GaWC Research Bulletin 290

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A revised version of this Research Bulletin has been published in E. Vinokurov (ed) (2008) Eurasian Integration Yearbook 2008 Almaty: Eurasian Development Bank, pp. 115-135.

Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


The Metropolisation of the FSU: Temptative Measurement via the Method of Hyperlinks Notoriety

U. Agibetova* and I. Samson**


It was written that with the collapse of the USSR, the space of Russia, like all the CIS, does not enter the logic of metropolisation in terms of spatial organization. Historically, the Soviet urban world has been built on other spatial principles than the occident ones, and its legacy is reflected by existence of large industrial cities networks. The advanced services were considered as unproductive as shown by their absence. But today FSU still manifests itself as a space of monopolar territorial organization, where Moscow is the only one to be qualified as a global city. However, this territory, being the largest in the world, can no longer operate from a single global city. The measurement of cities’ metropolisation is not a simple task, especially in the post-Soviet context. On the basis of Brunn (2003) we set up a new method of measuring the metropolisation through the number of hyperlinks in Internet search engines. The general issue of this paper tackles with the question: Does FSU run patterns of Western metropolisation or it is a specific model marked by the historical legacy that emerges in the post-communist world? To answer this question the paper starts with to the presentation of our tools of observation and the measurement of studied processes, and then it develops the analysis and the interpretation of results.

Keywords: Metropolisation, Hyperlinks, Global Economy, Integration Process, FSU

JEL: D830, D850, F020, F150, F230, O180, R000, R110, R280, Y100


For years the global economic activity has been controlled by the global cities whose geographic distribution by continents is unbalanced. These global cities, concentrating advanced services of international level, have also decision-making abilities and represent, jointly with the MNF and the States, a dimension of global economic command. It has been even written that the power of a State is measured today by the influence of its cities (Claval, 1997; Scott, 1998, 2001).

Despite countless works on the phenomena of metropolisation, the agreement is far from being unanimous among economists on the definition of this word, on the implications of the processes that underlie it and on the precise content of the concepts (Derycke, 1999). Nevertheless, the existing consensus admits that city in order to become a global city must meet four conditions: the dominance of advanced services; the function of internal command which organize its territory – the hinterland; the hub function – commuter of flows with other global cities and the global economy; the function of the concentration pole of activities (Veltz, 1996; Lacour, 1999; Marchand, Samson, 2003).

In addition, the international scientific community is almost unanimous in considering metropolisation as a global movement, including a set of dynamic processes that transforms city in a global city. These processes blend with strengthened dynamic processes of agglomeration, proximity and interaction between agents gathered in a dense area: men, firms, organizations. Metropolisation requires the networking of activities and territories and seeks to organize better the complexity through coordination, regulation and social cohesion (Derycke, 1999). At the same time, the metropolisation is a process of insertion into the world economy, which is accompanied by forms of specific urban development: differentiation of functions and suburban sprawl (Puissant, 1999)1.

One of the geopolitical lessons of the world cities hierarchy conducted by the GaWC (Beaverstock, 1999, 2000; Taylor, 2001; Fossaert, 2001) is that under equal dimension, countries with multipolar urban network are much better represented than countries with monopolar network and tradition (P. Marchand, 2008). The Former Soviet Union (FSU) places only Moscow in this ranking (Saint Petersburg, Almaty and Tashkent are considered as potential world cities), while Germany places 5 cities and the USA, 11.

Undoubtedly, it was after 1992 that the CIS has begun to integrate into the process of globalisation. But today it still manifests itself as a space of monopolar territorial organization, where Moscow is the only one to be qualified as a global city. However, this territory, being the largest in the world, can no longer operate from a single global city. In other words, structurally, the CIS is not a territorial configuration adapted to the current phase of globalisation. In fact, the entire space of the CIS has not yet been inserted to the economic logic of metropolisation. As shown by P. Marchand (2007) for Russia, so far at the regional level, the CIS is still organised by politico-administrative capitals with “vampire” behaviour towards their environment (Marchand, 2007).

Historically, the Soviet urban world has been built on other spatial principles than the Western ones, and its legacy is reflected by the existence of large industrial cities networks. These cities during the Soviet era were intended primarily to gather material production capacities. On the contrary, they had neither intellectual skills nor decision-making abilities. The advanced services were considered as unproductive as shown by their absence (Brender, 1977), while their presence is regarded in Western literature as the first sign of metropolisation. Moreover, these large industrial cities, being only a mediocre nodal point, could hardly be this place of intermediation such as global cities (Bensahel L., P. Marchand, 2005, p.217-222).

The measurement of cities’ metropolisation is not a simple task, especially in the post-Soviet context. A number of studies have been devoted to the western cities and those in the CEECs (Friedman, 1986; Samson, 1996; Sassen, 2001; GaWC, 1999, 2000, 2001; Cicille and Rozenblat, 2003; Bourdeau - Lepage, 2003; Brunn, 2003; Duféal, 2004; Agibetova, 2008). However, measurement methodologies are still rather vague. As for major cities of the FSU, they are white spot in the global analysis of the metropolisation2.


The paper focuses on the evaluation of metropolisation through the entire space of the FSU (twelve republics of the CIS, plus three Baltic States)3 represented by a sample of 584 large observed cities (Figure 1).

The general issue takles with following question: Can we say that this region runs patterns of Western-like metropolisation or is it a specific model marked by the historical legacy that emerges in the post-communism? Indeed, with the collapse of the USSR, the space of Russia as well as of the whole CIS did not enter the logic of metropolisation in terms of spatial organization (Marchand, Samson, 2008). There are five characteristics that deprive the post-Soviet cities from any metropolitan function (Marchand, 2007; Marchand, Samson, 2003).

Firstly, any city was conceived as a cluster of factories. In this system all services such as accounting, catering, recruitment, etc. have been internalized within each firm. Thus, on the scale of a city there was no place for services enterprises. Regarding business services, they were concentrated in Moscow ministries.

Secondly, since economic regulation was directly implemented by the state in communist economy and that money played no active role (Pierson, Von Mises, Hayeck et al., 1939), there was no power of financial command in large post-Soviet cities. This means that there was no stock exchange, no insurance nor banks with the exception of the state bank.

Thirdly, research and technology were under the tight control of the political and security services. Hence, innovation has never been able to fertilize economic activity, like this happens in the Western metropolisation processes, because of the containment of research (Andreff, 2003; Brunat, 1995). The spatial dispersion of units for strategic reasons, limiting and monitoring close contacts between researchers, has prevented the phenomenon of technology clustering.

Another issue is that large Soviet cities had only a few services that could generate an area of influence: hospital services and universities. The latter were reduced according to their academic higher education.

Finally, the split into regions of Russian space and the CIS as a whole deserves to be mentioned. This territorial organisation specific to the post-Soviet transition has as a result blocked of economic effects of metropolisation (Samson, Greffe, 2002; Marchand, Samson, 2008).

Taking into consideration these spacial particularities, can we say that after seventeen years of transition the post-Soviet space is moving towards a logic of integration into the global world through metropolitan patterns conditioned by the opening towards the world space, where global cities act as a node of interconnection? Or are we witnessing the formation of a new hybrid model in the stage pof gestaion, caused by many obstacles faced by metropolisation that requires voluntary acts of political power?

The general issue outlined includes six sub-issues which will serve as reference in the interpretation of observations.

1) Are we witnessing a unipolar or multipolar metropolisation across the FSU? It is known that the post-Soviet Central and Eastern Europe (in its transitional period between the fall of the Soviet Union and accession to the EU) has been strongly influenced by the “global city-effect” over regional disparities (Samson, 1996). This effect specific to the transition is the presence of the capital-effect where flows of finance, Western experts and FDI arrive first in the capitals, which thus increase their gap with the rest of the country. The logic of unilateral concentration fades then more or less rapidly in the long term by a diffusion effect leading to the convergence process. Hence, it is interesting to know whether the space of the CIS, where Moscow is a regional “capital”, with twelve capitals of Independent States (plus three Baltic capitals), may move towards a multipolar metropolistation or not.

2) Meanwhile, since there is pre-eminence of Moscow, does the Moscow polarization strengthen or fade? It was noted that the Russian urban network lost is dynamics when Moscow keeps expanding without control. Its weight in advanced services is overwhelming (Marchand, 2007). Are we facing a beginning of decentralization? The tools we created will enable us toanswer this question.

3) Is there a dynamics of metropolisation converging towards certain privileged centres? As Carluer and Sharipova revealed (2001), the existence of a regional divergence process in terms of per capita incomes and productivities is a reality in Russia (Carluer, Sharipova, 2001). However this regional divergence, measured by beta and sigma convergence, may reveal both the increasing weight of Moscow and the gestation of alternative metropolitan centres in Russia. The method of hyperlinks will allow identifying if other cities start the process of metropolisation both as centres that control their territory and as hubs for interconnection with the world space in the direction of the archipelago economy (Veltz, 1996).

4) Is the metropolisation we can observe driven by economic or political forces? In other words, the cities that emerge are they capitals or not? The issue considers the possibility of a specific post-Soviet metropolisation which is driven “from the top” and will initially involve some capital-cities. In fact, the space of the CIS is extremely divided with a very pronounced space discontinuity which hampers the metropolisation forces driven by the market (Marchand, Samson 2008).

5) What are the metropolisation areas appearing in the FSU? In this regard, taking into consideration the vast space and heterogeneity of the regional territory of the CIS, it would be useful to define the logics by identifying areas of metropolisation. Are there internal logics such as the domination of Russia (Linn, 2006)? Or there are some external logics which prevail as the attractiveness of Europe on the one hand and Asia on the other (Locatelli, 2004; Samson, 2004)? What is the reality of Central Asia (Samson, Tsoy, 2004) or the South Caucasus (Frichova, 2007) as sub-regions of the CIS? Do these regions escape of the Russian centrality or the processes of integration are in action?

6) What global areas are associated with FSU sub-spaces? The question of the geopolitics of the CIS anchoring into the global world is gaining its importance. In particular, we will to identify areas that help large post-Soviet space to open up to the world. The Eurasian integration comes on the agenda, benefiting to Russia but also to the entire CIS (Mikami, 2005). However, the issues of CIS integration with Western and Eastern Europe, with Asia (China, Korea, Japan) and South (India, Gulf), through energy policies, outsourcing operations and transportation seam to have an impact on the Eurasian hypothesis (Linn, Tiomkin, 2005; Samaganova, 2008).

To answer these questions we will proceed, firstly, to the presentation of our tools of observation and measurement of studied processes, and then to the analysis and the interpretation of results.


Cities throughout history have emerged and increased in their economic, cultural, and political stature based on the number and extent of their linkages to other places. We are witnessing today in the urban world in many regions of the planet new urban geographies and geometrics or networks. These are “electronic” linkages and they are connecting ancient and new, large and small, cities (Brunn, 2003; Dodge, 2001). These linkages are attributed to advances in ICT and they form the backbone of knowledge economies (Janelle et Hodge, 2000). These specific technologies include Internet and World Wide Web resources. Most parts of the world have been affected by the wired and wireless innovations in ICT during the past decade (Kolarova et alii, 2006). Few large cities in the world have not been linked or wired, at least to some extent.

The observation of these urban linkages or ICT networks within any country or region would demonstrate the degree to which these places are linked to others, either on a global or regional scale (Brunn and Dodge, 2001; Brunn et al., 2002).

In addition, in the context of the FSU, we can get an understanding of the diffusion of Internet technologies by considering the number of web-pages or hyperlinks for major cities. For Brunn (2003), the founder of this approach, data sources as an instrument of measuring the number of hyperlinks for any city can be obtained by using Internet search engines. In our case, we used Google and Yahoo (global engines), Yandex and Rambler (local Russian engines). The number of hyperlinks obtained by entering the single city name as a key word represents its “Simple Notoriety”. The same by the entering the couple of cities measures their “Joint Notoriety”. What does it mean for a city to occur in the WWW network through a hyperlink? What information do carry Simple and Joint Notorieties?

For a city, being quoted represents the level of its engagement in the global economy. The two Notorieties are the two levels of the modern city's world-articulation. The “Simple Notoriety” is the capacity of a city to impose its notoriety within the world space as a centre of command. The “Joint Notoriety” is the degree of the “connectivity” between two cities which evaluates the ability tyo work as a commuter with the global network of the world-cities. At the same time, it is also the indicator of the city opening towards the global economy and its integration level on the international scene. In the context of the FSU space, the city's notoriety obtained via global engines is qualified as its external notoriety. The same obtained by regional engines is its internal notoriety.

Therefore, after Brunn (2003), we have been trying to elaborate a new indicator of the metropolisation - an “Internet-Notoriety” indicator. It proved to be a good instrument of the metropolisation measuring process which adds to the list of hierarchy indicators of world cities in the context of knowledge economy. Moreover the “Internet-Notoriety” perfectly reflects the cognitive function or reputation hub of the city where people and activities agglomerate in the city in order to benefit from the clustering of advanced services as finance, information, research or culture. In the urban context, cyberspace has contributed to the reconstruction of urban space by creating the social environment in which “being digital” is a factor increasingly crucial for knowledge, wealth, status and power (Wheeler, Aoyama, Warf, 2000). At the time of the “City of Bits” (Mitchell, 1995) when social life is mediated through computer networks, the reconstruction of interpersonal relationships around spaces and virtual societies, gains the upper hand. In addition, at the time when the quantity of available information makes of economic intelligence a strategic resource, the ability to exist in cyberspace is increasingly a condition for the exercise of economic command. For all these reasons, we do believe that the “Internet-Notoriety” is an indicator well suited to the approach of the reality of metropolisation.

The results of our investigation in dynamics during the period 2004-2007 have demonstrated that the global and regional search engines represent two different visions of the world (Agibetova, 2008). The global search engines provide a “global vision” that considers the state of the opening of the CIS “as seen by outside world”. The regional search engines run through the vision from “the small world” – world opening viewed through internal “glasses”. In what measure these two visions differ? Both are characterized by cultural polarization, which includes history, language, and cognitive proximity.

Russian search engines Rambler, headquartered in Moscow, and Yandex, headquartered in Moscow with subsidiaries in Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kiev, Odessa, Simferopol are extremely regional, reflecting trends that affect processes happening only within Russian space. They make “grow” Russian and FSU cities by an “optical effect” that puts in the background all other FSU spaces. We have an image of metropolisation altered in favour of Russian cities where the Internet-Notoriety of other areas is understated.

Besides, the second feature of regional search engines discovered thanks to the construction of regression charts and the ratio of connectivity (Agibetova, 2008) is that in the measurement of metropolisation they are significantly impregnated by the size of the city's population. This distortion can be corrected through the global search engines, Google and Yahoo, whose “global vision” of the integration and opening processes helps to balance things. The analysis of global search engines’ data (including the construction of ratios, regression charts and zone typologies) has demonstrated their heuristic power.

The analysis of metropolization phenomena through the prism of the Internet represents in our opinion a double improvement. It is important to take into account the real importance of the knowledge economy in the contemporary world and its spatial organization. It is also a new form of “subjectivity” that appears through cyberspace structured here by the search engines: the indirect capture of metropolisation through Internet and the occurrence of hyperlinks produces a “reflected” image by one of the communities that make up cyberspace, described by a search engine. In other words, we start analysing the relations begins between the immediate spaces of the spatial economy and mediates or “reflected” space of the cyberspaces. In this sense the use of “regional” search engines is able to provide new information reflecting the specificity of the post-Soviet space of intermediation. It proved to be quite efficient for reflecting the complex Russian gravitation and influence within FSU, difficult to catch with other tools. The hyperlink notoriety provides thus an original contribution to the analysis of globalisation and to describe the relationship between regional integration and globalization.

Like any tool, the use of Internet hyperlinks contains biases that must not be neglected. These are homonyms of some cities, such as Samara, for example, which is a Russian city and a car model, or Odessa5, which is an Ukrainian port and a district of New York. It may also be breaking news like elections and referendum in Belarus (October 17, 2004) or Transnistria (December 6, 2006). As our tool is a measurement of occurrence of the names, these phenomena boost artificially the presence of some cities in cyberspace at a given moment and we had to correct these biases.


The analysis of all rankings shows that post-Soviet cities, leaving the USSR after seventeen years of transition mostly in direction to market economy and democracy, have failed to integrate into the global world and to win the worldwide reputation. This observation is valid even for Moscow which is a global city of beta-category according to the classification of GaWC (Taylor, 2001). Indeed, we find that the number of regional search engines’ hyperlinks is twice higher than that of global search engines (Table 1). It means that in 2007 the simple notoriety of FSU cities has a regional character.

Thus, taking into consideration the specificities of the post-Soviet mono-centred economy we can say that the FSU space does not follow classic the patterns of metropolisation. In order to be “metropolised” it needs some impulses from the top. Here, we distinguish the notion of economic metropolisation (“from the bottom”) and political metropolisation (“from the top”). The first, known also as “western-like metropolisation” happens first by the market, driven by economic processes via local actors. The second is, firstly an administered process where metropolisation, hampered by the space discontinuity and various conflicts, must be supported by the top - the government (Marchand, Samson, 2008). This metropolisation “from the top” may favour or not the construction of homogenous economic space, and promote or not the economic metropolisation ensuring space the market continuity.

In the whole, the post-Soviet urban space shows some zonal distortions. In particular, the polarity “East-West” imposes and the “North-South” divide dominates. The polarity “East-West” dominates over the post-Soviet space. It is due to the attraction of Europe which seems to be very pronounced nearby Western cities like Moscow, St-Petersburg, Kiev, Odessa, Minsk, Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius. The more we go to the East, the less FSU space is “metropolized”. The “North-South” divide is the logic where the weight of Russian slows down the metropolisation of the Southern CIS. Central Asia, Caucasus and some Russian and Ukrainian cities seem to be poorly integrated into the global space. In this divide we observe, however, three Southern cities - Baku, Tbilisi and Odessa – with a relatively significant simple notoriety.


Moscow is the absolute leader according to regional and global search engines. It is in the forefront of all rankings. Its values are far above other cities, which is no longer the case for any other observed city (tab.1). This leads us to talk about “monocentrism”. The “jealous” Russian capital city is strongly monopolizing almost all advanced services and most connections with outside channel through it. The conclusion is that the overwhelming weight of Moscow is blocking the influence of any other centres. As a matter of fact, the advanced services of other cities are limited within their own territory. Moscow advanced services companies have financial bargaining power negotiations with regional authorities in developping their activities throughout the territory of the whole CIS. This “feodalisation” is prolonging the centralization which promotes the economic expansion of Moscow groups and blocks the development of metropolitan services in biggest post-Soviet centres (P. Marchand, 2007). We are currently witnessing a unipolar metropolisation across the CIS space. Nevetherless, a very light diminishing of Moscow’s pre-eminence occurred during the period of 2004-2007.


We examined during the period 2004-2007 whether alternative candidate cities to Moscow in Russia or elsewhere in the FSU are emerging or not. One of the interesting questions is to measure the resilience of administrative metropolisation. We will read the results through the different methods that we developed and begin by measuring the Simple Notoriety.

As a basis of our rankings, a typology of integration ratio has been developed (Table 2). It gives us a valuable reading, including a general situation of the metropolisation process within the FSU space. The observed cities are grouped according to the strength of their simple notoriety into 4 categories:

  1. Confirmed candidate global cities: strong in external and internal notoriety
  2. Extraverted candidate global cities: strong in external notoriety
  3. Introverted cities: strong in internal notoriety
  4. Cities with weak simple notoriety

For the better classification two metropolitan trajectories have been identified. The first is the dynamic where a city owns or earns over time a strong simple notoriety, both internal and external. We will say that this city is a candidate global city in the strict sense where the city installs his command on its territory (the hinterland) while highlighting the connection (hub) with the global space. The second trajectory is the dynamic where a city opens, first of all, with a strong external notoriety. Thus, it is an extraverted candidate global city. In this case, it is possible that over time, it opens also to inside, winning a strong internal notoriety. What are the engines of such logic of metropolisation? We consider that the city that is already open to the global world will use these resources to integrate into its regional environment afterwards.

Let’s divide cities in 4 sub-categories: Russian capital-cities and FSU capital-cities; Russian non-capital-cities and FSU non-capital-cities.

Confirmed Candidate Global Cities

In the category of “confirmed candidate global cities” among capital-cities and non-capital-cities we find, firstly, two Ukrainian cities, Kiev the capital and Odessa a port city and second economic strength of Ukraine, whose rankings have proven their metropolitan potential (Agibetova, 2008). Minsk’s ranking is altered by bias caused by the presidential elections (March 19, 2006). Baku is placed here thanks to its oil resources and its strategic position on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which benefits to the global players (Samson, 2008). It loses nevertheless its ranking in dynamics.

Riga, which dropped in the hierarchy in dynamics, is the only Baltic capital-city which appears as a influential city both in the CIS space and Europe, despite its integration into the EU and the disintegration of the FSU. Having always been, during the time of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, the largest port and the strategic centre of the Baltic countries with a very strong infrastructure and industrial base, it currently manages to continue performing this function of geopolitical trade crossroads. Thus, the Hanseatic port of Riga still plays the role of a trade hub between Russia and Western Europe, including the trafficking of oil of Ventspils (P. Marchand, 2007, p.52). All this serves as a strong catalyst for the continuation of a stable integration within the CIS. Also, we should not forget the cultural influence of the Riga city. Since it is the largest territory, the most populated and has a cultural image, better known in regards to its capitals-neighbours; the Latvian Riga attracts more visitors and tourists. That is why Riga, which had the largest external notoriety in 2004 among the three Baltic capitals, managed not to disintegrate from the post-Soviet space of the CIS. This is, by the way, a huge advantage in the sense of the global economy compared with its Baltic neighbours.

As for Russian non-capital-cities, Saint-Petersburg is in the lead position. Speaking of metropolitan functions, by its demographic weight, its cultural status, its advanced services, functions of command, its nodal position on the flows, the city has a favourable situation compared to other Russian cities (Agibetova, 2008). The impetuous development of its software cluster contributes to its strength (Samaganova, 2008). Should Russia have only one global city other than Moscow, it will be Saint-Petersburg (Marchand, 2008). On the post-Soviet scale, the question that arises is the future of its influence in the Baltic area, especially because of the rivalry of Riga and Tallinn.

Russian non-capital-cities of the regions of Ural-Siberia and Volga, as Yekaterinburg (descending in dynamics), Novosibirsk, Kazan, Samara (ascending in dynamics)6 and Perm (descending in dynamics) also find their places in this category. Their good internal and external integration is confirmed by all our analytical tools that designate them without hesitation as candidate global cities. Nevertheless, we observe the presence of some bias in Kazan’s notoriety which is the only large city in this category having the capital status of Federated Republic. Kazan, controlled by national paternalistic authorities (Torrivelec, 2003), bears all major risk factors of instrumentalization of metropolitan power by politics (Marchand, 2008).

Also, the presence of Russian non-capital-cities of the East as Vladivostok and Irkutsk (descending in dynamics) does attract our attention. Our multivariate territorial analyses dedicated solely to Russian cities have shown that the Eastern cities situated far from Moscow in terms of geographical location, recently influence their Asian neighbourhood and have more and more success in the rivalry with the Western Russia (Agibetova, 2008).

Extraverted Candidate Global Cities

The first remark about the extraverted cities is the fact that no Russian city finds its place there. The second is that most are FSU capitals. This is confom to the scheme where primarily the capital-cities open to the world space, and then the rest of the country (Samson, 1996).

Tallinn and Vilnius with their strong European integration due to the EU adhesion are not a surprise in this category. Tbilisi, with the pro-Western orientation of the government, combined with a bias related to the cyclical conflicts with Russia in 2007, demonstrates a strong external notoriety. Yerevan, the pro-Russian capital-city increased by its global Diaspora, is also found in the category of extraverted cities. The presence of Chisinau in dynamics due primarily to the cyclical bias: the presidential elections and tensions on Transnistria.

The major capitals of Central Asia, such as Tashkent, Astana (descending in dynamics) and Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan persisting today as an economic, financial and scientific centre, demonstrate opening to the world space. Let’s recall that Tashkent, Almaty and Saint-Petersburg are the only cities across the CIS space, which are designated as potential global cities by GaWC (Taylor, 2001).

The only city in the non-capital category is Kharkov, which despite its geographical location and pro-Russian policy orientation, manages to integrate outside of the CIS space. This shows a certain general disintegration of Ukraine from the CIS space and an orientation towards Europe due to change of politics’ course by President Yuchenko.

Introverted Cities

In this category we do find only large Russian cities: Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Rostov, and Omsk (descending in dynamics). These are the towns which are in the space rivalry for becoming global cities across Russian dimension, as a consequence of their vocation of historical regional centres during the Soviet era, and they manage to keep a strong internal command over too narrow territory of the country (Agibetova, 2008). In order to integrate into the globalized world, much remains to be done for these cities compared to extraverted cities.

The arrival in dynamics of five Russian cities (Saratov, Penza, Astrakhan, Orenburg, and Ulyanovsk) is not surprising. Thanks to their economic development, they gained forces in 2007 and impose their command. Noting that the category of introverted cities serves as a link between candidate global cities and cities weak in simple notoriety, the question of their future integration remains open.

Taking into account the pro-western orientation of Lvov, its climb to the introverted cities is not conforming to reality. First, this is conditioned by the presence in Ukraine (Kiev, Odessa, Simferopol) of Yandex’ subsidiaries. Second, the test showed the presence of strong negative bias due to the multiple spellings of this city, which have not been counted in all our observations.

In conclusion, we can say that despite the strong rule of Moscow, a convergence process towards candidatures to the metropolitan function is starting on the post-Soviet space. It deals more with capital-cities. This reflects the strong legacy of the Soviet mono-centred system which distinguishes this territory from the Western world in terms of territorial organization and metropolitan articulations. It is quite logical that capital-cities by their vocation of centres (administrative, economic, political, commercial, and cultural) open to global space first. Thus, almost all FSU capitals are involved, with the exception of Minsk, Chisinau and some Central Asian capitals (Bishkek, Dushanbe and Ashgabat). Capital-cities able to compete with Moscow over the long term are likely Kiev and Riga. Among FSU non-capitals (non-Russian) which may impose both as command centres and hubs, we identify the Ukrainian city of Odessa. Most Russian non-capital-cities appear as regional cities in gestation able to influence solely on the Russian space. Among those managing to enter the ranking of confirmed candidates global cities are large cities like Saint-Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Samara, Kazan and Vladivostok.


The measurement of the Joint Notoriety associates the name of a FSU city with that of another city, FSU or non-FSU in the counting of occurrences in search engines. It helps indentifying the areas of integration to which anchor the cities of our sample.

The Joint Notoriety is discussed in two environments - the regional environment (RE) and the global environment (GE) - always measured by two types of search engines. The first is provided by the association of cities to 20 cities of observed FSU area, most of which are the capitals of the 15 relevant countries (Moscow, Kiev, Minsk, Chisinau, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius, Baku, Tbilissi, Yerevan, Tashkent, Astana, Bishkek, Ashgabat, Dushanbe) plus four Russian cities, the largest in population (Saint-Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod) and the former capital of Kazakhstan (Almaty). These twenty cities are seen as centres of command in the regional environment, to which is anchoring the process of regional integration. Thus, this environment will help us to question the process of convergence and to identify city networks in the light of the integration process.

The global environment is reproduced by the association of FSU cities to 18 world cities of alpha, beta and gamma category of GaWC (Shanghai, Delhi, Beijing, Seoul, Istanbul, Tokyo, New York , London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Singapore, Chicago, Toronto, Paris, Milan, Zurich, Dubai, Frankfurt) plus Cyprus regarded as an off-shore area of Russia. The choice of the list of world cities was based on the probable command importance of these world cities on the space of the CIS. The geographic proximity, as well as geopolitical trends of CIS space towards global cities and vice versa were also taken into account. The global environment is used to estimate the degree of commitment of CIS cities in the network of global cities as well as to reveal the potential candidate-cities.

To characterize the phenomena, large matrix tables involving two cities were built (Agibetova, 2008). For better visibility, the data was sorted so that we could focus on cities demonstrating a strong joint notoriety.

A clarification of terminology is needed (Agibetova, 2008). Towns in column are called “centres of internal/external command”; cities in row - “gravitational cities”. Note that a city can be in both categories. What are the reasons of such a categorization? The command centres are large centres with a high potential of regional/global influence in terms of economic, political, financial command. The gravitational cities are potential hubs through which channels the “stream” of metropolitan network (s) where gravity occurs.

The terms of “opening” and “integration” will no longer be used as synonyms. “Opening” will deal wit the global environment, “integration” - the regional one, knowing that “opening” is “integration” in the global economy.

We will rely mainly on the results of global search engines because according to our observations regional ones have shown poor performance in the measurement of joint notoriety.

Regional Environment

For simplicity a zonal typology was used. In 2004, we observe in a column a break into two sub-zones between the Slavic-European” (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine plus the Baltic states) with a strong joint notoriety and the zone of “Southern Caucasus and Central Asia” where the processes of integration are held to a lesser degree. This zonal cut means clearly a delay of the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia in terms of integration into the regional environment.

Thus, the internal integration processes are concentrated in the Slavic-European zone of the CIS territory (see Table 3). All cities are relatively well integrated, and the Baltic region, followed by Kiev and Minsk, impose by their command. In contrast to the rankings of the simple notoriety, Saint-Petersburg has a very low degree of integration. This means that the city has an international image, but it does not impose as a command centre in its region.

Because of ethno-territorial conflicts (the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan) and their remote location (Central Asia to the East)7 from the Slavic-European area, the integration processes in Southern Caucasus8 and Central Asia are much less strong. The heterogeneous Southern Caucasus moves towards integration with the Slavic-European zone, while Central Asia more homogenous9 being land-locked and isolated from other regions focuses on internal integration processes only in this region.

In 2007, the zonal break of the regional environment in two clubs, the “high” one and the “low” one in level of integration becomes obsolete, distortion decreases and integration is widespreading (Table 4). In contrast to the year 2004, values rebound and converge towards a relative balance: Moscow is losing some joint notoriety while other cities have in the contrary a certain increase. This trend reflects the decline of the pre-eminence of Moscow on the one hand and the convergence of metropolisation to the FSU capital cities and some major Russian cities on the other hand. The relational integration between cities becomes more visible over the Internet through the global search engines: there is indeed a certain entry of regional integration into the globalization.

Besides, the rate of internetisation of central and eastern regions of Russia as well as in the rest of the CIS increased significantly between 2004 and 2007 (Agibetova, 2008). This increased penetration of the WWW system through the FSU space has a certain impact on the image of convergence.

At the end of the year 2007, some centrifugal forces took place on the territory of Russia, despite Moscow resistance. The Baltic capitals lose much influence in the CIS considering the integration with the EU followed by the accession. The Southern Caucasus region is experiencing beautiful trends in intra-regional10 integration while Central Asia is opening more towards Russia11.

Reading the observations in row, it is still the category of FSU capital-cities (as in the analyses of the simple notoriety) which shows the convergence of metropolisation towards certain privileged centre. Baltic capital-cities are leading as the strongest gravitational cities. As for non-capital cities, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Odessa, Vladivostok and Irkutsk dominate this space.

In conclusion, the results of analysis of the regional environment demonstrated the presence of certain centrifugal forces à la Krugman (1991) affecting both the space of Russia and the whole FSU territory, despite the resistance of jealous Moscow. The latter, as a result of centripetal forces, is still a leader, but with a rise of opposing forces penetrating the CIS. They come primarily from capitals, which are in a favourable situation in terms of metropolisation. As for the metropolization spaces taking shape in the FSU, is the Slavic-European zone, with Kiev, Minsk, Odessa and the Baltic capitals who command the post-Soviet space. The Caucasus is experiencing beautiful dynamic trends in integrating more at an intra-regional level and with the slave-European area. The Central Asia manifests the largest deficit of metropolisation, but cooperation in energy and aerospace drives the recent dynamism of integration between Central Asia and Russia.

Global Environment

The 19 cities making the global environment of CIS cities can be divided into four geographical areas: Europe, Pacific (East Asia + West of the USA), Atlantic (East USA + Canada), and the Middle East-South Asia (Table 5 and 6).

The issue of convergence towards capital-cities is still relevant in the global environment. Among the nineteen cities in row, ten are capitals. This confirms that the trend towards the dominance of capitals marks strongly the FSU space. Moreover, if we compare the list of cities of both environments, it is almost the same, except Astana and Irkutsk that disappear in the global environment.

It is interesting to note that in column, the triad of Sassen (2001) - London, New York, Tokyo - does not evenly command within the CIS: the first two have strong links with this space whereas Tokyo is slightly present there. The behaviour of the Japanese global city in terms of hyperlinks coincides with the geopolitical strategies where Tokyo is turning towarsds the Pacific area, with little involvement in “CIS-World” networks. In dynamics the triad improves its cohesion.

Atlantic also has a very stable situation where Chicago and Toronto have strong links with the post-Soviet gravitational cities. Despite the complicated “USA-Russia” relations North America exerts its strong command in the FSU.

Europe reinforces its command on the post-Soviet space through Paris, defined as “soft global city” that is catching up London and New York (Sassen, 2001). But in dynamics, Frankfurt, Milan, Zurich and Cyprus appear as the least active. Europe is in the process of being overtaken by Pacific.

Pacific marks a very pronounced presence with the high command of Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul and Los Angeles. In 2007, Hong Kong shows a very considerable increase in influence on the space of the CIS, which even overpasses the triad. Shanghai, which was in 2004 among the less strong centres of world command reached 2007 the level of Beijing. Henceforth, Pacific as a whole wins in influence, reaching the levels of Atlantic and Europe. This logic reflects the recent development trends of China and the Southeast Asia. We should consider this geopolitical major turning point where the attraction on the FSU of the East becomes stronger than the West.

The Middle East-South Asia (Istanbul, Dubai and New Delhi) is the least present in the space of the CIS. Nevertheless, this area increases via trade flows with the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Far East of Russia.

Reading in rows allows us to identify in FSU space the gravitational centres that begin to anchor to world growth poles. In rows, Moscow started disintegrating from Pacific and the Middle East, which opens a small window of catching up for the rest of the FSU space. The profile for the integration of the Russian capital-city is aimed primarily the European triad, Paris, and then Atlantic (Chicago) and Pacific (Hong Kong and the Los Angeles).

Kiev and Riga as gravitational cities are the most open to the global space. Slightly less open are Tallinn, Odessa, Vilnius, Saint Petersburg and Samara. Let’s not forget that the opening of the Baltic capitals is conditioned by their membership in the EU. Among the Russian non-capitals significant cities, there are Novosibirsk and Vladivostok. The orientation of their international opening is marked by their immediate neighbours. Novosibirsk fits better with the zones of Europe and Atlantic while Vladivostok turned to the Pacific.

Therefore, it appears that the opening of post-Soviet metropolisation spaces is strongly marked by the geographical neighbourhood and geopolitical trends. The Slavic-European zone achors to Europe and Atlantic, while the Far East of Russia, Southern Caucasus and Central Asia are turning increasingly towards the Pacific and Middle East. The proximity of the EU with its enhanced integration on the European continent and with its recent enlargement to the CEECs and neighbourhood policies seems to exert a strong attraction for a part of the CIS space. Thus, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, without mentioning Baltic countries which are already a part of the EU, and Western Russia until Siberia (Irkutsk) open to Western Europe.

The “East-CIS” zone is attracted by the Asian proximity and influence. In this sense, the concept of Eurasia (Linn, Tiomkin, 2005) appears to be seriously questioned out, or considerably shrunk for the Asian side. In any case the CIS is under a double attraction of the West and the East through which it is being integrated into the global economy. One of the challenges of the metropolisation of this immense space is the design of its internal organisation, namely the internal extension of the benefits of economic integration in the context of extraversion.


Metropolisation is a key-issue, which is essential to the CIS for its contemporary economic modernization and its opening to the world space.

The method we developed by the enumeration of occurrence of hyperlinks in global and regional search engines for potential global cities, through their simple and joint notoriety, produced valuable tools for measuring the situation in 2004 and 2007. It helps enriching the knowledge of the studied phenomena by providing new information which reveals as robust.

It also helped developing two new concepts of analysis of regional economic integration. The first one is a new reading of economic integration in the context of knowledge economy through the concept of reflected image by the virtual community in a cyberspace formed by “regional” search engines, namely Russian ones. This regional specificity of the representation of the world, be it global or CIS, is identified by comparison with the images reflected by the global search engines. Furthermore, reading the joint notoriety linking two cities allows a new measurement of economic integration. This approach, which paves the way for an alternative to the gravity theories, is promising because more relevant within economic processes dominated by information and knowledge flows.

Our analysis showed that currently, marked by the Soviet legacy, the CIS space still functions as a mono-centred space, where the only commuter into the world is Moscow. Moscow cannot be the only centre of such an imense territory and the deficit in metropolisation is therefore clear and measurable. In dynamics, both simple and joint notorieties in the regional environment show a slight decline of the Moscow pre-eminence and a certain convergence of metropolisation process towards certain privileged cities.

These cities are first and foremost are capitalt-cities as Kiev, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius, Baku, Tbilissi, Erevan, Tashkent, “Almaty”, but they are also large urban centres such as Saint-Petersburg, Odessa, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Samara and Vladivostok. There is thus a simultaneous movement from the top and from the bottom of the metropolisation process, in other words administrative-political and economic. However, the discontinuity of the economic space in the vast territory could endanger the trend to economic gestation of metropolisation and draw a post-Soviet specificity with dominance of movement from the top.

The analysis of the joint notoriety in the global environment provided a new reading grid of international integration with a twofold anchoring of CIS with Europe and Asia. Located in the middle of “super-continent” of Eurasia, the CIS since the fall of the Iron Curtain is experiencing geopolitical changeovers. At the regional level the ambitions of the Russian domination are in place. The regional integration with Central Asia is increasingly growing, unlike with Southern Caucasus. However, from a global point of view, Russia seems a little lost in its immensity and is not yet able to generate its own metropolisation through homogenous economic space. For metropolisation as well as for integrating global areas, the Russian territory is divided into two zones: West and East. The end of the dream to build a large Eurasia is not necessarily ill-fated if it is the way towards CIS metropolisation. However, Russia is now facing the challenge of its own metropolisation, with the need to develop and to preserve its unity.


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* Uljana AGIBETOVA, European University – Rennes II, ESO - UMR 6590 CNRS, Email:

** Ivan SAMSON, Espace Europe Institute - CREPPEM, Pierre Mendès France University – Grenoble II, Email:

1. The concept of metropolisation is quite strongly European-centred and even, it seems to be used more widespread in France than anywhere else (Derycke, 1999). In Europe, one assimilates global cities to the cities of international class. This is much less clear in the United States and Japan, where the emphasis is made on the urban success in regional and national context (Bailly, 1999).

2. Let us not forget that among the international studies devoted to the hierarchy of world cities no one is devoted to the FSU space. The exception is the recent work of Marchand P. (2007) "The geopolitics of Russia", where the author raises for the first time the issue of metropolisation in major Russian cities. Among others, there has been an ambitious project given up to the “Big Cities and Metropolisation in Russia and Western Europe: similarities of processes, convergence of paths?”, funded by CNRS (2003-2005), led by the team CIRUS-Cieu (Interdisciplinary Centre of Urban and Sociological Research - Interdisciplinary Centre of Urban Studies), University of Toulouse, under the coordination of D. Eckert and V. Kolossov, but no result has emerged.

3. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine.

4. Ashgabat, Almaty, Astana, Astrakhan, Baku, Barnaul, Bishkek, Chisinau, Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk, Douchanbe, Yekaterinburg, Yerevan, Irkutsk, Izhevsk, Karaganda, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Kharkov, Kiev, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Krivoy Rog, Lipetsk, Lvov, Mariupol, Minsk, Moscow, Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhny Novgorod, Nikolaev, Novokuznetsk, Novosibirsk, Odessa, Omsk, Orenburg, Ufa, Ulyanovsk, Penza, Perm, Riga, Rostov on the Done, Ryazan, Saint-Petersbourg, Samara, Saratov, Tallinn, Tashkent, Tbilisi, Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, Tolyatti, Vilnius, Vladivostok, Volgograd, Voronezh, Yaroslavl, Zaporozhye.

5. Nova Odessa in Brazil, 2 cities named Odessa in Canada (in Ontario and Saskatchewan), 8 cities and a lake named Odessa in USA (in Delaware, in Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Washington and Michigan).

6. A positive bias must be stressed, the EU-Russia summit on May 15, 2007

7. It must be said that the region of Central Asia manifests the largest deficit in the process of metropolisation. Thanks to a strong industrial base built during the Soviet era and the presence of oil resources, Tashkent and Almaty fit well within the CIS by inertia expressing a regional command. Bishkek and Ashgabat are the two capitals of the FSU space which are the less involved in metropolisation. As we indicated earlier, Turkmenistan (Ashgabat) is a special case despite the wealth in oil resources, it is a country absolutely introverted under the authoritarian political regime. Regarding Bishkek, its integration and economic development suffer from an acute political instability since the Tulip Revolution. Dushanbe, leaving the war (1992-1997) having just recovered from the military disaster, gradually integrate with the countries of Central Asia as with the CIS.

8. Baku and neighbouring Yerevan integrate barely toghether, while Tbilisi is open to both. This disintegration of Azerbaijan and Armenia is explained by the territorial conflict on the Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh.

9. Unlike the Southern Caucasus, the process of integration in the central Asian network between countries of this region is strong enough and homogeneous. We can see that all the capitals of Central Asia integrate well among themselves, except Ashgabat the Turkmen capital. This is because of the introverted politics of Turkmen-Bachy. The closure of the real space and cyberspace, as we see, is quite pronounced even within this region. It is worth noting that the first Internet cafe in Ashgabat was opened on February 16, 2007 after the request of new President of Turkmenistan, Berdymuhammedov (, 2007). Today, their number is growing at a moderate pace, but they are not popular. It must be said that one hour of Internet connection costs about three euros (average monthly wages did not exceed 30 € in 2005), and most comprehensive information sites are blocked by the sole Internet server. In addition, the presentation of an identity document is required and the name of Internet user goes straight into the archives of the Ministry of Communications.

10. The three capitals are better integrated and more open to the Slavic-European zone with the leadership of Baku.

11. The dynamism of the recent integration of Central Asia with Russia is marked by the integration process especially in the fields of energy and aeronautics (Vinokurov, 2007). In 2006, the Eurasian Development Bank (Inter-governmental bank) with its headquarter in Almaty was inaugurated by Putin and Nazarbayev.

Figure 1 The population of Big Cities in FSU (2005)


Table 1 The First Ten Cities of FSU with Strong Simple Notoriety, Global and Regional Search Engines


Table 2 Integration Ratio Typology, 2004-2007



Table 3 The Joint Notoriety in Regional Environment, Global Research Engines, 2004


Table 4 (a) The Joint Notoriety in Regional Environment, Global Research Engines, 2007


Table 4 (b) The Joint Notoriety in Regional Environment, Global Research Engines, 2007 (the sequel)


Table 5 (a) The Joint Notoriety in Global Environment, Global Research Engines, 2004


Table 5 (b) The Joint Notoriety in Global Environment, Global Research Engines, 2004 (the sequel)


Table 6 (a) The Joint Notoriety in Global Environment, Global Research Engines, 2007


Table 6 (b) The Joint Notoriety in Global Environment, Global Research Engines, 2007 (the sequel)

Edited and posted on the web on 24th November 2008

Note: A revised version of this Research Bulletin has been published in E. Vinokurov (ed) (2008) Eurasian Integration Yearbook 2008 Almaty: Eurasian Development Bank, pp. 115-135