Tyumen: Russia's Best Place to Live?

PHOTO by veronka72 / Depositphotos
For the third year running, Tyumen has been named the best place to live in Russia, chosen from 38 of the country's largest cities

An editor and an architect from Tyumen discuss how much the rating really captures reality.

The quality-of-life rating was designed by the Sociology Department of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation on the basis of many factors, including the state of healthcare, education, housing and utility infrastructure. Tyumen has a population of 720,000 residents, which increased by 23,000 in 2016. This places Tyumen second in terms of population growth rate among Russian cities with between 500,000 and one million residents: the highest population growth was experienced by Krasnodar. Strelka Magazine asked Tyumen residents to share their take on life in “Russia’s most comfortable city” and any possible discrepancies between the rating and reality.

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The embankment in Tyumen

Maria Naumova, chief editor of Tyumen webzine "Neft"

Several years ago, the derelict facade of State Printing Office No.1 was covered with a huge banner saying “Tyumen: The Best City on Earth.” Tyumen residents sometimes use this quote ironically whenever something unpleasant or embarrassing happens, for instance, when the hot water supply is turned off in summer or fake street lights are found on the embankment.

Still, the people of Tyumen talk of their home city with a sense of pride more often than not. The praise is quite deserved – to prove it, let’s take an imaginary trip to Tyumen.

Your flight has just arrived at Roshchino Airport, whose full reconstruction will be completed by the end of 2016. For several years, the Tyumen airport topped the table of the worst airports in Russia: suffice it to say that the arriving passengers would sometimes have to walk all the way to the airport terminal to reclaim their luggage. Today, the local administration is planning to transform Roshchino into an aviation hub, increase the passenger flow and expand the airport’s network of routes.

Roshchino Airport is within easy reach of the city centre and compared with many other parts of Russia, the roads are refreshingly smooth and modern. The city's budget allocations for road building, reconstruction and resurfacing came to $42.9 million in 2016 alone.

The lavish four-level Tura Embankment, built from granite, marble and concrete, is Tyumen’s must-visit attraction and the city's most iconic architectural landmark.

Tyumen is a well-maintained city with many parks and leafy spaces, thanks to the local authorities' implementation of revitalisation projects on several gardens and squares in 2014.

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The public spaces will be linked via a network of cycle lanes, which will reach a total of 200 kilometres in length.

Tyumen offers a great variety of higher education opportunities, including two of the city’s leading institutions, Tyumen State University (TSU) and the Tyumen Industrial University. The latter was established in 2016 as a result of a merger of the Oil and Gas University and the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering. TSU is vying for a place among the Top Hundred Universities in three influential global rankings.

Tyumen’s status as Russia's oil and gas capital has had a marked impact on the university curricula, which enable students to develop their expertise in oil and gas production, the chemical industry, mechanical engineering and economics.

The favourable regulatory and administrative climate and the efficient work of the local authorities completely rule out corruption.

Ekaterina Nagibina, a researcher at the Institute of Architecture at the University of Liechtenstein; graduated from Tyumen State University of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering in 2011; left Tyumen three years ago

I am not particularly keen on ratings of any kind; the fact that Tyumen has been named Russia’s most comfortable city is not necessarily a guarantee of high living standards.

Having graduated from the Tyumen State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in 2011, I decided to continue my professional education in architecture. It took me about a year to choose the right study programme and prepare my documents for submission before I finally left Tyumen in summer 2013. Since then, I've visited my home city at least twice a year and try to spend at least a month there.

It’s funny that Tyumen has remained on top of the rating over the past three years that I have lived elsewhere. However, the enormous poster which declared Tyumen the best city on earth (and conveniently hid the dilapidated front of a former printing office in Pervomayskaya Street) appeared long before any official ratings.

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A house – book-shelve at the gumnasium No. 5 in Tyumen

Tyumen is growing and changing at a breath-taking pace. Every time I come back, my parents drive me home on some new bridge, road or flyover, past a recently built office tower, multi-level car park or shopping mall A lot of attention is paid to the needs of motorists. The carriageway in Respubliki Street, Tyumen’s main road, has already been widened twice – the first time by removing the trees, the second time by reducing the size of the pavements.

On the surface, there's a lot being done to improve Tyumen’s urban environment, however, not many of the improvements have been satisfactory. The city council may have installed fences here and there, painted the kerbs, built a garden with a children’s playground and put up new street lights, but the fences are ugly; the kerbstones look awful with a coat of paint on them, the playground slide was designed to resemble an oil rig (hello?), while the street lamps are too large and too narrowly spaced to be attractive. On the whole, I much prefer a more balanced approach to urban development where any improvement projects form part of a consistent long-term strategy; it doesn’t make much sense to solve individual minor problems in order to secure a top position in a rating.

I think people leave Tyumen, Moscow or any other place for that matter because they have been disappointed by it, not because of the poor roads or ratings. It’s just that we are living in a world of mobility, so if someone has set their mind on leaving, they will do it anyway. I know lots of people who left Tyumen in search of a better elsewhere, and many of those returned to Tyumen and are happy and successful there.