There are more than one hundred big cities in the former Soviet Union. They all have a well-developed network of contacts, from postal and transport ties to direct supplies of final products and contractual work. All these megacities are very peculiar, and there is a multitude of reasons behind those special features. Nevertheless, all large cities are very much alike in what may be called the main task of their mayors, noted the participants in the 10th session of the International Assembly of Capitals and Big Cities, or IAC, which took place in Minsk. I asked Minsk Mayor Mikhail Pavlov what the IAC session meant to Belarus. “The first session of the assembly in Minsk, and the fact that Minsk hosts the jubilee session means a lot indeed. Representatives of over 40 big cities of the CIS have arrived in Minsk to share their experience in settling urgent issues,” Mikhail Pavlov told me. “We are extremely interested in the way such cities as Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, Simferopol, etc. tackle transport, construction, healthcare, education, employment and consumer market problems. In a word, we are interested in everything that is supervised by municipal authorities and everything that we are responsible for. We are ready to share our experience and learn from our colleagues.”
“The international assembly has been there for ten years. Is the organization truly efficient?” I asked the mayor of Orenburg and first vice-president of the IAC, Yury Mescheryakov, after the participants in the session laid flowers to the monument “Minsk Hero-City”. “At present our organization includes 59 largest cities from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The cooperation on our inter-municipal playground is quite fruitful and intensive. Mayors of the megacities of the CIS have managed to reach the level of presidents and governments on behalf of the organization. We will continue rendering help to the members of our organization. We deal with a wide array of issues in the scope of the assembly — information exchange, land relations, mortgage, education, transport, health protection and many other problems. The Minsk session was dedicated to innovation technologies and their influence on the standard of living. I believe the issue is of extreme importance now.”
Attending the session were not only the mayors of the CIS large cities but also other senior officials. Russia’s Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov was one of them. According to him, the IAC should focus on specific relations between separate cities of the CIS, especially investment relations. He cited the cooperation between Minsk and Moscow as an example. “Our embassy estimates joint investment programs for the short-term outlook to reach $500 million to $600 million. These include the construction of a residential quarter, a trading center and a representative office of the city of Moscow in Minsk. These projects will help create new jobs and enhance contacts between the two cities and two nations,” believes Alexander Surikov.
The ambassador has been staying in Minsk for over six months now, and he has got used to Minsk, he said. “What are the main impressions?” I ask him.
“I guess most Russian cities could feel inferior to Minsk in public services and amenities, order and safety. The city is very comfortable to live and work.”
Other guests of the Belarusian capital city were of the same opinion. They were saying their goodbyes hoping they would come to visit Minsk again.
Breath of Megacity
Minsk has hosted the 10th session of the International Assembly of Big Cities