18 August 2012

Fresh, New Perspective

I have visitors from Tehran, Iran here in Moscow.  This trip to Moscow marks the first time that he has traveled internationally.

He took a ride from one of Moscow's main airports (SVO) to downtown, where I live.  Two hours into his stay, he asked if Russia was similar to Germany or the US.  Puzzled, I asked him why he asked the question.  He said:  "The roads here are just like the ones in Tehran.  I was wondering if the roads in other countries were like this*."

Although I frequently complain about the roads here, I did not expect this observation from a "third-world" country citizen who is living with an economy crippled by severe international sanctions and decades of internal mismanagement.  Basically, I thought that roads would be much were better here.  Macroeconomic data indicate why:

Metric (2011 estimate)
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$2.414 trillion
$1.003 trillion
GDP - real growth rate:
GDP - per capita (PPP):

Source:  The World Fact Book

A quick scan of photos on the web appears to prove my visitor correct.  The roads are, indeed, very similar.

Tehran or Moscow:  Can You Tell The Difference?
According to Tom Vanderbilt, the author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), “Traffic behavior is more or less directly related to levels of government corruption.” Vanderbilt cites a clear correlation between traffic-fatality rates per miles driven and a country’s ranking on Transparency International’s corruption index. (In terms of road safety, the Scandinavian countries fare the best; Nigeria is near the bottom of the list.)
Per Transparency International, Russia is as corrupt as Nigeria, ranking 2.4 on a scale of 10, where 10 is as honest as could be. Iran, by comparison, is a slightly less corrupt place, scoring a 2.7 on the index. Maybe Iran's less corrupt rating compensates for its worse economic picture when compared to Russia.

* The visitor does find Moscow to be a nicer city than Tehran.  He finds it scenic, pedestrian friendly, and replete with fresh air.


  1. one can say nothing against the theory of corruption, but don't forget to compare average temperatures and amount of 0 Celsius passing per year as well

  2. Try the roads in Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden (all the way north of the Polar Circle). The flip flops around zero C can be engineered around rather well. Canadian roads do pretty well also.

  3. I think I can tell which is which between Russia and Iran: Russia has about 30% higher income thus a much higher auto ownership. Ergo, the more-congested scenes are Russian. Right? Wrong?


  4. Top three photos are Tehran; the last is Moscow.