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Sapsan: a parable of Russian modernisation

01 December 2010

For roughly a year now one has been able to travel in comfort on the Sapsan, a high speed train built by German technology conglomerate, Siemens, which makes the 700 or so kilometre trip between the two Russian megacities in just three-and-a-half hours. But the service is unaffordable to non-wealthy Russians; it is glaringly obvious just how far removed this project is from ordinary Russians.
Modernisation in Russia evolves as a top-down process. It tends usually not to consider the needs of the population. But Russia has recetly embarked on a new modernisation debate. The EU should actively support this process and move ahead with its partnership for modernisation with Russia. Such a partnership could provide the EU with a new window of opportunity to promote an understanding of modernisation that is not based on the assumption of automatic trickle-down effects from flagship projects, but rests on the idea of sustainability.