The debate about the quality of urban environment remains high on the agenda in Russia and other countries. The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) interviewed Alexander Puzanov about the challenges faced by a city today, and about which of them can be solved with the help of urban sciences.
Alexander, could you please tell us about the prospects of urbanization in Russia and abroad, and what are the limits of the process?
— Urbanization is a process which will evolve whether or not our willingness is present and irrespective of our attitude to it. And what should be regarded as the limits to urbanization is not quite clear. In terms of quantitative measures, urbanization is a certain formal share of urban population which is based on what each country determines as a city. Yet, there is a qualitative aspect of urbanization related to expansion of urban living, urban standards, practices and distribution of population between different types of urban settlements. Therefore, if, in quantitative terms, saturation can be expected – as is the case with the countries which had been the first ones to undergo urbanization, such as Great Britain, with the share of urban population at 80-90% - in qualitative measures, the process of urbanization seems to have no visible limits so far. Public goods associated with urban living can be accessible throughout a country, and elements of urban living can reach the most remote areas.
Is it possible that almost all the population will live solely in cities?
— Technically, of course not. Even large urban agglomerations such as the city of Moscow and Moscow Region have enough of rural settlements. But people, who inhabit them, for the most part, are not farm workers. Therefore, the elements of urban and rural living co-exist there. People will try to find an optimal combination of rural and urban benefits.