Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2008

International transport corridors at the conjunction of geography and politics in Russia

Katri Pynnöniemi

January 2005

Finnish Institute for International Affairs


An international transport corridor can be understood as a layout of possible practices that are designed to reinforce proximity rather than remoteness and to create a sense of presence instead of absence. It is, in other words, a perfect example to show how by ‘circulating traces’ power makes itself felt in space, not as a flow but as an immanent affair that is in constant flux.

The word corridor was originally used of fortifications meaning ‘long hallway’ and first appeared in 1814. Etymology of the word corridor goes back to the Italian word corridore, a ‘gallery’ and the Latin word currere (current, ‘to run’). In more recent meaning it is used to denote ‘a belt of land linking two other areas or following a road or river’ or ‘long hall-way’. In Russian language the word corridor is spelled koridor although form korridor is also used in the texts analysed below. Koridor is synonym to passage, and thereby also to words prohod, hod, doroga, prohod, put’, kanal. In the above-mentioned senses the word corridor denotes a durable thing that is designed to enable movement through the space.

Thus, I suggest that transport corridors are understood as ordered arrangements of space that are aimed to change the tempo (and often also direction) of movement in space. Corridors impose certain rhythm and synchrony to space and thus are geographical expressions of a conjunction between time and space. But unlike musical tempo that is ontologically subjective, the rhythm that corridor arrangements inflict upon practices of movement is epistemically objective. A corridor is the very metronome that constitutes what is counted as allegro or adagio in a specific environment. The pace of movement has less to do with the built environment per se, but rather it is intimately linked with practices constitutive for the ‘building of movement’.