Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Most Roads in the Buryat Republic Haven’t Been Repaired in 30 Years

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – Buryatia, whose leaders hope to make it into a tourist destination for people across Asia, has a problem: most of its roads haven’t been repaired in more than 30 years and are thus impassible except for the most intrepid, and many of the bridges in the republic are equally antiquated and are at risk of collapse.

            Buryatia’s aspirations as a tourist destination were outlined in “Kommersant” yesterday (, but its immediate problems with its roads and bridges were detailed by Arevik Safaryan in an article on the Buryat republic’s website only two days earlier (

            Russians have long said that the two biggest problems of their country are “dorogi [roads]” and “duraki [fools], and so Safaryan turned to the Russian Highway Research Institute in Moscow as he began his attempt to answer the question he posed to himself: “Why are there poor roads in Buryatia?”

            Not mentioning Russia’s harsh climate which is something many often do, the Moscow highway researchers suggested that the country’s poor quality roads were the product of poor contracting practices, the absence of controls over those performing the work, and low-quality materials and workmanship.

            All these problems affect Buryatia just as they do all other regions of the Russian Federation, Safaryan said, but in addition, there are some additional reasons why the roads in Buryatia are especially bad, according to officials at the republic’s Administration of Regional Highways.

Acknowledging that the region’s roads “do not correspond to contemporary social-economic requirements,” the officials said that a major reason for that is that “as a result of a shortage of funds in the republic budget, repairs on most of the roads had not been carried out for more than 30 years.”

Because of that, 64.5 percent of the 2,000 km of roads in the republic do not correspond to contemporary standards, and 24 percent of the 461 highway bridges need immediate reconstruction to prevent their collapse, officials at the republic’s transportation told the journalist.

Despite the infusion of new funds – republic spending on highways doubled between 2007 and 2012 – reconstruction of older roads has practically stopped over the last several years, leaving “approximately 90 percent of the roads” there in need of immediate repair, ministry officials said.

According to these officials, the reason that they have not spent more on roads is that they have had to focus their efforts on the bridges which, were any of them to collapse, would leave portions of the republic isolated.  Last year, they repaired four bridges that had collapsed, leaving them with funds for repair work on fewer than 90 kilometers of roadways.

Buryatia also faces a cadres problem in this sector, the ministry said. Until 2004, there was no opportunity for people to receive advanced training in road construction, and since that time, the relevant faculty has prepared only 38 specialists for this branch. And the republic faces problems with defects in federal legislation governing road construction.

That legislation, the republic ministry officials indicated, often makes it impossible for them to do their work in a quality fashion because the federal law defines success only in terms of the number of kilometers built or facilities constructed rather than with regard to their quality of maintenance.

Safaryan’s article is filled with a variety of other statistics highlighting Buryatia’s problems in this area, and his article thus offers a remarkable glimpse into an aspect of Russian life often neglected by observers but critical to the lives of the peoples of that country now as well as in the future.

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