Those who have been close to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin say he never expected to be taoiseach, given the state of the party when he became leader in January 2011. That changed, however, after the 2016 general election.
Then, Fianna Fáil more than doubled its number of Dáil seats from 20 to 44 and by the following July support among likely voters had jumped even further by a very healthy nine points to 33 per cent.
Five years later, though, the party is struggling in the polls ahead of a crucial 10-week period for the party, the Government and the State, with much riding on the success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
For this reason, some in Fianna Fáil are reluctant now to speak about the party’s future, saying that the public would not appreciate navel gazing when when the focus should be on the pandemic.
The leadership issue is on the back burner for now, they say. Except it is not. On the contrary, it is very much afoot. The jostling for position and allegiances is “relentless”, says one seasoned TD.
The numbers are apparently nearly there for a challenge. But more of that later.
The first question is: where did it all go wrong for a party that just five years ago made a stunning rise from the ashes of political ruin? And one that had then hoped for even more. And what next?
When Fianna Fáil struck the confidence-and-supply deal with Fine Gael in 2016, it was with the blessing of the parliamentary party, which did not believe a grand coalition was viable but liked the idea of pulling strings from the outside.
Two things happened in late 2017 and early 2018 that are at the root of today’s rumblings. Firstly, Leo Varadkar’s tough stance against London during Brexit negotiations, which saw Fine Gael take an 11-point lead over Fianna Fáil in December 2017.
Martin would then shock his TDs in January 2018 with an unexpected Dáil speech saying he would vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment and to allow abortion on request until near the end of the first trimester.
Some said it was brave, others said it was a betrayal. Later, a photograph taken in Merrion Square emerged of more than half of the parliamentary party holding placards urging the public to vote No.
Martin, not for the first time, was out of step with his colleagues, but he was very much in step with the public mood, given the landslide vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment that summer.
The photo of anti-abortion Fianna Fáil TDs seriously impacted on Fianna Fáil’s ability to attract younger voters over the last three years. If Martin had not done what he did, the party would have “dragged him the other way” and “things would be even worse than they are now”, says one strategist.
But the troops were becoming increasingly restive.
Confidence and supply
Many of those interviewed argue that things took a turn for the worse when Martin extended the confidence-and-supply deal with Fine Gael. “There is no scenario in which there is another two years in this,” a person familiar with his thinking told The Irish Times in 2017.
Yet in the face of a potentially ruinous no-deal Brexit, that is exactly what happened the following year when Martin made the decision that it was not the time to pull the plug. It was the right thing for the country, but the wrong thing for Fianna Fáil, an insider says.
“We stayed in confidence and supply too long. Micheál made all of these big decisions as leader of the Opposition and he did not consult with anyone about the extension. He just walked into the Dáil and announced it one day. It was bizarre,” one TD said this week.
It led to huge internal animosity, even if it was not unpopular with the public that did not want to see an election held in such circumstances. The underlying significance of this move would become apparent the following year.
There is a view that the move to keep the party in government left it unable to match an increasingly energetic Sinn Féin in Opposition and also left them intrinsically tied to Fine Gael in the mind of the voter.
Local and European elections
However, the May 2019 local elections brought better news. Fianna Fáil retained its top spot locally, winning 279 seats – a gain of 12 on 2011. There were grumblings about the European election results, however, after a two-candidate strategy in the Midlands North West constituency bombed.
When party insiders are asked to name positive moments they talk about that summer: “One of the big pieces of infrastructure that Fianna Fáil still has, a massive electoral asset, are their councillors.
“They are own-brand merchants who would be popular for who they are, as opposed to their party. The question is whether that level of political representation can withstand the deterioration at TD level,” says one person closely connected to events.
The big issue on the doorstep during the election was housing. The party did not pay enough heed, says a councillor. “Sinn Féin did not have a good day in the locals. They went off the grid. We should have noticed it. They did a postmortem and took action. We did not,” according to a prominent party member.
This idea is rejected by those loyal to Martin: “There is rarely a postmortem after a good election,” says one, not unreasonably.
Eoghan Murphy effect
By the autumn of 2019, the housing crisis had significantly worsened. Homeless numbers breached the 10,000 mark. The average rent in Dublin had risen 100 per cent since 2010.
In December, Fine Gael’s minister for housing, Eoghan Murphy, survived a motion of no confidence by 56 votes to 53. Fianna Fáil abstained. In the Dáil, Darragh O’Brien, who has taken over from Murphy as Minister for Housing, accused the Government of “trying to spread the blame” to other parties. By then it was too late, three Fianna Fáil TDs told The Irish Times.
The abstention on the confidence motion ensured blame was on both parties. “We were seen as being far too close to Fine Gael. We effectively supported Eoghan Murphy. The public really turned on us that December,” said one.
Another remembers the abuse taken during Christmas doorstep visits. A bright spot was the party’s dual success in November byelection with Malcolm Byrne taking a seat in Wexford and Pádraig O’Sullivan doing so in Cork North Central.
Yet some TDs were still looking over their shoulder at Sinn Féin’s finely-honed campaign in Dublin Mid-West where Mark Ward upset the pre-election predictions, taking a second seat, largely helped by its existing TD, Eoin O’Broin.
“That [byelection] was a bonus but I remember watching the Eoin Ó Broin result and thinking, there is something to that,” says one TD.
While the pre-election debacle over plans for a commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary was a mess caused by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil lost as much if not more favour with the public as Sinn Féin put the boot in.
Some believe the party was “too ambiguous” in the early stages of the controversy when Fine Gael was still in a flap, and it allowed Sinn Féin to capitalise on sizeable public anger.
In a spat between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, it is Fianna Fáil which loses, which is a pattern that has been replicated since. “It damaged us hugely,” said a TD.
Speaking about the following general election, party members do not hold back: “We had a really bad campaign. There was complete overconfidence in the leadership that all we had to do was turn up and we would be the larger party.
“We had the same manifesto as the previous election, An Ireland For All. We didn’t even bother thinking about change. And nothing changed. We ran a boring campaign. There were no standout policies.
“Micheál Martin took too much on himself. It was presumed he would do great in the debates, but he did not. That was Mary Lou, ” says one Fianna Fáil TD, who is not unrepresentative of the opinions of other colleagues.
An early decision to exclude Mary Lou McDonald from a Prime Time leaders’ debate made matters worse. “We started getting it on the doors, why have Sinn Féin been excluded,” another TD said. “It was Mary Lou this, Mary Lou that.
“Sinn Féin was masterful in how they built on that debate. It was the establishment excluding them, but more importantly it was the establishment excluding a woman, with this image of these two men on the inside. Their social media game was top class too.”
Then the pensions row exploded. Sinn Féin pledged to keep the pensions age at 65. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil proposed transition payments. “We were all over the place on pensions, and we were aligned with Fine Gael.
“This opened Sinn Féin up to people in their mid-50s onwards who would never have voted for them. It appealed to their pockets. It grew from there,” another TD said.
Current and former members argue that Fianna Fáil should have been more open to talking to Sinn Féin. The decision to keep the door so firmly jammed left the party hemmed in, they insist. However, this is challenged by the fact that an exit election poll showed that 60 per cent of Fianna Fáil voters believed that Martin had been right to rule out a deal with Sinn Féin.
Summer of discontent
Covid-19 changed everything. A caretaker Fine Gael government steered the ship as the virus began to tear through the country. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ditched the Civil War rivalries and entered coalition with the Greens.
Three-quarters of Fianna Fáil’s 11,000 members backed the deal. The rotating Taoiseach arrangement was agreed with Martin taking the first spin. The acrimony over his choice of Ministers has been well documented but those choices have ramifications to this day.
“In terms of polling, Fine Gael are not being affected in the same way as Fianna Fáil. The choice of ministerships was not well designed. We took on health and housing and education and now we are in the eye of every storm. I think Micheál made his choice based on who he wanted around him. He wants to micromanage everything,” said a senior politician who believes Martin made his choices based on “who he can control”.
However, those who work closely with Martin and know his thinking reject that, saying that he made his choices based on ability, gender and, to a certain extent, geography.
Among the parliamentary party, there is growing concern about Stephen Donnelly, the Minister for Health, and Darragh O’Brien, the Minister for Housing.
On Donnelly, one TD says: “The public do not like Stephen. They’ve given up on him. I lost faith in him after Christmas. He is dismissive of our concerns. His office is a disaster in terms of coming back. That is a TD’s bread and butter.”
Those close to Donnelly paint a picture of a Minister with so much on his plate that one day someone will look back and ask why no one shouted stop. He does not go on social media, they say, because of the level of vitriol. He had to erect a fence outside his house for his family’s safety.
On O’Brien, the party knows how important it is that it makes inroads with housing. But there are serious misgivings about his shared-equity scheme. Even his own colleagues believe it will push up prices and it is causing anxiety.
Amid all this handwringing is the obvious question: what next for Micheál Martin? Where stands his leadership? While some did not want to entertain questions about it, many had no such qualms.
Some even have mental tallies of who is supporting who.
Scarred by the decision to allow a “meaningful Christmas”, and acutely aware of serious public anger about the length of lockdowns, the Fianna Fáil faithful believe the coming 10 weeks will be crucial for Martin. He has “invested an enormous amount of political capital in this vaccine being delivered,” says one long-time TD. “If that goes well in July, great. If it does not, then there will be a problem.”
Another said there is a sense that while a leadership contest will not be called immediately, or even soon, the situation is volatile because of the promises made on vaccines.
They say there is currently “60:40” support for the Taoiseach among his party but this could swing very quickly. Others have it at 50:50 with five or six floating votes but it tends to be the agitators who say this.
Out in front is Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan. Those close to him say he is not canvassing or cajoling or making any moves. His supporters say they are having to constantly approach him, egging him on to take his chances seriously. But there is no doubt he is seriously considering it.
“When the time is right, he will go for it, 100 per cent,” a supporter said. “We need a Dublin leader.”
There are plenty, though, who are not enamoured with the idea of O’Callaghan as leader. “It seems to be almost a side hustle to him,” said one party member. Another said: “There is risk for some people being out in the race too early. This is not a sprint.”
When one senior member of the party was asked if there is jostling and phone calls flying about contenders generally, he laughed and said: “Oh God, there is! It is relentless. They’re at it the whole time.” Other names in contention include Michael McGrath, Darragh O’Brien, Barry Cowen and perhaps Dara Calleary.
McGrath, steady in his handling of his new ministry in public expenditure, and O’Brien, a Dublin TD, are seen as the front-runners in this group.
Nothing happens, though, until a motion of confidence is lodged and a majority of the party decides it should proceed. “Once a challenge is presented, Micheál is gone. It will win.” Such a statement sounds unsentimental, but that’s politics.
Unthinkable as it sounds, there is another world post-pandemic. One of the key questions for the party is how it approaches the thorny question of Irish unity. Some of the Taoiseach’s internal critics dismiss his Shared Island initiative.
“Everyone is talking about United Ireland,” one such critic exclaimed, “but, Jesus, we are not allowed to talk about that. That is in the cupboard. We need to recognise we are a republican party, and the unionists know it.”
A recent debate on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live caused internal upset after the lion’s share of the attention was given to exchanges between Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald, going to the heart of the fears that members have that the party is “becoming irrelevant”.
The violent scenes in Northern Ireland in recent days, however, have convinced others that Martin’s caution has been vindicated, and better reflects the views of a majority of voters in the Republic, despite the clamour by some for early preparations for a referendum.
There are many other big questions but two more stand out: can Fianna Fáil TDs stomach handing over the Taoiseach’s office to Varadkar in a year and a half? And what are the party’s prospects if an election is called?
On the first question, only time will tell. On the second, there are fears of another wipeout, and although commentators should always be wary of writing off a party such as Fianna Fáil, this is a real worry for some.
One doomy prediction offered was that if an election was held tomorrow, and the party was polling as low as 11 per cent, Fianna Fáil would struggle to hold on to any of its seats in Dublin, except perhaps for Darragh O’Brien.
And then there is the issue of the financial health of the party and its ability to fight elections, given that hundreds of thousands of euro has been lost in church-gate collections and national super-draws that can no longer happen.
Despite all of the grumbles about Martin, there are many in Fianna Fáil behind the scenes who are deeply frustrated by party’s self-cannibalisation. Fianna Fáil, they say, remains the largest party in Seanad, Dáil and local government.
Public bloodletting does nothing but damage the brand, they argue. Approaches its 100th anniversary, it is clear it is going to take more than a new leader to fix the deep and complicated issues facing Fianna Fáil.
Prehistoric art in Spain: The 27,000-year-old cave art found under graffiti in Spain’s Basque Country | Culture
Diego Garate, doctor of prehistory at the University of Cantabria and a specialist in Paleolithic art, was surprised when he came across a 27,000-year-old painting of a bison a meter and a half long, hidden under graffiti, in one of the Aizpitarte caves in the Basque Country. The discovery of the artwork, obscured by the word “exit” and an arrow indicating the way out of the cave, took place in September 2015. Now, following years of research, investigators claim it indicates the existence of a shared artistic culture in ancient Europe.
According to Garate, the bison painting was found when he and a team of speleologists explored the cave in search of cave art. “We went through a small, very low arch about 50 centimeters high, that led into a passageway and when I raised my head I saw an impressive bison covered by graffiti on the rock,” he says. “Its characteristics were similar to those of other bison found in at least 17 caves in different parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Central Europe.” Garate and his team’s research, which was published last week in the journal PLOS One, also includes studies of paintings found in three caves in the area of bison, horses and a bird in an artistic style previously unseen in the Iberian peninsula.
Garate began searching for Paleolithic paintings in Spain’s Basque Country a decade ago. “Very little was known about the cave art in this region compared with neighboring areas such as Cantabria, which has the Altamira cave; or the central Pyrenees, which is full of decorated caves; or the French Dordogne, which is famous for its paintings of bison and mammoths,” says Garate.
In the center of that geographical triangle is Basque Country, which then – like now – was a transit area for people crossing between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. “It was paradoxical that there was so little cave art considering it was the only pass available to the men and women of that period,” says Garate. In 2011, when he began his research, only six caves with artwork were recorded in the entire Basque Country. Now that number has risen to 28.
Manuel González Morales, a researcher at the International Institute of Prehistoric Research in Cantabria, says that Garate’s work is “extraordinarily” significant both archaeologically and historically as it has revealed more locations containing Paleolithic art in an area that, until several years ago, appeared relatively empty of this kind of historical evidence. Beyond purely aesthetic considerations, González says these paintings represent “new examples of how underground spaces, including some difficult to access, were used for the development of artistic activity.”
Garate claims that the discovery of the bison paintings in that region of Spain proves that its inhabitants exchanged ideas, shared graphic expressions and had similar and recurring motifs. “We have discovered that human groups in the area communicated with each other,” says Garate. “For example, they used the same tools fashioned from bone to sculpt the stone. We found the remains of those tools in the same caves where we found the paintings.”
The research also points to the existence of exchange networks rather than the same groups of humans moving or migrating from one place to another. “These bison are proof of what would be the first instance of globalization on a continental scale, from Central Europe to the Iberian Peninsula, something like the first European Union 27,000 years ago,” says González, who adds that Garate’s findings show that Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer groups made contact with other groups and exchanged technical and stylistic ideas.
One of the most notable features of these paintings is their perspective, which is very different from what we use today. “The type of art that was developed on the continent 27,000 years ago was expressionist,” explains Garate. “The artists did not try to depict reality, but to offer their own interpretation of it.” Consequently, the animals in these paintings appear disproportionate – their faces are grotesque while their legs and horns are two dimensional, like the art found in Egyptian temples.
Garate explains that the style of the paintings is difficult to appreciate today, not because the artists could not portray the subject of their art as they saw them, but because there was an established painting technique. “It gives us the feeling that the art was controlled; subject to rules imposed from a place of power,” says Garate. “The artist would be more like a craftsman. Rather than doing what occurred to them, they could only do what they were ordered to do. It was a collective rather than an individual form of art.”
But experts still don’t know the purpose or meaning of these paintings. “There are multiple interpretations and perhaps there is more than one answer,” Garate acknowledges. “We know that for 30,000 years, animals rather than plants, humans or stars were depicted. Over that period of time, there were several different human groups, but the art is limited to the same motif. We also know that they [the paintings] did not depict the animals that were hunted and eaten, which makes us think that these paintings have a very strong message, perhaps related to social cohesion; to that need to keep the group together in order to survive.”
English version by Heather Galloway.
See For Yourself, 30 of the New, Modern, Amazing Airports of ‘Stagnating Russia’ (Great Pictures)
The author is CEO of the Awara Group, which offers consulting, accounting, tax, and legal services. He is the author of several books on politics and philosophy, as well as Putin’s New Russia. He speaks fluent English, Russian, Finnish, and Swedish, and German, French, and Spanish less fluently. He resides in Moscow.
What prompted me to write this Awara Accounting report on the impressive development of Russia’s airports was to produce a cure for the but-beyond-the-MKAD syndrome. The MKAD is the 110 kilometer outer ring road around Moscow. And this syndrome refers to the habit of the detractors of Putin’s Russia to claim that any visible development of Russia, if any, has happened only within the limits of Moscow city – “just go outside the Ring Road and you’ll see there’s nothing but poverty and ruin.”
Many of those who suffer from this syndrome live in a deep-seated cognitive dissonance where they just refuse to trust their lying eyes, while some of them are just peddlers of pure propaganda or victims of the latter.
So, let’s see what actually happens beyond the MKAD. Amazing airports have been built or reconstructed both in Moscow and across the vast country and many other impressive projects have been presented.
And it is not just airports, it is roads and bridges, too. Those Awara has covered in other reports in the series on Putin’s incredible infrastructure investments. You can read about the amazing new bridges at this link: Putin the Pontiff – Bridge maker and the great development of Russia’s roads here.
What’s remarkable is also the efficiency and speed of the construction of the new airport terminals. Most of them have been built in three years and some in two or even less. The Simferopol airport (above) was built in two years and was up and running within three years from the decision to initiate the project. Krasnoyarsk (below) needed only1.5 years to complete the construction.
Russia’s 79 international airports
Our method was to review all the airports in a list of all of Russia’s international airports. (An international airport is one into which a plane can fly directly from a foreign country as it runs a passport control). There were 79 airports in our list. From what I had registered from the news and in my travels, I expected that there would be some 10 or 15 cool new airports to present. But no. The task proved much more overwhelming as it turned out that almost every one of the listed airports had been reconstructed or was due for reconstruction.
Instead of writing up an easy piece with nice pics, I ended up spending weeks on identifying and digesting all the information. The investigation showed that practically each one of the 79 airports had either been modernized or about to be so. I identified less than 10 airports on the list of international airports which were not brought up to modern quality standards since 2000 or on the way to it. And of those half were either remote outposts or military airfields. I am confident, that all the passenger airports in the major Russian cities (defined as having some 150 thousand or more inhabitants) will be totally modernized within the next 6 years.
Practically all the development of the international airports has been funded by both public and private money, where the infrastructure like runways and flight controls have been recipients of public funds whereas the terminals have been mostly built by public funds.
In addition to the 79 international airports there are some 60 regional airports with more or less regular traffic. These will all also be upgraded according to a multibillion government program on development of regional airports running up to 2024. This forms part of a broader strategic program ordered by President Putin to improve the Russian economy, demographics and infrastructure with public and private funding amounting to a total of $400 billion.
An important goal with the development of the airports is to help decentralize the economy by way of increasing direct interconnectivity of Russian cities instead of people having to fly transit through Moscow, which has in the past really hampered the overall development of the country.
The new airport facilities are really needed to keep up with the passenger boom
The new enlarged and reconstructed airports cater to a growing number of passengers. In 2000, when Putin first took office, the Russian airports served 35.5 million passengers, but by 2018 the number had grown sixfold to 205 million. That surpasses the 135 million passengers of the USSR in the 1980s. The growth has been huge and accelerating, just in five years from 2014 to 2018 the number grew by one third.
In the meanwhile, the Moscow air cluster with 97 million passengers (2018) has become Europe’s third largest air hub after London (126 mln) and Paris (104 mln). Sheremetyevo – Europe’s fastest growing airport – alone has grown 4.5 times since 2000 to present 46 million. At the same time, Moscow’s second airport Domodedovo grew from handling 2.8 million passengers in in 2000 to 30 million in 2017.
Air travel is a very solid indicator for economic activity, these figures then show that there is much going on that does not catch the eye of the GDP.
When I first came to Moscow by air in 1993, the city did not have a single modern airport. Actually, back then the Sheremetyevo international airport, present day Terminal F, should have formally counted as a modern one as it was built only about a decade earlier in 1980 in time for the Moscow Olympics. But the airport – built by a West German company – was terribly outdated in design and functionality from the start. Both the façade and the interior design was informed by a dark and gloomy style prevailing in Russia during the 1970s. My impression as a passenger was that that the terminal must have been in operational neglect at least three decades by then.
I used to hate having to travel through that airport and each time I would wish they’d remove the heavy copper circles which were misdecorating the ceilings and literally weighing over the heads of the passengers. One day sometime in the early 2000s it did happen; the copper was gone and a white suspended ceiling was there instead. Somebody told me that the reason was that the commodity price of copper had surged. Whatever, I was happy for it. In the 1990s the restrooms where stinky and you’d be lucky if they were furnished with paper. And then there was the strong kerosene fumes wafting around the whole airport. An odor which you would connect with Russia in good and bad. For me it actually became so characteristic of Russia, that I later found myself upon arrival inhaling that fume, like one would mountain air, happy as I had returned to Russia from the increasingly oppressive West.
But today all has changed, if Sheremetyevo Terminal F was probably the worst of all the world’s major airports, I considered the new Terminal D as one of the best when it opened in 2009. Presently the terminal is overcrowded as it operates way over its planned capacity, but that should ease when the domestic traffic is fully transferred to the new Terminal B, which opened in 2018.
If Sheremetyevo Terminal G was depressing, then the domestic terminal then called Sheremetyevo 1 was like a parody of all that was wrong with the later stages of the USSR just before its demise. Moscow’s second airport, Domodedovo, at that time was very much the same, but today Domodedovo along with Sheremetyevo are modern international airports meeting the highest global standards. There is a third major Moscow airport as well, the Vnukovo airport. And a smaller, fourth Moscow cluster international airport, Zhukovsky (Ramenskoe) opened in 2018.
In 2018, in time for the FIFA World Cup, Moscow’s Sheremetyevo got the new Terminal B for domestic flights. This one will be merged with present Terminal C, after the renovation of the latter, to form a hub for domestic flights, while Terminals D, E and F will serve international flights. An underground shuttle train opened in 2018 already connects the domestic and international terminals.
The old Domodedovo terminal in Moscow
A waiting lounge at the old Domodedovo
The new Domodedovo (above and below)
New, in 2012 (above) and old, in 2000 (below) Vnukovo, Moscow’s 3rd airport.
Let’s now go beyond the MKAD and look at the other new amazing airport complexes around the country. This is just a selection, there is much more.
Saint Petersburg was really in a need of a modern airport, and it was therefore such a relief when it finally opened in 2013
Belgorod a city of 350 thousand inhabitants close to the Ukrainian border got this new beautiful terminal in 2013.
Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East got a new airport terminal in 2012 as part of the preparations for the APEC 2012 summit.
Yekaterinburg, Russia’s third largest city on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains received a new terminal in 2009.
This new airport complex was erected in 2012 in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia’s sixth most populous city. It was built in the run up to the 2013 Summer Universiade and enlarged for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
This new airport in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave at the Baltic Sea, opened in 2017
The new airport in Nizhny Novgorod was also built as part of Russia’s infrastructure upgrade in preparation for the 2018 football World Cup.
The new airport in Novosibirsk is from 2015. Novosibirsk with 1.5 million is a city in Siberia at the Ob River. The Trans-Siberian Railway fueled much of the city’s growth in the 19th century.
The new terminal in Perm from 2017 is a real architectural gem. Perm has a population over one million and is located in the, Urals 300 kilometers north-west of Yekaterinburg and 400 kilometers north of Ufa.
Rostov-on-Don is one more of the cities which got a new airport terminal (opened 2017) in preparation for the FIFA 2018 World Cup. In fact, this was a brand new airport built on virgin field, whereas the other airports in this survey represent development and enlargements of previously existing airports.
SABETA, YAMAL PENINSULA
Sabetta on the Yamal peninsula got an airport in 2014 in connection with Russia’s push to develop its Arctic regions and in this case especially the Yamal LNG project and the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoye gas field.
In 2014 opened the new airport in Samara in the southeastern part of European Russia on the east bank of the river Volga.
Simferopol airport in Russian Crimea is probably the nicest airport in the world. Built in 2018, four years after Crimea’s liberation from Ukrainian occupation.
It was an amazing feeling travelling through that airport. The architect has really managed to do what is most important in places like that, to neutralize the stress factor. Everything is so spacy, harmonious and green that you get a feeling that you are in a giant spa instead of an airport. The Simferopol airport really calmed my nerves on a busy travelling day.
The Sochi airport was built in 2009 and enlarged in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
This airport in Talakan in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) opened in 2012.
The new international terminal in Tyumen was opened in 2017. Tyumen was the first Russian settlement in Siberia and now has an estimated population of 750 thousand.
Ufa, the capital city of Bashkortostan at the Urals received this new air terminal in 2015.
This is the airport in Volgograd, the WWII name of which was Stalingrad. A new international terminal was constructed in 2016 and in 2018 another terminal for domestic flights was opened to accommodate football fans for FIFA 2018.
The newly constructed airport in Krasnoyarsk opened in December 2017. Krasnoyarsk is located at the Yenisei River in Siberia. With a population over one million it is the third largest Siberian city after Novosibirsk and Omsk. Novosibirsk got a new airport in 2015 and Omsk will get one before 2022.
Those were some of the airports built and upgraded within the last decade, now let’s look on some airport projects underway.
The Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov presented in May 2018 this bold project for the new airport in the Chechen capital Grozny. The construction is expected to commence in 2020.
The projected new terminal at the Saratov airport is one more of the new Russian airports with daring architecture, not only functionality but beauty, too. Saratov on the Volga River and with a population of some 850 thousand will have this airport up and running in 2019.
The Irkutsk airport will be modernized with this new terminal in 2020. Irkutsk is a city of 600 thousand people near the Lake Baikal.
Krasnodar, Russia’s fastest growing city, in the South of the country will get a new airport and air city hub by 2023.
This new terminal in Nalchik is due by 2020. Nalchik is a city of 300 thousand situated at an altitude of 550 meters (1,800 ft) in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is Russia’s easternmost big city situated on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Interestingly, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is actually situated quite a bit eastward from Tokyo if you go by the latitude of geographic coordinates. That should really give you an idea how huge Russia is. This new airport terminal will be erected there by 2021.
As part of Putin’s drive to develop Russia’s Far East, Khabarovsk will get a new modern airport terminal by 2019. Further the airport will be developed into a logistic hub with an air city consisting of business centers, hotels and an exposition center. Khabarovsk, a city of more than half a million people, is located at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers about 800 kilometers north of Vladivostok and only 30 kilometers from the Chinese border.
Chelyabinsk is just to the east of the Ural Mountains and 210 kilometers south of Yekaterinburg. This city with more than 1 million inhabitants will soon get this new airport terminal which is due in 2019. The construction was spurred by the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization summits to be held in Chelyabinsk in 2020.
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk with a population of 200 thousand is on the Sakhalin island, one thousand kilometer west from the Kamchatka Peninsula. Their new airport terminal is due by end of 2019 so as to accommodate growing needs of tourism and business.
We will round off this survey with this impressive new airport terminal which will be erected in Gelendzhik. Gelendzhik is a Black Sea resort 250 kilometer west from Sochi. In fact, between Sochi and Anapa on the whole coast, there are no high quality resorts except for Gelendzhik, but this one is truly a gem. The new terminal will be built by 2021. Gelendzhik is the only one in our survey which does not presently have the status of international airport, but that should be taken care of by the time this new airport is done. With Gelendzhik completed, Russia’s Black Sea region will have six modern large airports – Sochi, Gelendzhik, Anapa, Simferopol, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don – in a matrix of roughly 300 kilometers between airport. That is an impressive density in itself and doubly remarkable considering there was not a single decent airport there before 2009. Considering also the road building happening in the region, the area is on its way to develop into a Russian Provence, with which it already shares the climate and nature.
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