Is there a system of Russian cities? Generic properties and specificities in the description and modeling of Russian cities’ interactions

In the context of GeoDiverCity, generic properties of city systems are looked for as stylized facts that apply to these particular objects over the world and over time. Examples of those properties lay in the hierarchy of city sizes (expressed by Zipf’s law), or the process of urban growth (as described by Gibrat in 1931). Using those regular patterns, modeling of the co-evolution of cities becomes possible and useful.

Russian cities oppose several obstacles to the observation of such regularities. The spatial limits of the system varies over time, which complicates  the choice of urban definition, and the collection of reliable data. Moreover, the historical object of Russia and the Soviet Union exhibits strong specificities related to its (supposed absolute) control over urban definition, development, interactions and inner organization. Our work aims at distinguishing the specific from the generic behavior of the Russian system of cities from the urban transition up to now, in order to model its evolution and propose possible projections with the help of Multi-Agent Models.

This project 1 begins with the harmonization of urban definitions. Theoretical and data collection constraints led us to consider agglomerations of 10.000 inhabitants and more between 1840 and 2010. Agglomerations have been composed of administrative units which take part in the same built-up area in 2010. Since the boundary of the system is not obvious over the XIX and XXth centuries, its larger extension (the Former Soviet Union) is tested along with its present configuration (the Russian Federation).

Generic models (Zipf, Gibrat) are tested and compared with the results obtained in other geographical contexts. Europe, North America, South Africa, India, China and Brazil are represented in the research fields of GeoDiverCity, sharing the same principles of data harmonization, which helps us in the process of comparison. Other tools are used to explore and explain the specificities of the system of Russian cities (analysis of urban trajectories and financial links between cities with the ORBIS Database produced by Bureau van Dijk, 2010 and augmented by C. Rozenblat).

The characteristics of the Russian system learned from these studies, coupled with the experience accumulated within Géographie-Cités and GeoDiverCity will help modeling the system and simulating its possible futures.

Clémentine Cottineau


  1. PhD project of Clémentine Cottineau, under the supervision of Denise Pumain (founded by University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

The dispersion of added value in Russia through multinational networks

This map is made out from an analysis of the multinational firms’ networks in Russian cities (ORBIS database, Bureau van Dijk, 2010; C. Rozenblat). The links between owners and subsidiaries are aggregated into urban agglomerations, and differentiated by activity sectors (NACE). Company groups working in Russia have been constituted : chains of ownership were formed where subsidiaries are owned with a share of at least 50%. The map shows mean points and standard distances of head groups’ locations in Russia. The more we travel East from Moscow, the less the share of added value in production: The barycentre for finance, information and communication activities (that is : advanced or metropolitan services) is the most western one, the closest to Moscow, and their standard distance is 2000km;  further to the East is the barycentre of trade groups, similarly scattered, followed by manufacturing industries, that are less concentrated; eventually, mining and transport groups have a remote gravity centre located at thousand kilometres to the East, with the largest spatial dispersion.

Cyril Jayet and Clémentine Cottineau