To survive in a globalized world where focus is always on economies of scale and low costs, islands can choose between two strategies: n:o 1 (according to Professor Geoff Bertram from New Zealand) is to balance-up their small, slow industries and commerce with income from those that have moved away, alongside support from the public sector. Islands that have managed this strategy well are Kastellorizo in the Mediterranean, Samoa and Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Helena and Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean.
Strategy n:o 2 (according to Professor Godfrey Baldacchino) is to proactively influence the islands’ own fate in how to handle difficult negotiations over wind power, oil, transportation and taxes. This strategy is directed more at procedure instead of direct subsidies, creating tax havens. Such islands are the Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man in the Atlantic, the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea, Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean.
Now, time has come to October Island, an island in Russia’s European exclave of Kaliningrad, and Russky Island, a former pasture facing the eastern part of Vladivostok , to be part of strategy n:o 2.
Compared to the sunny, palm-lined off-shore tax havens where Russians typically stash their fortunes like Cyprus or the Virgin Islands, two chilly, wind-swept Russian islands would seem to offer little. Yet, they were highlighted by Moscow this week as potential tax havens.
October Island (Oktyabrsky Island /Остров Октябрьский), is immediately east (upriver) of Kaliningrad’s historic centre in the Pregolya River. Since the 2010s the island has been extensively redeveloped around the stadium being constructed for the 2018 FIFA World Cup due to be held in Russia. Will it come true, now that Washington imposes tough sanctions against leading oligarchs?
The island is small, covering about 10 square kilometres. When Kaliningrad was German Köningsberg, it was part of the famous “Seven bridges of Köningsberg” mathematical problem: to devise a walk through the city that would cross each of those bridges once and only once.
Russky Island is much bigger: 976 square kilometres with a population of 5,360, connected with the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge across the Eastern Bosphorus to the mainland portion of Vladivostok.
The Kremlin is trying to get rich Russians to bring their money back home, but is October island and Russky Island really comparable to Gozo and Kökar?