Borders

13.05.2013, 14:24
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For three years Strelka’s public programs have focused on the changes taking place in Moscow, but our field of study is by no means limited to the capital. The “Thinning“, “Energy” and “Hinterland“ research studios have been engaged with nation-wide problems, and much student work has been devoted to the country’s borders.

Border areas are the ultimate terra incognita. In Russia, the “border zone” is not simply a narrow strip of land along the national frontier. It covers as much as 3 to 5 percent of the country’s entire territory and is home to about one million people. In some places the ”border zone” takes in entire regions. But no definitive map of these areas is publicly available, and the total land area classified as part of the border zone changes almost every year.

Yet the changes taking place on the country’s border are often even more radical than in the capital itself. The territorial and economic roles border towns fulfil often lead to the formation of trans-boundary agglomerations where cross-border travel is part of everyday life. Local residents benefit from preferential visa rules or, for those resident in visa-free zones, no need for travel documents at all. Cultures mingle, international families spring up, and dislike is replaced by cooperation, until a whole new social and-cultural community emerges. The border zone is a specially regulated, restricted-access area which is easier to reach from across the frontier than from the “mainland.” And these areas are developing models of government for territories of a different sort – inner territories. Even the Russian Olympics are taking place on the border.

All this and more will be discussed using real examples. Strelka’s series of discussions about borders is only the beginning of a public debate about “special” territories in Russia.