UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transport and economic development in Western Siberia North, Robert Neville

Abstract

Siberia is one of several mid-latitude continental interiors, developed by Europeans during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A distinctive common feature of this development has been a reliance on big, long-distance exports of low value-to-weight ratio minerals and agricultural staples, utilizing such concomitant advances in transport technology as the river steamer and railway. Hence it has been asserted that development involving such changes in spatial relations must have been stimulated principally by the advances in transport technology. This thesis examines the validity of such assertions, in the regional context of western Siberia. Freight traffic flows are taken as an index of spatial relations, and a qualitative correlation of changes in flows with changes in transport technology, political conditions, and economic-geographic conditions is made through several stages of Siberian development from the sixteenth century to the present day. With respect to the relationships between changes in transport technology and changes in traffic flows, the main findings of the thesis are as follows: A. That transport technology suitable for implementing declared aims for regional development is available, does not mean that it will be used -- even if projects apparently requiring it are put into effect. There have been considerable time lags between technology becoming available and evidently needed, and actually being used, both before and since 1917. B. Both before and since the revolution, economic development projects have been put into operation despite the lack of any firm foundation for believing that transport costs could be brought down to levels apparently necessary. C. Innovations in transport have often seemed to have big effects on regional development. However, these effects have sometimes differed considerably from what was expected by the innovators. D. At first sight, changes in political conditions seem to correlate far better with changes in spatial relations than do changes in transport technology. However, there is some evidence to suggest that post-revolutionary development in western Siberia can be seen as a logical continuation of that before 1917; also, development models worked out for parts of North America fit western Siberia remarkably well. Therefore it is suggested that in the long term, given even quite limited common objectives, the spatial relations of mid-latitude interior continental regions during economic development are likely to fit widely-applicable models reflecting a balance between population, natural resources, transport costs and on-site production costs. However, the suggestion that advances in transport technology, lowering transport costs, are generally the main stimulus to such development is rejected.

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