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Siberian Cities Foundering

Since the middle of the last century, more than 200 cities (30 of them with populations that reached over 100,000) were established in Russia's Arctic areas traditionally used by herders for reindeer grazing. Millions of non-Indigenous people moved into Siberia to work in newly established mines and oil and gas fields.

Russia's shift from communism to a market economy in the 1990s was painful for the country, but for northern areas - like the Chukotka region of north-eastern Siberia - the change was simply destructive.

Some cities have lost more than half their populations and many industries, like mining, have shut down altogether. Under the communist system, production costs were given little consideration, but it turned out that mining these areas was unprofitable - it was cheaper to buy minerals from abroad.

Reindeer-raising has been destroyed - the deer population is less than half of what it used to be. Desperate people, with no means of subsistence, hunt anything that moves.

Poaching is commonplace and domestic reindeer hunting has become popular too - for a couple of bottles of vodka, "hunters" are allowed to shoot at defenseless animals.

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