Sergey Sobyanin

Moscow is a city you do not want to leave, and want to come back to
Sergey Sobianin
interview: Lina Stefanou / photo: Vanya Berezkin

What is the hardest aspect of running a city like Moscow? The scale? The people? The bureaucracy? The pollution? The fight against corruption? Something else?
Of the aspects you mention, the scale, of course. In a small town, you can always come to a yard, talk to people, and see in person if a school or market is doing OK. If I were to visit one yard every day in Moscow, it would take me 65 years to cover all the yards. More than I’ve been alive for. If I were to visit one school every day, it would take me two years to cover all the schools.
Even so, I try not to shut myself up in my office: almost every day, I go out to one district or another.
Modern technology also helps. We have developed a unique electronic referendum system – the Active Citizen mobile app. Through it, the city government asks residents questions, and they vote for a particular option, from street improvement projects to resettling people from dilapidated housing.
How easy is it to keep one of the world’s biggest cities clean?
As in any other major global city, Moscow’s main source of pollution is the motor car. Exhaust fumes make up roughly 90% of harmful emissions into the atmosphere.
However, year by year, vehicle pollution is decreasing. Many people have switched to public transport, and are using their personal cars less to get to the city. Moscow has become the first city in Russia to ban the sale of motor fuel below the Euro 5 standard. When buying a new car, more and more Muscovites are looking for the highest environmental standards.
The city has also installed its first electric vehicle charging stations, and we expect interest in this form of transport to explode in the next few years. In any case, in a few months the Moscow Government will announce its first tender for the supply of electric buses for public transport. And from 2021 we will stop buying traditional buses with internal combustion engines.
Of course, ordinary cleaning is also important in controlling pollution, especially in winter. To this end, we have established robust city institutions equipped with the most modern equipment. We have created a satellite street sweeper tracking system, and a CCTV network that is one of the world’s most extensive. Our residents themselves help us to keep things in good order, by reporting problems through our special Our City portal.
Sergey Sobyanin, Moscow’s powerful mayor since 2010, explains what it is to run a city of 20 million and what is his favourite place and why. (NOMAS, Moscow, p. 82)