Putin the Pontiff – Bridge Maker

Jon Hellevig

Putin the Pontiff – Bridge Maker

05.05.2016 1 Comment

The word pontiff derives from the Latin pontifex, which in itself is the combination of pons for bridge and fex (facere) meaning to make. Probably building bridges was the most high-tech activity in the Roman times and therefore it found its way to denote the most prominent priests in ancient Rome. Later the honorary title was appropriated by the Christian Church to refer to a bishop and today is most often used in relation to the Pope.

But, it is Vladimir Putin that has emerged as the real pontifex-bridge maker of our times. He is of course so in many figurative senses but also in very concrete action. Thing is that Putin has built more bridges in Russia than all the other leaders combined through history. Now, I said Putin has built bridges but naturally he has not built them personally but ordered them to be built and created the conditions for that. The reader will know that Putin’s detractors, both domestic and Western, want to assign every ill that happens in Russia – and for them nothing good has ever occurred in Russia in the last 15 years – to Putin personally. This being the case, we might as well commend Putin for all the progress, in fact, to a big degree it has come about through his personal agency.

The case of bridges is doubly interesting in view of the Western media narrative, which would like us to believe that if there has been any progress at all, then it has merely touched the glistening oil-fueled capital, Moscow. “Go ten kilometers outside the Moscow outer ring road and you will see the real crumbling Russia”, they say.  Therefore, I will offer this snapshot to the impressive infrastructure investments in bridges, which have occurred during Putin’s tenure at the helm of Russia.  Somebody’s got to tell it, because the Russian government is not very good at parading its achievements.

Of the 25 longest bridges in Russia, 16 have been built in 2000 or later, that is, after Putin first took office. The combined length of all those bridges is 61,379.5 meters, of this total the new ones (since 2000) stretch 40,000.5 meters, or two thirds of the total length.

For clarity of comparison, I included in the sample only bridges that reach over a river or water body, excluding any kind of overpasses or overhead roads. If those would be included then the comparison in favor of the after 2000 would be altogether devastating. Same of course if all the bridges beyond the 25 longest would be included.

And yet, my figures did not include the crowning glory, the bridge under construction over the Kerch strait which will stretch 19 kilometers joining the liberated Crimean peninsula with mainland Russia.

Below follows, a photo-tour to the 16 longest bridges built since 2000.

1. The crowning glory, the Kerch Bridge to Crimea, 19 km, to be finished 2018


2. President Bridge, over the Volga at Ulyanovsk, 5,825 meters, 2009


3. Bridge over the Amur Bay, Vladivostok, 4362 meters, 2012


4. Rail road bridge over the Yuribey, 3893 meters, 2009


5. Bolshoy Obukhovsky Bridge, St. Petersburg, over the river Neva, 2884 meters, 2007


6. Volgograd Bridge, 2514 meters, 2009


7. Saratov Bridge, over the Volga, 2351 meters, 2000/2009


8. Temerintsky Bridge, Rostov-on-Don, 2255 meters, 2010


9. Yugorsky Bridge, over the river Ob, Siberia, 2110 meters, 2000


10. Bugrinsky Bridge, over the Ob, Novosibirsk, 2097.5 meters, 2014


11. Russian Bridge, Vladivostok, 1886 meters, 2012


12. Krasavinsky Bridge, over the river Kama in Perm, 1737 meters, 2005


13. Kineshma Bridge, over the Volga, 1646 meters, 2003


14. Academic Bridge, over the river Angaru in Irkutsk, 1615 meters, 2013


15. Kola Bay Bridge, Murmansk, 1611 meters, 2009


16. Boguanchi Bridge, Krasnoyarsky region, 1611 meters, 2011


17. Bridge over the rivers Kama, Arkharovka and Kurlyanka, 1608 meters, 2002

– In fact, the bridge is much longer factoring in its total length stretching 13,967 meters, only the part over the river Kama was 1608 meters. (But for modesty I included only the 1608 meters in the calculations).


1 Comment

  1. Reply



    Thanks Jon.
    Another probing, refreshing article about what's really going on in Russia.
    Modern day bridge-building as a metaphor for the country's general energetic progress and prosperity speaks volumes.
    Unfortunately for Americans it also speaks volumes in reverse, as U.S. infrastructure crumbles almost to the point of disintegration. Hopefully under new leadership America can abide by Russia's and Mr. Putin's constructive mindset.

    Thank you(1)

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