STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Here’s the aftermath of another catastrophe, which is the word that Russia’s presidents once used to describe the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet government encouraged hundreds of thousands of people to move to the brutal expanses of Russian Siberia. State planners wanted them to recover natural gas and other resources. Now that Soviet support is gone, energy companies are making a fortune, but many communities are not.
Clifford Gaddy of the Brookings Institution says the policy of moving people to places they wouldn’t normally go may be the part of the Soviet economic legacy that will be the most difficult to change.
Mr. CLIFFORD GADDY (Brookings Institution): Because you can restructure a factory and you can bring in new management and produce new products that are hopefully better designed for the market and you can retrain people. But historically, and across all countries, it’s extremely difficult to downsize very large cities.
GREGORY FEIFER: Gaddy says millions of those living in Siberia and the Russian far east probably wouldn’t be there if the Soviet Union had had a market economy. He says as much as two percent of the country’s gross domestic product goes towards supporting residents of extremely isolated areas.
For the first time, a major economy is saying: We will be better off doing things by ourselves, and making our own decisions. And that's a bit of a shock to the system.