The Wild East

Sinking into poverty amid its natural riches, Vladivostok is almost totally controlled by organized crime.

Issue: Summer 1997

The bluish gray waters of the Golden Horn Bay separate Vladivostok like a moat from the more distant hills, and as the stiff winds blow in from the Sea of Japan, people and cars slip on the ice that coats the city's sidewalks and streets.

The striking vistas and the silhouettes of ships at sea give Vladivostok the feel of a portal to a better future, but the weathered wooden houses and concrete blocks that ascend the crests of hills are a reminder that the settlement Russia created here has never been worthy of its magnificent physical setting. Indeed, it is the contrast between the setting and the grim monotony of daily life that best characterizes this city, where all of the problems of contemporary Russia have reached their most extreme expression.

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