Strategic Futures or Tactical Espionage?

In 2008/9 Dutch architectural agency KCAP has developed, together with a few parties, a strategic master plan for Russian city Perm. Once a nighty industrial (and military) center of Russian, then Soviet empire, the city start decaying and loosing its economic and political power, and attractiveness for its dwellers. Outmigration has reached a dangerous level, threatening to depopulate the city and the region. In an effort to revert these negative economic and social developments, the city administration initiated a large-scale program of revitalization and cultural rehabilitation of Perm, aimed to transform it in more livable and culturally rich a place.

The KCAP’s Masterplan that “describes opportunities and development directions over an extensive period of thirty, forty or even fifty years and adopts the Compact City approach” was hailed by both the professionals (it a won a number of awards) and the general public alike. It informed and inspired numerous related initiates, including new design of urban spaces, special ‘city font’, still a unique case for Russia, and extensive cultural program.

Now this story takes a new twist. As reported by the Russian media, the FSB (=Federal Security Service, Russian blend of CIA and FBI) accused several city officials in a misconduct when arranging the contracts with foreign firms and – more importantly – in passing them a “secret cartographic data that contain information about the mobilization capacity and resources of the city”. There are few reports about the lawsuit in the Russian media, including in the influential Kommersant business daily, and I already found a short story in the Dutch-language online media.


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