoda, which opened several ports to the Russians, recognised the equal division of the Kuril Islands (later disputed), and the joint possession of Sakhalin (Brobrick 1992, p260). From 1859, continuing Russian-Japanese disputes over the effective administration of Sakhalin led to an exchange in 1875 whereby Russia took all of Sakhalin, while Japan received control of all the Kuril Islands. Thus 'the Japanese repossessed a group of islands they regarded as their own, thus delaying a dangerous confrontation with a mightier power, and gaining time in which to find their own direction and strength' (Brobrick 1992, p261). Japanese fears were further heightened by Russian 'adventurers' seeking timber concessions on the Yalu River in north Korea (Brobrick 1992, p366).

Likewise, Russia for a time expanded her fur and trading interests into Alaska and down the Pacific American coast as far as northern California, but by 1825 realised that she had dangerously over-reached herself, and risked conflict with both the British and the Americans in the north Pacific. She gave up her Californian interests in the 1840s, and in 1867 sold Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million (2 cents an acre), partly to create a buffer against British interests in Canada (Brobrick 1992, p265).

By the late 19th century, however, Siberia as a whole came to be viewed as more than a ready resource of furs and a threatened border which needed protection. From 1891-1905, with the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia seriously began to conceive of Siberia as an integrated part of her economy and of her geopolitical global quest for power. Just as the Russians had seen the United States began a two-ocean country, Russia began to conceive of itself having a unique European and Asian role.

However, the building of the Trans-Siberian railway also had direct strategic implications for the Japanese, who feared an immediate Russian build up in the far east (Brobrick 1992, p359; Dziewanowski 1989). These and other tensions (noted above) led to the outbreak of war between Russia and Japan, with the Japanese launching a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur on February 8, 1904 (Brobrick 1992, p372). The result was a rush to complete the Trans-Siberian railway, with some 300,00 Russian troops conveyed to the Far East in 1905 (Brobrick 1992, p373). The Russians may have viewed a victory in this war as a matter of maintaining international prestige as well as protecting regional interests in the Far East.

However, the Japanese quickly gained control of the sea, and achieved sizeable victories in southern Manchuria. After notable naval victories, the Japanese, fearing a war of attrition in which Russian reinforcements along the Trans-Siberian would soon tip the odds against them, led to an acceptance of U.S. mediation led by President Theodore Roosevelt (for which he won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1906). A treaty was signed September 1905 (Treaty of Portsmouth) which recognised Japanese control of Korea, the Liaotung Peninsula and the southern half of Sakhalin Island in return for dominant Russian influence in northern Manchuria (Brobrick 1992, p374). This war, which shocked the world and showed that an industrialised Asian nation could defeat a powerful western state, does not mean that Russia and Japan relations were entirely negative. Secret agreements between Japan and Russia in 1907, 1910 and 1912 allowed the Japanese influence in southern Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, with Russians claiming influence in northern Manchuria, outer Mongolia and Xinjiang (Brobrick 1992, p374). The Russians and Japanese formed a short-lived alliance in 1916, and in 1941 signed the Soviet-Japanese Non-aggression Pact (Stephan 1992, p494).

Meanwhile, the Russians refortified Vladivostok with heavy artillery and garrisoned the East Siberia and the Far East with some 200,000 men (Brobrick 1992, p376). Some 7 million Russian peasants migrated into the southern fertile areas of Siberia between 1823 and 1914 (Brobrick 1992, p380; Wood 1987a, pp52-3), many of them ex-serfs. For this reason ethnic Russians came to form 86% of the Siberian population (Brobrick 1992, p380).

The Bolshevik takeover in 1917 did not result in direct control of the Far East until 1922 - after the end of the Civil War and the intervention of foreign troops, including Japanese forces, which retained 300,000 men in the Amur region down to 1922, and a large presence on Sakhalin Island down to 1925 (Stephan 1992, p496). During this interim period, the Bolsheviks recognized that they could not effectively control events in the east from Moscow, and created an independent Far East Republic government, a factor which has also fed into the Siberian sense of independence from the centre. In this period the Far Eastern Republic had independent missions in China, Japan and the United States, and in the 1930 Far Eastern leaders came to have massive power in the USSR, including high officials in the party, army, navy and security services, a fact which Stalin distrusted (Stephan 1992, p491, p500) and soon solved (by purging many of them, especially in the great purge of the army after 1937). After 1932 Stalin also took severe measures to seal the borders of the Soviet Union - a control zone several miles in width with free fire zones was created, while 25% of the KGB special border guards were used to patrol the Far Eastern borders (Stephan 1992, p497). Likewise, Stalin was quite happy to move minorities if he thought they might fraternise with those across the border: in 1937 250,000 Soviet Koreans were moved from the Far East to be resettled in Central Asia (Stephan 1987, p220).

Military concerns over borders continued down to the late 1980s. Sensitivity over air space in the region was demonstrated by the shooting down of a South Korean Airliner which had strayed over Sakhalin Island in 1983. The airline was probably mistaken for a U.S. surveillance plane. Since that time, air controllers in the Russian Far East have been tied into civil air administration system of the north Pacific (Stephan 1987, p223). Most remaining border disputes with China were solved by the 1996-1998 period, though tensions continue over Chinese economic penetration of the Russian Far East (see lecture 5).

 

4. World War II and Beyond: Reserve, Resources and Bastion

Stalin was deeply afraid of the prospect of a war on two fronts, against Germany in the west and Japan in the east. As a result he was forced to allow a massive build up of forces in the Far East between 1931-1941 (Stephan 1992, p488; Erickson 1987, pp178-181). Aside from brief clashes in 1938, in which the Japanese suffered massive losses, this policy indeed stopped Japanese expansion into Russian territory during World War II.

The strategic importance of Siberia became evident once Germany invaded The Soviet Union in 1941. As the German War machine smashed through much of Belorussia, through the Ukraine and into the Caucasus, the Soviets moved much of industry eastwards past the Urals, creating a huge build-up of industry in West Siberia. More than 300 entire enterprises and factories were moved eastward, creating a huge industrial base, e.g. 59,000 fighter plans were built in Siberia during the war (Wood 1987a, p57). Likewise, most lend-lease aid provided by the US would arrive in the Soviet Union via sea and air across the Pacific and through the Far East. Unfortunately, this trend of regional industry and manufacturing did not continue after the end of World War II, with the exception of specialised military manufactures.

At the same time, it was during this period that the true economic resources of Siberia became apparent. Siberia resource estimates include (Shaw 1987, p2): -

* Enormous reserves of oil (over 80% of Russian reserves, see Wilson 1987),

with two thirds of all Russian oil production coming from Siberia in 1994 (Kryukov 1996). Through 2002, major projects have been planned for exporting this oil via pipelines, including major projects that would supply northeast China, or more in the long term a possible pipeline down the Korean peninsula (see Spector 2001).

* Enormous reserves of gas (over 90% of Russian reserves)

* Large coal resources, of varying quality, some used for export, some for the production of electrical power (90% of Russian reserves)

* Main sources of gold, with resources in the remote Chukchi Peninsula being developed from the 1960s onwards - in fact, Russia has the second largest underground reserves of gold in the world (Louis 1992, p29).

* Considerable diamond sources (representing 21-29% of world diamond production during the 1980s, see Chon 1989, p1178)

* large tin resources.

* Some alumina resources, but more importantly, large hydo-electrical plants which provide the electricity needed to make aluminium.

* Platinum and platinum group metals.

* A wide range of other metals including titanium, nickel, copper, chrome, manganese, mercury, tungsten, cobalt, silver, lead, limited amounts of iron.

* Minerals used in the nuclear industry, including uranium, boron, lithium and beryllium are also found in Siberia (Shadad 1987, p88).

* Mineral resources including mica, boron, salt, asbestos, fluorspar etc.

* Considerable hydro-electrical resources, which along with the use of lignite, gas and nuclear power for electrical production, provides west and east Siberia with cheap and abundant electricity. The Angara-Yenisy River systems in particular are a major source of hydro-electricity (Shadad 1987, p79). Problems exist however, with providing baseline power due to seasonal water variations in the hydroelectric systems (Shadad 1987, pp79-80).

In fact these resources make Russia one of the few countries in the world which could in theory supply itself with all the materials needed for a modern, industrialised economy. It has all strategic materials, with the exclusion of natural rubber, which can now be replaced with artificial rubber.

The Soviets chose to develop these resources by the use of intensive, large-scale projects on a certain sector or region. These are called Territorial Production Complexes (TPC) and usually focused investment on a major project, e.g. particular oil and gas fields, or particular coal fields. In some case coal fields were linked either to electrical power production (lignite from the Kansk-Achinsk Basin), or joined to iron-ore resources. In the case of Urals-Kuznetsk Basin scheme, iron-ore from the Ural mountains was linked to Kuznetsk coking coal via a 1,400 miles rail shuttle operation (Shadad 1987, p64). Coal has been exported to Japan since 1985 (Shadad 1987, p70), though Japanese policies in energy conservation and diversification have made this a less lucrative export market than was hoped.

Other special Territorial Production Complexes include the huge Samotlor oil field (one of the largest in the world), with exports of oil boosting the Soviet economy during the 1970s. Much of this oil was send to friendly countries in Eastern Europe, as well as allies such as Cuba and North Vietnam. However, oil production increases began to slow after 1983, and world oil prices, after the oil shocks of the 1970s, did not deliver expected returns. Since that time, large inefficiencies have emerged in the Russian oil industries, with antiquated wells, badly maintained pipelines, and a tendency to over-use easily drilled resources (all largely due to inadequate reinvestment, Wilson 1987, p106). There are also hopes to increase the moderate oil production of the Far East sector, with Japanese and European firms engaged in further exploration of oil around Sakhalin Island (Shadad 1987, p72). However, total oil production of the Soviet Union began to drop during the early 1990s (Louis 1992, pp31-2). Oil revenues increased again in the late 1990s, with a further increase in 1999, suggesting a heavy reliance on the export of raw materials: -

Oil exports have brought Russia nine billion dollars, which is 11.5 percent more than during the same period last year. An average export contract price of Russian oil increased in January-September from 79 dollars to 88.5 dollars per ton. . . . Oil exports accounted at the same period for 18.2 percent of Russia's total exports against 15.1 percent for the same period last year. (ITAR/TASS 1999)

Through 2000-2002, the Russian economy relied heavily on the export of oil, gas and other primary resources to sustain economic growth and to help balance its federal budget. Thus a solid growth rate of 5.2% in GDP was achieved in 2001. However, this does not necessarily apply to all regions. The Far Eastern region of Primorye apparently suffered a 7% contraction in its economy, though some of this may be due to economic under-reporting by companies avoiding taxation (Vladivostok News 2002).

One of the major debates since 1986 has been whether the large investment in the production of these resources as a whole is really warranted. In spite of rhetoric by Gorbachev and Yeltsin through the late 1980s and 1990s, there is evidence that Russia is investing less in Siberia as a whole than before. Certain key areas, e.g. oil, gas, diamonds, gold, which either earn foreign hard currency or are an essential industrial component have continued to be developed. A 'behind the scenes' export of gold had been used to help Russia's balance payments with the West (Shadad 1987, p87). Likewise, the development of strategic metals like nickel, cobalt and platinum has led to development of one of the largest cities in the world within the Arctic Circle, Noril'sk (Shadad 1987, pp81-2). However, other resources, which are comparatively expensive to develop in the harsh conditions of Siberia, and where world commodity prices are more fluctuating, have received much more limited attention, e.g. tin and aluminium production, though private investment has recently been boosted in aluminium production. With the Russian economic crises of the last ten years, there has been some overall withdrawal of Russia ethnic groups from the far north, and certain sectors along the Arctic coast and in Siberia have been run down or partly abandoned. There have also been reports of major problems in supplying remote towns and settlements with food, power, heating, and regular contact with major transport routes, especially during exceptionally bad winters and flooding as occurred in 2001.

Siberia also has some agricultural resources: -

* A grain growing belt along the southern side, though the growing season is short.

* In the southern sectors, diary farming has been introduced.

* Reindeer-herding in the north, a major source of local meat.

* Large fisheries, especially along the Kuril Islands.

* Very large reserves of timber (more than 75% of Russia's forests), though the forest closest to railways and roads have often been over-exploited, more remote ones little touched (for inefficiencies and environmental damage caused by the Russian forestry industries, see Pelkki et al. 2001).

* Fur industry, in part based on free hunting, but more often on 'fur-farms'.

At the same time, Siberia does not produce all of its own consumer needs, and still is a net importer of food.

Development of all these resources, of course, involved the improvement of communication across one of the longest land-bridges in the world, e.g. Vladivostok is almost 10,000 kilometres from Moscow and almost 4,000 from the nearest large industrial centre, the Kuznetsk Basin (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993). Though the Trans-Siberian railway was completed in 1905, subsequent work improved bridges and sidelines. Two other sections north and south of this railway were added in Western Siberia, yet the Trans-Siberian still remains the most intensely utilised long-haul rail system in the world. In the east, a new Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) was added to the north of the Tans-Siberian. This BAM line represented a major engineering achievement through very difficult terrain, and become partially operational in 1984 (see Conolly 1987), though work continued through the 1990s to upgrade this line, as well as adding a Little BAM branch line (830 km) which provide rail access to Yakutia (Conolly 1987, p167).

At the same time, the Russians have used nuclear icebreakers to open up a section of the Arctic Sea route on a year-round basis, and the western sector of this route is very important, giving access to northern oil and gas fields, e.g. in the middle and northern reaches of the Ob River. An all year eastern linkage through the Arctic Sea to the Pacific, however, has been too difficult and expensive to maintain. However, all these routes are very expensive to build and maintain, and to date Russia has no comprehensive transcontinental road system. Large sections of the hinterland of Siberia remain cut off to normal transport during several months of the years, either due to ice-ins, or due to the difficulty of building all-weather roads in swampy terrain.

Some of these problems have been reduced through the building of extended pipelines for oil (though much oil was still transported by rail in the 1980s, see North 1987, p141), and for larger scale pipelines for gas. At present most of these lines run back into European Russia, and some of them into northern Europe where these energy supplies earn foreign capital. However, many of these pipelines are old, and massive spills in some sections of Siberia have created serious ecological damage. Furthermore, just as Russia is seeking to expand its export of gas, it has to build a large network of new lines to cope with the new volume of export. Between 1981-1985 alone, the gas from one field (Urengoi) required the construction of six new pipelines, totally 20,000 km of piping (Shadad 1987, p74), with an equal number again developed between 1985 and 1990. One of the main bottlenecks in the rail systems has been the transportation of coal, and Russia is investigating the creation of coal-slurry pipelines to reduce this problem (Shadad 1987, p66). Projects have been recently developed to plan for pipelines to take oil and gas from the East Siberian regions into Northeast Asia, with new routes being proposed into northern China, the Korean Peninsula and Japan (for a good overview, see Paik & Choi 1997; Spector 2001).

 

5. The Cold War: From Bastion to an Indo-Pacific Strategy

We can see, then, that Siberia took on a unique role both as a resource centre and strategic asset for the USSR during World War II. These roles were exacerbated during the growing tensions with the West after 1946. Not only was Siberia the largest reserve of strategic resources including oil, gas, goal, gold, uranium, and strategic metals for the Soviets, it was also the main access point to the Pacific Ocean. It was partly for strategic reasons that the Trans-Siberian was built early in the century, while the new BAM line has a major strategic role (Conolly 1987, p160) in that large military stockpiles are located alongside it, as well as well as missile and military sites.

From the 1960 the Russians began rapidly expanding their Pacific fleet, with a major challenge to U.S. naval superiority being established during the 1960s and 1970s. The Pacific Fleet became the largest naval command, and the 1980s received the newest surface ships and submarines (Erickson 1987, p171). As well as hunter subs, bases in the Far East also had number of nuclear missile submarines which could sortie in the Sea of Okhotsk 'bastion' during times of crisis. In turn, America in the 1980s developed a theory of naval intervention and superiority on a global basis, a strategy which she effectively achieved by the mid-1980s (the Lehman doctrine).

In the 1980s American some commentators sought to see this Soviet naval build up has inherently aggressive, since they viewed Russia as a traditional land power. However, this view was historically incorrect, since the Russian navy had emerged as a major European force since the early 19th century, and since Russia had always been obsessed with gaining access to the sea, whether via the Baltic, the Black Sea, the north Pacific, or by opening routes through the Arctic Ocean (or even trying to push towards the south to gain access (diplomatically at least) to the Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean. In fact, 'Russia had a naval facility on the Pacific thirty-six years before the United States came into existence' (Stephan 1992, p494), and at one time even considered colonising one of the Hawaiian Islands. What was new, however, was that as part of their fears of containment by U.S. forces and their allies (in Europe and in Asia), the Soviets had developed powerful surface and submarine forces which might 'break out' and represent a real threat to US forces on the high seas. This was also a part of a wider strategy in which Russia had allies in North Korea, Vietnam (with a major base developed at Cam Ranh Bay after 1975, see Smith 1988, which was only slowly wound down in operations after 1988), and positive trade and military-trade relations with India.

As we saw in week 5, Soviet forces were also deployed in major depth along the Chinese-Soviet border as relations with China worsened after 1958, reaching their lowest point with an armed clash in 1969. This resulted in a doubling of army forces in the Soviet Far East from 15 and then up to 30 divisions. Even as late as 1986, conditions in the Far East remained extremely tense, with 26 missile fields for ICBMs located north and south of the Trans-Siberian railway, and with the deployment over 171 SS-20 medium range, multi-warhead missiles located in Central Asia and the Far East, with ranges suggesting possible targets in China (including oil fields and nuclear installations), as well as possible targets in South Korea and Japan (Erickson 1987, p184-5). The very high tensions generated by these medium range missiles would only be reduced once treaties were made with the West concerning the elimination of medium range nuclear weapons (The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF, signed and ratified in 1987-1988 and covering weapons in the 500-5,000 km range), as well as treaties reducing strategic missiles (START I and II treaties). Likewise, long range Soviet surveillance and bomber aircraft were also located in the Far East, along with 1,700 other aircraft in the late 1980s (Erickson 1987, p186). At the same time, sizeable conventional forces were still located in Siberia and the Far East, some of it taken from the European theatre to meet the requirements of the Conventional Forces in Europe arms reduction treaty of 1990 (Tai Ming Cheung 1992).

In fact, the military had always had a large presence in Russian expansion into Siberia: only in the 18th century did peasants equal the military presence (Wood 1987a, p42). As of the late 1980s, military personnel comprised a large group in Siberia, perhaps as large as 10% of the civilian population, with at least 500,000 men available for combat in the Far East. Civilians have often complained that Vladivostok is virtually treated by the navy as if they owned it, and the city only became fully open in 1992.

Today, the numbers of effective naval forces have been seriously reduced (down by 70%), there have been reductions in nuclear weapons and military ground forces, though the Russian Far East still contains considerable fighter and fighter bomber forces at its command (with a total of close to 1,000 aircraft as of 1994). By 1999, this had been reduced to a still potentially strong fighter/fighter bomber force of 515 relatively modern aircraft (see Chipman 1999). The problem of military and former military control of bases and resources remains very real. Through 2001-2002 there has been some effort to continue to reduce but also modernise these forces, with the Russian navy taking up new missile destroyers, surface-to-surface missile capabilities, and designed for new submarines (Preston 2001). At the same time Russia has been able to pick up a peace-dividend through improving relationships with China, and a less militarised and more diplomatic approach to tensions with Japan, which remains a strong U.S. ally. Russia has also sought to capitalise on its new relationship as a partner to the U.S.'s war on terror, though this has created real tensions about a deepened American presence in Central Asia (see lectures 2 and 4).

 

6. Contemporary International Relations: Friendships and Stalemates

As we have seen, Russia-Japanese relations, although recognising the benefits of regional trade and diplomatic cooperation, were often swept into open conflict (1904-5; 1938; 1944-6; Cold War tensions after 1965). These tensions were made concrete by the Kuril Islands dispute. Although earlier treaties (1875) had traded the Japanese half of Sakhalin in return for the entire island chain being under Japanese control, this was overturned by the war of 1904-5 and by Soviet incursions at the end of World War II. The USSR, which had entered the World War II when Japan was already beaten, managed to occupy the southern Kuril Islands, thereby gaining access to valuable resources as well as a strategic base just off the coast of Japan. From the point of view of Japanese, this was a flagrant breach of the treaty of non-aggression they had earlier signed with the Soviets. Nor were the territorial disputes solved by the San Francisco Treaty of 1951; -

The San Francisco Peace Treaty is an international agreement that largely determined the post-war political order in the region. With its associated security arrangements, it laid the foundation for the regional structure of cold war confrontation, the "San Francisco System," fully reflecting the policy of the peace conference's host nation, the United States, and the complexities of the region's politics. Along with political and ideological conflicts, significant elements within the cold war structure in the Asia-Pacific are regional conflicts among its major players. The San Francisco Peace Treaty concerns the origins of various regional conflicts. The treaty did not specify to which country Japan renounced its former territories, nor did it define the precise limits of these territories; this has created various "unresolved problems" in the region. These include the "Northern Territories"/Southern Kuriles, Tokdo/Takeshima, the Senkaku/Diaoyu and Spratly/Nansha island sovereignty disputes, the "one China" issue and the treatment of Taiwan, and the still divided Korean Peninsula. (Hara 2001, p362)

Furthermore, up to some 1 million Japanese suffered horribly at the end of the war in labour camps in Siberia (Kirby 1987, p203), a fact was not fully addressed by Yeltsin's apology over this issue on this visit to Japan in 1993 (McGregor 1993, p6). This negative relationship would become particularly important during the Cold War, when American bases in Japan made it virtually a large aircraft carrier off the coast of Siberia, with power projection abilities into Russia, North Korea and Northern China.

Although Japan partially normalised diplomatic relations with the Soviets in 1956, only during the 1970s did Japan engage in some major contracts in Siberia. During this period the joint Soviet-Japan Siberian Development Scheme did set up regional shipping, credit systems, foreign exchange facilities (Kirby 1987, pp203-5). In 1968 Japan made agreements for the exploitation of Amur timber, for wood chip production, the construction of a container port at Vostochnyi, the exploration for off-shore oil near Sakhalin, and the development of coal fields in south Yakutia (Stephan 1987, pp221-2). Japanese imports from Russia included fish and marine products, timber, and coal, with the Soviets in return receiving consumer goods, processed foods, and some machinery, motor vehicles, and heavy road-making equipment (Kirby 1987, pp209-211). However, from the 1980s, this involvement dropped rapidly, with perhaps only six large projects actually in operation in the early 1990s. In large measure, this reluctance to continue developing Siberia is based on several factors including: -

* the lack of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan.

* territorial disputes over the southern Kuril Islands (Northern Territories), though both sides have agreed to resolve this problem in the 'near future'.

* concerns about the long-term viability of resource development in the current world environment.

* concerns over the future social and economic stability of Russia generally and Siberia in particular.

* From the mid-1980s many Japanese investors caught 'China fever' (Kirby 1987, p205), and began large scale investments in the reform economy of the People's Republic of China, though direct aid has slowed by the mid-90s.

A few facts need to be set straight concerning the Kuril Island dispute: -

* The Southern Kuriles are called 'The Northern Territories' in Japanese writings

* The entire chain contains some 56 islands

* The islands in dispute comprise only the most southern part of the Kuril Island chain. These are the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, and the Habomai group (the latter in not a single island, but a group of small islands)

* These islands are sometimes dismissed as small islands with little geographical significance. From the Japanese perspective this is certainly not the case: Etorofu is twice the size of Okinawa, and the group as a whole is equal in size to the US state of Delaware (Stephan 1992, p492). Their control has serious cultural, diplomatic and economic implications for control of fisheries and other sea-based resources.

The historical context includes: -

* The Japanese indigenous population was largely moved from the islands at the end of World War II

* Since that time, some 25-30,000 Russians had become inhabitants of the islands

* The islands have sizeable fish resources in the seas surrounding them, and with 1977 changes in the law of the sea (200 nautical mile commercial exclusion zones, see Kirby 1987, p201), this means that ownership of the inhabited islands give preferential access to these resources.

* Japanese and Russian use of fishing zones in each others territories have been subject to tougher quotas from 1975 onwards (Kirby 1987, pp202-203), with conflict and harassment of Japanese fishermen leading to some deaths in 1995-6. This dispute was widened in mid-2001 to the issue of whether South Korean fishing boats would be licensed to fish in these waters: Russia invited them to do so, but Japan stated that it would not license such boat to fish in other Japanese waters if they did so (Kirk 2001).

* In 1995, small groups of Japanese made their way to some of these islands, and engaged in peaceful protests concerning Russian occupation of them. Since that time, Japanese can apply to visit the islands.

* Agreements in principle between Japanese and Russian leaders during 1997 and 1998 that the dispute will be resolved in the near future have not yet lead to a concrete treaty. At the same time, Japan did support Russia's successful bid to join APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) as a Pacific economy.

* Statements in late 1999 and early 2000 by Russian acting President Putin have not created any breakthroughs in the diplomatic deadlock over the islands. Seminars and meetings in 2001 also failed to arrive at an agreement that would be accepted by the leadership, parliaments and public of these nations.

To date, all efforts to resolve the Kuril Island dispute by Russia without giving up sovereignty to them has failed. The Soviets had tried from the late 1980s to make a concerted effort to improve diplomatic relations with Japan: then Foreign Minister Shevardnadze visited Tokyo in December, 1988 and September 1990, followed by a visit by Gorbachev in April 1991. Gorbachev managed to sign 15 agreements on technology, fisheries, coastal trade, cultural exchanges etc., but no treaty or large scale economic agreement was reached (Ellison 1991, p27). Attempts by Gorbachev to insist that the Soviet Union was also part of the Asia-Pacific seem to have faltered on the reluctance of Japan to make large investments in Siberia, on the diplomatic problem of the disputed four islands to the north of Japan, and on the enormous infrastructure costs in developing central and eastern territories. These prospects only slightly improved with Yeltsin's 1993 visit to Japan and his diplomatic apology on Soviet treatment of Japanese prisoners of war (McGregor 1993, p6). Joint timber and a coalmining ventures have been agreed, though Yeltsin has not given in to Japan's territorial claims (McGregor 1993, p6). Some softening of this position began in the late 1990s, with Japan and the U.S. concerned about the economic stability of Russia. Thus Japan, via direct aid and inputs in World Bank projects, became the third largest donor to Russia (Meyer 1999). Nonetheless, the level of direct investment from Japan into Siberia remained far less than its theoretical potential.

Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin had to face stiff resistance by conservative elements in the Russian population and the Russian parliament who were totally opposed to any loss of territorial integrity of Russian territory, and the insistence that ownership of the islands was an 'incontrovertible result of the territorial settlements of World War II' (Ellison 1991, p26). Likewise, certain regional leaders such as Sakhalin Governor Fyodorov were also staunchly opposed to any surrender of the islands (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993). This is unfortunate since other soft-liners in the government, like previous Foreign Affairs Minister Kozyrev, who were in favour of giving back the islands, have been forced to play down such possibilities (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993). This makes even the compromise deal of surrendering the two small eastern islands, and keeping the western defence screen of the two larger ones, very difficult. The Japanese government, in any case, has demanded the return of all four islands. Of Yeltsin's proposals, only the first and last have been agreed (that there is a dispute and that it should be resolved in the future). Thus the Tokyo Declaration of Japan-Russia Relations, signed by Prime Minister Hosokawa and President Yeltsin in October 1993 does indeed agree that diplomatic and legal means should be taken to resolve the dispute in the context of the importance of the Japan-Russia relationship. But no clear-cut means or timetable was negotiated in the document. These issues have also been complicated by the traditional defence posture of both countries since the 1950s, with Japan deeply embedded in the Cold War conflict as a 'front line' area. Even though the Japanese Defense paper of 1992 identified for the first time that China and North Korea were more significant security problems than Russia, the Kuril Islands remain a very difficult issue. For the time being, even though threat perceptions between Japan and Russia have greatly declined, Japanese trade, aid and investment remain rather limited.

There has been some progress in regional and coast trade, with the specially exempt Japanese city of Niigata even proposing a Sea of Japan economic zone (Smith 1993). Japan still has an interest in seeing democratic reforms in Russia survive, and therefore had been willing to pledge some $2.5 billion to aid Russia's transformation, with this later one increased to over $4.5 billion (Meyer 1999). However, a Japanese delegation in 1991 suggested that once the Kuril Islands were handed back, some $26 billion would become available (Takahashi 1992, p30). Since relations between Russia and Japan are interwoven with the Japan-US special relationship, some Russian commentators have suggested that the dispute will only be solved if the U.S. enters the dispute as a go-between (Ivanov 1991). The trouble with this model is that many American commentators, though supporting reform in Russia, are cautious of a possible backlash and a return of hardline communists or nationalists to power in Moscow. Elections in 1995 and 1996 showed a solid communist performance, and the communist party remains a strong force in the Russian parliament through 2001. However, some progress was made in November 1997 with a meeting between then President Yeltsin and former Prime Minister Hashimoto. It was agreed the both sides would negotiate a peace treaty by the year 2000, and initiatives were passed to boost Japanese investment, as well as greater 'cooperation in trade, energy, transport and personnel training' (Jones 1997). Japan also swung behind Russia's successful bid to join APEC. However, this 'Hashimoto Initiative', designed to greatly improve relations between the two countries, though it did intensify dialogue, failed to reach a real solution (see Zagorsky 2001). Reports out of Russian during late 1999 were rather contradictory, some politicians favouring some gradual hand over of the islands, others denying that Russia's sovereignty would in way be fragmented. It seems unlikely that President Putin would risk undermining his image as a 'strong leader' who will return Russia to its greatness. As of February 2001, President Putin and then Prime Minister Mori had agreed to try to make progress on this issue (the Irkutsk Communiqué of 2001), but no concrete plan has emerged that was acceptable to home electorates or parliaments through early 2002.

Another key relationship which has been emerging recently are vigorous trade relations with South Korea (ROK, Republic of Korea). From the 1980s South Korea has been an importer of Russian raw materials, especially coal, with the Soviets keen for Korean commodities and textiles (see Chon 1989). With Russian reforms since 1992, a large number of other joint Korean-Russian or Korean investment projects have been suggested. This relationship has been able to develop once the Russians reduced their military and economic backing for the communist North Korean government. These key developments and proposals include (see Chon 1989; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993; Louis 1992): -

* The construction of a large-scale industrial complex in the Nakhodka area.

* The building of pipelines from the Yakutsk Gas to transport gas to Korea.

* Modernisation of oil refineries at Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk.

* The ability for the advanced and efficient South Korean shipbuilding industry to service Russian merchant and fishing ships.

* Construction of pulp wood and paper mills, e.g. on the Amur River.

* Construction of aluminium plants.

* Petrochemical plants in Western Siberia.

* Construction of equipment manufacturing plants.

To date major South Korean companies involved including Daewoo, Jindo, Lucky Goldstar, Samsung, Seungwha Group, and KFTA have been involved in planning such projects, though Hyundai has been among the most active (Chon 1989). A less positive aspect of relations has been the creation of large timber camps in Siberia using the labour of 16,000-20,00 North Koreans, not all of whom seem to wish to stay, and some of whom have tried to defect to South Korean by hiding in cargo ships (Economist 1994).

To date, the South Koreans have gained a strategic advance by their early penetration into the Siberian and Central Asian resource base. However, South Korea by itself lacks the massive capital needed to fully develop the region, a fact reinforced by economic downturns in 1997-1998 (though some improvement has been noted by early 1999). At the same time, its early interest in the region may encourage Japanese businesses to follow suit in the medium term (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993). Of course, the relations between Russia and China have greatly improved, with considerable opportunities for joint deals along the Manchurian-Siberian border (see Kaye 1993). After stalling in 1997-1998, Russia-South Korean trade increased 60% in 1999 from the previous year. Improvements between North and South Korea in the long term could open up the Korean peninsula as a transit route for Siberian resources (see Calder 2001; Spector 2001): aside from pipelines, proposals have also been put for improved rail linkages through 2000.

In fact the greatest boost to development in the region have been the reforms of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, which both decreased international tensions, and opened the USSR to economic investment and development. In 1987 Gorbachev declared a new Vladivostok Initiative, declaring a new age of development for the USSR as a Pacific power. In fact, this was not new - other Russian leaders including Kalinin (1923), Khrushchev (1954, 1959) and Brezhnev (1966, 1978) had given speeches emphasizing the importance of the Far East (Stephan 1992, p494). Furthermore, both Gorbachev and Yeltsin wanted Russia enter more closely into the Asia-Pacific trade networks, and to enter APEC, which has been achieved. As of the early 1990s, the Soviet Union only accounted for 4% of Pacific Basin trade (Stephan 1992, p495). However, Gorbachev's initiatives should not be dismissed. As well as the desire to link Siberia into the Pacific trade system, Gorbachev desired to create a forum for confidence building measures designed to reduce military tensions, and to include the US, China and India in such talks. There has been a serious reduction in military tensions in the region, as least as so far as any Russian and or Chinese lutual threat is concerned. To date, the main problem facing Russia is how she can make use of the resources of the Far East, and how she can boost trade into the Asia-Pacific region. By the mid-1990s, Japan, followed by China and then South Korea emerged as growing trade partners, but Pacific Russia's trade orientation 'remained relatively weak' (East Asian Analytical Unit 1996, p47). In summary, Russia's Far East had not yet effectively integrated itself into the regional economic system of Northeast Asia (see Meyer 1999).

Recent improved relations between North Korea and South Korea has given a new lease of life for a stronger Korean role in the region as a whole and Siberia in particular. As outlined by Kent Calder: -

A glance at the map, and its geopolitical implications, suggests the power of the forces being unleashed by the Korean rapprochement. Korea is the strategic pivot of its region. With a hostile, communist North Korea lying between it and the rest of the Asian continent, South Korea has long been a geostrategic island. Yet peninsular cooperation could transform North Korea from a barrier into a bridge-to Russia, China, and the world beyond. A lack of domestic energy resources, coupled with rapidly rising demand for energy, gives North and South Korea a shared economic motive to develop common railways and pipelines northward to exploit Siberian gas and trans-Siberian shipment opportunities. In 1999, South Korea's primary energy consumption rose more rapidly than any other nation's, driven by heavily increased demand for natural gas. The country is eager to reduce its already heavy energy dependence on the Middle East by diversifying toward new suppliers, such as gas-rich Siberia. As North Korea's economy strengthens, its demand for Russian energy could also rise sharply. (Calder 2001)

 

7. Interrupted Development: World Resource or the Never-Never Land.

In spite of the enormous potential of Siberia, there are numerous problems that have delayed the development of this region, which remains largely unintegrated into the world economy. These include: -

* The difficulty of retaining skilled labourers. Most leave within three years, and much work must be done by short-term task forces. This is in part due to harsh conditions, poor housing, and the fact that even higher wages do not match the real cost of living, and due to a rather exaggerated negative perception of conditions in Siberia (Shaw 1987, p9). Today, skilled workers in Siberian oil and gas fields are drawn from as far away as Malaysia, but usually on a seasonal, contract basis.

* The narrow economic base of Siberian towns, which tend to become adjuncts to resource development or transport industries (Shaw 1987, p30). One exception to this may be the Novosibirsk region, in Western Siberia, lying on the Ob River. This city has considerable resource processing and economic infrastructure, and the region around the city has some 200 heavy industrial plants and 11,000 private enterprises, and has managed to draw Chinese, Korean, German, and to a small extent, American joint investment.

* Limited manufacturing base, which as of 1993 still accounted for less than 10% of the economy of the region. This means that Siberia still has to import most of its industrial equipment, machines, vehicles and commodities.

* These factors mean that the Siberian economy is unbalanced, and reliant on continued connection with the manufacturing sector in European Russia. Efforts under Gorbachev's leadership to move to 'greater preliminary processing' before transport westwards (Shadad 1987, p63) have only been partially successful, e.g. only a small number of petroleum refineries have been built in Siberia, and these mainly supply local fuel needs. It is hoped that side products from Sakhalin gas will also form the basis of a nitrogen fertiliser industry, while other Siberian plants in the West will also be opened, in order to boost Siberian agriculture (Shadad 1987, p75, p89). Intensive development of petroleum and oil resources, and the construction of new pipelines, as proposed through 2001-2002, will only partially offset this imbalance.

* Communication difficulties remain. The Arctic sea routes have been opened up on a year-round basis through the use of power nuclear-powered icebreakers, but this is an expensive exercise, and only the western link (from the Yenisy and Ob rivers to northern Europe) is really economically viable. In any case, the great river systems still freeze over during winter. This situation is being improved by the use of 'icebreaking lighter-carrier (LASH vessels) and ships with roll-on/roll-off capabilities' which can off load onto ice (North 1987, p151). There are also moves to improve air routes, especially through the adoption of heavy transport aircraft. Air-safety, due to bad weather and aging equipment, remains somewhat problematic, but has begun to improved through 2001 with new aircraft and the refurbishing of airports (Komarov 2001).

* Although a large 'invisible' military production complex exists in Siberia and the Far East, accounting for some 70% of industrial production in the early 1990s (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993), this military-industrial complex is in partial decline due to decreased military spending in Russia (though arms exports remain quite strong), and to only a limited success in conversion to civilian or dual-use industries (see Cooper 1993-4 for some of these strategies). Through 1997-1999, Russian has gained increased revenues through arms exports (Chipman 1999), though not all Siberian plants have remained operational.

* Although the Soviet Far East had build up a large merchant marine, with more than 400 vessels totalling three million tons, comprising about 25% of the entire Russian/Soviet fleet, (Kirby 1987, p210; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993), and although a brisk coast trade has developed since 1990, much of these fleet has run down or is not fully utilised. Conditions are such that ports in the Russian Far East have had to create new laws to effectively deal with the large number of hulks and abandoned ships that clutter their waterways. Recently, The Far Eastern Shipping Company had secured a $93.5 million dollar loan from the European Bank of Reconstruction and development to allow it to purchase new container carriers and sell off older ships (Bratukhin 1997). Likewise, there has been some increased private interest and buy-outs of stock in Pacific port facilities (Vladivostok News 2002b)

* Likewise, the sea areas between Japan and Russia represent areas which can be readily polluted by accidental spillage, whether by nuclear wastes or oil spills. Poor winter weather conditions can make rescue and clean up of sea disasters very difficult, e.g. the attempt in January 1997 to clean up spillage from the tanker Nakhodka, which split in two on January 1, 1997 (Syedain 1997).

* Through late 1998-2001 there have been reports of problems in administration, non-payment of state wages, equipment breakdown and a shortage of heating oil which affected Vladivostok, and large parts of the Primorye region (Chernyakova 1999). Lack of secure electrical power and heating has also struck many small communities in parts of Arctic Russia and Siberia. In January 2001, across 'the region, power utilities are short of fuel, hot water pipes are crumbling, and hospitals face an influx of frostbite cases'. (New York Times 2001)

In large measure, these difficulties suggest that the Soviets had attached a great deal of symbolic significance to the development of Siberia as proof of the progressive potentials of the Soviet economy (Stephan 1992, p503), though neither Gorbachev nor Yeltsin really lived up to their speeches on these matters (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993). More realistically, Russian opinion is split between optimists and pessimists (Stephan 1987, p226). 'Optimists' argue that with suitable management and a possible international trade environment (particularly, a good market for energy resources and metals), that Siberia will be the basis of a future strong Russian economy. Another group of 'pessimists' feel that the difficulties of developing Siberia make it literally a reserve zone for future development, and that Russia would benefit much more from intensive development of its Urals and European sector, particularly by linking into the European Union trade zone, and spin off from growth in Eastern Europe.

Nor can the region itself be taken for granted as a passive appendage of Russia. The sense of Siberian independence (discussed above) had resurrected under Gorbachev's reforms. In 1989 communist party elections, most of Gorbachev's preferred appointees were thrown out, with incumbents from local political groupings (Stephan 1992, p505). In 1989-90 once again there was intense political debate about the creation of an autonomous Far Eastern Republic (FER), with a Far Eastern republican Freedom Party being created in Vladivostok, and local newspapers generally supporting this trend (Stephan 1992, p505). Issues of regional economic autonomy were widely debated in 1992-3 (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993). However, it must stressed that this projected Republic would in any case still be an autonomous state within the Russian Federation - most Siberians recognise that they still need Russian investment, technology, and guarantees for their security, although regional elites have often been able to trait of local verses federal interests (see Melvin 1998). The main advantage for being a Republic, as distinct from just several regions, is that under the Russian Federal system Republics have much more control of their resources and return much less in tax to the central government. At present, the resources of Siberia and the Far East, excluding the Yakutian Republic, are shared by the indigenous administration with Moscow. In 1992-3 several regions of the Far East attempted to withhold returns Moscow, but President Yeltsin promptly cut imports to these area, stopped cash shipments, as well as stopping project funding and withheld export licenses. The regions promptly came back into line (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993). It has also been important for regional governments to be able to maintain foreign economic relations, particularly with other Pacific Basin countries.

Local leaders are also keen on following the Chinese model and creating special economic zones along the coast of the far east, e.g. around Vladivostok and on the island of Sakhalin, which has timber, oil production, and adjacent fisheries (Stephan 1992, p505; Shaw 1987, p19). Sakhalin was declared a special economic zone in 1988, and although some 5,000 private enterprises have been created (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993), results have not been entirely successful. Higher hopes are maintained for a consortium developing petroleum fields of the north-east coast of Sakhalin, a joint Russian-Japanese project involving the 3M corporation (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 1993), with Norwegian and Canadian companies also being involved in oil exploration projects in the area (Louis 1992, p30). Consortiums of European and Japanese countries have also been involved in projects to build five petrochemical plants in Siberia, planning to invest some $25 billion (Chon 1989, p1183). However, although there has been some opening of the Far East, e.g. Vladivostok, once a closed military town, is now open to traders, none of these Siberian centres has 'taken off' in the way that Chinese special economic zones have. However, economic infrastructure has been improving with the creation of new port facilities (e.g. the port at Vostochnyi), the creation of container-handling systems on the Trans-Siberian railway (creating the Europe-Asia landbridge), and with the improvement of roads between Siberia and Manchuria.

Nor has the huge, multinational Tumen River Valley project yet developed to the stage where it has achieved an economic 'lift of'. In future this massive project, involving cooperation among Russia, Japan, North Korea, China and Mongolia, and backed by the United Nations Development Program, however, may be extremely important for the entire region (see Ding 1996; Olsen 1995; Marton 1995; Dellios 1999)

A large informal trade has also flourished in the last decade. Large numbers of cars are being imported into Siberia, legally, 'informally', and illegally (see Smith 1993b), with some cars even finding themselves being transported in military ships and aircraft. This is part of a wider wild east syndrome which had disturbed many commentators during the 1990s. Alongside the fairly benign smuggling of cars, the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and illegal labour has also been reported, and mafia groups of various nationalities seem active in the cities and cross-border trade. Likewise, local politics can now be a dangerous occupation, with assassination attempts sometimes being made against local politicians who have made enemies. The city of Vladivostok, with some exaggeration, has been called a city with law and order problems like those of the gangster days of Chicago (Louis 1992, p1992).

The future of Siberia, then, remains in question. Yet the area has an excellent resource to population ratio - the entire region has only 28 million, with only 8 million in the Far East Sector. In many ways, it is a region that will be likely to develop more rapidly in the following decades of the 21st century, so long as the situation within Russia and the world economy allows it to do so. Preparations for such a bright future, however, must begin now. Improved relations with Japan remains one of the keys to wider regional development. Ironically, the region may need to retain some of the 'pioneer' spirit if its potentials are to be sensibly and safely developed. At the same time, environmental and cultural issues will need to be given close intention if this development is to avoid heightened political and social conflicts.

 

8. Bibliography and Further Resources

Resources

A wide range of material will be found at the Siberia WWW Virtual Library via

http://src-h.slav.hokudai.ac.jp/link/index-e.html

Local Russian Far Eastern news can be found in the Vladivostok News, located at http://vlad.tribnet.com/ 

Further Reading

CALDER, Kent E. "The New face of Northeast Asia", Foreign Affairs, 80 no. 1, Jan/Feb 2001, pp106-122 [Internet Access via Proquest]

EAST ASIA ANALYTICAL UNIT Pacific Russia: Risks and Rewards, Canberra, EAAU, 1996

HARADA, Chikahito Russia and North-East Asia, Adelphi Paper 310, London, IISS, 1997

MEYER, Peggy F. "Russian Far East's Economic Integration with Northeast Asia: Problems and Prospects", Pacific Affairs, 72 no. 2, Summer 1999 [Library Serials and Internet Access via Infotrac SearchBank]

SUNDERLAND, Willard "Peasant Pioneering: Russian Peasant Settlers Describe Colonization and the Eastern Frontier, 1880s-1910s", Journal of Social History, Summer 2001 [Internet Access via www.findarticles.com]

ZAGORSKY, Alexei "Three Years on a Path to Nowhere: The Hashimoto initiative in Russian-Japanese Relations", Pacific Affairs, 74 no. 1, Spring 2001, pp75-93 [BU Library Access via Proquest Database]

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Copyright R. James Ferguson 2000, 2001, 2002
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