Although we spent the majority of the day on the bus, it was quite the experience and gave much to think about. The drive through St. Petersburg only took about a half hour, which then translated into Leningrad filled with old soviet architecture and tall buildings, and finally to the natural terrain on the way to the heartland. The way in which this transition occurred and the differences in each step spoke so deeply to the history and current state of living in Russia and its development.
First off, it is pretty apparent that money and power are centralized in Russia's two major cities. The amount of care put into the infrastructure just outside of the city is noticeably different and seems to be stuck in the soviet era. Then as one moves on, the effort and care put into the heartland and even the roads themselves seems to be almost nonexistent, at least in comparison. This level of separation between the three leads to a very cyclical reaction as to why change is not rapidly approaching the different areas. For example, as we were driving along, I could not help but think that I would never want to drive on these roads, picturing my car off the side of the road stuck in snow. Safety and inconvenience are most likely the major factors in the lack of visitors or residents in Russia’s heartland, which affects the development of these areas. Since there is not as much demand for development, the resources and time will inevitably not be put into improving infrastructure, yet people will not go out to these areas unless this is done. With this being said, Alina did say there has been improvements since she was younger, which I definitely believe, such as more gas stations and attempts to bring tourism to the heartland, like in Vytegra. She said this was due to the increase in car owners since the Soviet period. While this may be the case, it has been a slow development, and I do not see the process speeding up, with the aforementioned cyclical problem and the harsh natural world into which development would occur.
The surrounding environment on the way to Vytegra is also something to be mentioned, since it held similarities to places like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, while also portraying some major differences. One is that there are no shoulders on the road or guard rails, which became apparent when I became sick on the road and we couldn’t pull off immediately. This is something that is taken for granted in the U.S. and the importance is never realized until the convenience is gone. This adds to the reason people may not make the trek out to the heartland, yet much may not be able to be done on this front since the climactic and environmental conditions of the area are so harsh. Overall, the connections and implications of the infrastructure of the heartland and St. Petersburg are not hidden by any means and bring forth many layers of Russian life today.