Siberia: From Edge to Centre
Giddens, Anthony, New Statesman (1996)
I am sitting in the sunshine beneath a sky of perfect blue. The temperature is well into the twenties Celsius and I am surrounded by greenery. Behind me are attractive university buildings where, it being the first day of the new term, students come and go.
I am not in California, but Siberia. Siberia is quite unlike the image most people in the west have of it: a land of permanent ice and snow fit only for exiles. The far north may come close, but Siberia stretches a long way south and I am in the campus town of Novosibirsk, set away from the main city, which is home to about a million people.
The climate is similar to that of Wisconsin in the US--occasionally very cold in winter, but mostly sunny and dry--and Novosibirsk itself also resembles Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin. It is an elite university, established in the 1950s as a centre of scientific research.
I have come to give a series of lectures on globalisation. They are well-attended and the discussions afterwards are lively. Merely being here drives home what globalisation means, for the place is acquiring a global significance. It borders China and India, whose political and economic importance is growing apace, so Siberia is no longer on the edge, but right in the centre. It also has 90 per cent of Russia's vast oil and natural-gas resources.
After Russia's setbacks in the 1990s, President Vladimir Putin is pursuing a path of authoritarian modernisation back to great-power status, and oil and gas are central to that ambition. …