Overview of Russian Airports & Aircraft Construction

Map of the biggest airports in Russia and the ex-USSR by 2017 passenger traffic including transit flights.


SourceSeva Bashirov

Moscow is clearly a central node, accounting for 89 million passengers in 2017 – up from just 19 million in 2001, near the trough of the post-Soviet collapse.

airports-london-moscowIncidentally, this makes Moscow the world’s 13th biggest city airport system (London is first, with 171 million), having risen up from obscurity in the 1990s (see comparison right).

Growth continues to be vigorous into 2018 – as of this month, there are double-digit percentage increases in passenger traffic relative to the same period last year. [you can follow the stats here, in Russian]

Regional cities remain small fry – a function of their much smaller size (Moscow is 10x as big as any other Russian city other than SPB), less economic potential, and lower transit percentage (in Moscow its at 37%, and accounts for a large percentage of China-Europe flights; indeed, Chinese appears as often as English on signs at Sheremetyevo). However, they are now showing even more vigorous growth than Moscow.

In the past five years, by far the largest increase occurred in Simferopol, Crimea’s main airport, which saw 5.1 million passengers in 2017, versus 1.2 million in 2013. What mainly happened is that the prior Ukrainian tourists coming in by road were replaced by higher-spending Russians flying in.

The picture outside Russia is bleaker. Kiev gets 3x fewer passengers per capita than Moscow; Ukraine’s millionik cities (Kharkov, Kiev, Odessa, Lvov) get 3-5 times fewer passengers per capita than similarly sized regional Russian cities. For obvious reasons, Donetsk Airport is inoperative. However, this also implies room for rapid growth. While passenger traffic in Russia is currently increasing at around 10% per annum, in the Ukraine it’s more like 30% per annum.

The higher than expected figures for Riga and Kishinev are probably on account of them being popular transit nodes, especially for lowcosters such as Air Baltic and Air Moldova, respectively.


Source: burckina-new.livejournal.com/

Here is how the numbers looks like for Russia as a whole (blue – millions of passengers; red – billions of passenger kilometers).

Russia as of 2017, with 105 million passengers carried (86 million in 2016), has increased fivefold since the trough at 22 million passengers in 1998-2000, and exceeded the RSFSR peak of 94 million passengers in 1990 (and overtook it in terms of passenger miles in the early 2010s due to the greater weight of longer international routes).

Relative to international statistics as of 2016, Russia is now comparable to India (120 million), Japan (118 million), and Brazil (94 million), though very far behind the US (823 million) and China (488 million).


Sheremetyevo Airport.

These improvements, at least in Russia, have been accompanied by a vigorous airport construction and expansion program. For instance, Sheremetyevo has overgrown its old, classic Soviet carapace (Terminal F) with new, wavy steel-and-glass buildings, and an underground railway will soon be constructed to connect its north and south parts. Domodedovo was thoroughly modernized even earlier, during the 2000s, when it briefly overtook Sheremetyevo to become Russia’s busiest airport. Incidentally, Domodedovo even has one of Moscow’s better Indian restaurants.

However, these improvements are by now means limited to Moscow. Gleaming new constructions have sprung up throughout Russia, including in the most remote and unlikely places.

I would venture to guess that airports constituted Russia’s biggest infrastructure improvements under Putin.


Source: Sputnik & Pogrom: What’s happening in Russia’s aviation industry?


Source: Ruxpert

This ensures a solid domestic market for Russian aircraft construction, which collapsed in the 1990s due to a mixture of uncompetitiveness as well as the political elites’ disinterestedness in maintaining Russian industry, and has only recently started to recover.

The few dozens of civilian liners produced per year in Russia – mostly the Sukhoi Superjet 100, which seats 80-100 passengers – pale in comparison to just the hundreds of Boeing 737s produced in their Everett factory in Washington every year.

Moreover, up until 2014, a large percentage of the SSJ-100’s more complex components, including the engine and avionics, were produced in the West.

However, since the onset of Western sanctions, the share of domestic components has been increased to 75% by 2017, and the numbers are similar for the Irkut MC-21, a larger, newer craft seating 150-210 passengers, which is on the cusp of entering serial production.

Moreover, the MC-21 (design began in 2006) was designed from the very outset to have a much higher share of Russian components than the SSJ-100 (design began in 2000).


SSJ-100 components by nation of origin.


MC-21 components by nation of origin.

A widebody aircraft seating 300 passengers called the CRAIC CR929 is being mutually developed with China and should be ready in another decade, challenging the Boeing/Airbus duopoly at all ranges.

Consequently, Russian aircraft production should increase in coming years, driven by both domestic demand and political factors (e.g. state airliner Aeroflot will eventually need to renew its Boeing/Airbus fleet, and Iran may be a major potential customer).

With MC-21 production projected at 20 per year around 2020 and 70 per year in 2024, Russia should be producing around 150-200 civilian aircraft each year by the mid-2020s, which will return it to RSFSR levels.

PS. Seva Bashirov also reposts statistics gathered by the blogger harding1989 about USSR city statistics for 1965, 1970, 1975, and 1980. The top 12 cities are reproduced.

City 1965 1970 1975 1980
Поток % Поток % Поток % Поток %
Moscow 4218 36 7957 32 11690 30 14199 34
Leningrad 1132 11 2215 10 2875 10 3314 10
Tashkent 1070 32 1748 25 2731 23 3235 23
Kiev 985 20 1952 20 2668 15 2746 12
Novosibirsk 698 39 1311 41 2024 36 2099 32
Sverdlovsk 666 30 1208 31 1747 23 2085 18
Krasnoyarsk 607 17 1119 21 1701 19 2023 22
Minvody 605 15 1191 13 1855 10 2002 8
Khabarovsk 571 45 1025 43 1718 50 1961 50
Sochi 820 3 1212 3 1649 2 1920 2
Simferopol 781 4 1200 4 1672 3 1880 2
Alma-Ata 485 18 854 14 1311 10 1594 11

PS. Thanks to Jon Hellevig for some of the links and observations.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Felix Keverich says


    What other Soviet republics used to make civilian aircraft? The Ukraine?

    Also, LOL at Tashkent being a major aviation hub within USSR!

  2. songbird says

    Russia is one of those countries where I hear of a particular city, and then check up on its population and am surprised that I never can recall hearing about it before. I guess another one would be China, but who can keep track of all of China’s cities? I’ll bet not even the Chinese.

  3. RadicalCenter says

    I’d lie to see Russia and the USA designing, building, and marketing aircraft together, diminishing China’s influence and power in that regard. Of course we can’t, because we are too busy babbling nonstop with lies,,exaggerations, and belligerent non sequesters about Russia and Putin.

    See today’s Wall Street journal USA edition, full-page article by murderer and liar and traitor John McCain entitled simply (and simplistically) “Putin is an Evil Man.” Disgusting.

  4. songbird says

    Some of these figures should not really be treated as of metrics of progress, but rather as marks of globalization. How many of the US flights are “refugees” taking annual vacations in the lands that they “fled?” How many are new welfare-dependents being settled?

    People blame a host of issues for the West’s demographic crisis, but cheap flights may be 90% of it, Windrush aside.

  5. songbird says

    Good for Russia that they are developing the wing – that, of course, is the hardest part of the airframe.

    I wonder how much the venture effectively saves by being able to study the newer versions of Boeing and Airbus. I’m reminded somewhat of the Buran and the Soviet version of the Concorde. While the latter was fairly derided, I think the former was actually a better design than the Shuttle, if you really had to build one – it probably would have been better for the US to stick with Saturn V’s, and the USSR to also do something else.

  6. Felix Keverich says

    Do you know what I find really funny as a Russian? When some Western news outlet writes about a Russian city, they mention its distance from Moscow, even if it’s a major city like Yekaterinburg. It looks like this:

    In the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, around 1,500 km (900 miles) east of Moscow, a Reuters reporter saw more than 1,000 people protesting, some shouting “Down with the Tsar!”

    They do it even when it makes zero sense. For example:

    Police detain protesters in Russia’s far east who were rallying against plans to raise tariffs on imported used Japanese cars in the central part of the Pacific port of Vladivostok, about 4,000 miles east of Moscow.


  7. songbird says

    4,000 miles? LMAO. That is a greater distance than London from NYC.

  8. Mitleser says
  9. Pseudonymic Handle says

    Indeed, that is probably the case with Moscow, that has her fair share of immigrants from Caucasus and Central Asia, but it is also the hub for the millions of russians that have emigrated to the West.

  10. Russia should opt to a more internationalized airlines like Qatar airways or Emirates and conquer the east Asian market. This alone will offer a huge market for its domestically produced airliners. This could also help build the logistics infrastructure the aircraft manufacturers need to be a credible competition to Boeing Airbus duopoly. All the growth in air traffic will happen in East Asia, therefore one should buy now while it is still cheap. Airlines might not be the most added value ( though certainly profitable when managed correctly) but the opportunity to support domestic aircraft manufacturers is worth it.

  11. An very amazing improvement and positive news is the reduction in airplane crashes. Aeroflot is nowadays a very safe trip.

    It’s another area where the ‘developed socialism’ was not some lost utopia and paradise. (If you ask your parents about how often airplane crashes were happening in the 1970s and 1980s.)

  12. Ali Choudhury says

    I was surprised to see Ukrainian International Airlines offers really cheap fees for European travel. They were offering cheaper tickets than the Turkish carriers for flying to Istanbul. Their customer feedback ain’t great though.

  13. Thorfinnsson says

    A number of Antonov (Ukrainian) transport aircraft had wings manufactured in Uzbekistan.

    I believe the wing plant is now abandoned and inhabited by wolves.

    In Tsarist times the Baltic states were the most advanced manufacturing area in Russia and an early center of both aircraft and automobile production. I don’t know if this persisted past the revolution, probably not.

  14. for-the-record says

    You’re probably too young to remember, but when I flew Aeroflot in the early 1990s (all over the former USSR) the standard procedure was for passengers to remain seated while the crew disembarked. Several times at Domodedovo we were left in total darkness, hundreds of meters away from the terminal, which we had to reach by ourselves.

    Also, I wonder whether all clocks at airports (and flight schedules) are still set to Moscow time?

  15. My impression is that Aeroflot was always among the safest airlines.

  16. Also, I wonder whether all clocks at airports (and flight schedules) are still set to Moscow time?

    Lol, airports are in local time.

    This is with long-distances trains.

  17. Nowadays. In the 1980s and 1970s, crashes were quite common. (It would be interesting to read more about this topic).

    I don’t know if you guys are fans of Ural airlines? You can laugh about the dinner, about the parts falling off the ceiling when you land (I didn’t experience that personally yet). But really – no deadly crashes.

  18. I literally only exist because my mom missed a flight to Bulgaria as a young girl. (The plane she and her mother were due to be on board on crashed with 100% fatalities).

  19. Under a capitalist economy, a disproportionate share of the most complex manufacturing was indeed carried out in the most literate regions (the Baltics).

    This ceased to be relevant after the Revolution. Baltics were too small scale to do this by themselves, by the time they were reincorporated by the USSR, they no longer had a strong human capital advantage.

  20. for-the-record says

    Lol, airports are in local time.

    They weren’t in the old days. I can attest to that from personal experience, from Tbilisi to Khabarvosk, from Tallinn to Irkutsk. It’s goods to see that the older generation can still impart knowledged (if not wisdom) to youth.

    To confirm my aging memory:

    At the airport we came across an example of Soviet illogicality. Even where there is a time change, as between Moscow and Tbilisi, all airport clocks throughout throughout the Soviet Union were kept to Moscow time, as were the airline timetables

  21. reiner Tor says

    The number of airplane has gone down everywhere. I don’t know if it was higher in the USSR than elsewhere (I think so), but I guess the same might be true of Russia relative to Western Europe or the US. Still, it’s not really just Russia which improved, but other countries, too.

  22. Correct. From Pinker’s recent book:


  23. ussr andy says

    OT Commie – sh*tlib convergence


    (note the top-down quality, same as perestroika)

    meanwhile in serious countries:


  24. Mitleser says

    Castro is a sitting member of the National Assembly of People’s Power.[3] When the assembly voted in 2014 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, Castro opposed the legislation because it did not also include protection on the basis of gender identity,[3]


  25. ussr andy says

    that’s how late-stage the rot is.

  26. Philip Owen says

    I fly on Saratov Airlines. (Now rebranded Volga).

  27. Hello,

    I am new here.

    What is the recommended policy: use of a real e-mail address so other commenters can contact each other directly, or fake e-mails precisely so it is not possible?

    Thank you for your articles.

  28. Philip Owen says

    Russia city populations are misleading. The populations given are those of municipalities not agglomerations (conurbations/metro areas). The losers in this comparison are the cities where the railway crosses the Volga. Samara/Syzran/Togliatti/Novokubyshevsk, Saratov/Engels/Volsk, Volgograd/Volsk. Samara is easily 3rd in Russia and Saratov and Volgograd are around 6/7.

  29. reiner Tor says

    The email address basically functions as a password. It’s not used for anything else but to identify that you are the same person commenting under the same moniker.

  30. Thank you for your prompt answer!

    If I understand well there are no private messages here, so this is why I was wondering if the actual email address could be useful (while remaining hidden from public view).

    I am very interested, and genuinely, in the question of the conflict between Ukraine vs. Russia, or more precisely, between Slavs identifying as Ukrainians vs. other Slavs identifying as Russians. I am having a hard time understanding it and am willing to learn more, with genuinely no pre-conceived ideas in this regard.

    Back in 2014 during the apex of the “hot war” phase in the Donbas, I was following the news reports of the “Colonel Cassad” site (English version). What struck me at the time was the conflation of Russian nationalism with Stalinist nostalgia.

    To me this is very complicated and I am trying to get a better understanding. I have traveled to Russia but never to the Ukraine.

  31. I was following the news reports of the “Colonel Cassad” site (English version). What struck me at the time was the conflation of Russian nationalism with Stalinist nostalgia.

    Lol well he is kind of ‘Stalinist Hikikomori ‘.





  32. Just miraculously good developments, when you think how many fewer individual tragedies this graph represents.

  33. Lol well he is kind of ‘Stalinist Hikikomori ‘

    Is this the guy behind the “Colonel Cassad” site, really?

    What happened to his face?

  34. Anonymous says

    Anatoly, what are you thoughts on this post regarding EMP attacks:


    I know you’ve been dismissive of the dangers of EMP attacks before. I was wondering if this post would change your views.

  35. Well I do not like to judge people by appearance. But he is a little disheveled. Kind of what you imagine from his blog – well maybe not the high-pitched voice.


  36. Well I do not like to judge people by appearance

    Regarding physical defects I agree, but in the case of manifest negligence and untidiness (which really is the case here), I find it problematic — especially when someone has a presence in the media. Come on, how hard is it to lose weight? Not very hard in fact.

    Dmitry you seem to be posting quite a bit here. Would you mind sharing your thoughts on the following question: from a distance it seems that “Ukrainian self-identification” does not map bijectively into “being primarily Ukrainian speaker”; is this true?

  37. Jaakko Raipala says

    The Baltic states had a pretty big advantage in developing travel industry after the USSR fell, though, as Finns and Swedes rushed there immediately both as tourists and investors. It was glorious, I had a mountain of pirated music and video games as they were just selling this stuff openly in any shop in Tallinn.

    They’ve cleaned up a lot but the alcohol, strip clubs, gambling etc are still cheaper and freer as the countries haven’t yet been totally infected by this SJW puritanism where children are taught about gay buttsex at school but titty bars get shut down. Estonia and Latvia get more Western nightlife tourists than you’d probably expect from such small countries with chilly beaches.

    Russia has some disadvantages as a travel destination in comparison, the visa already makes it more expensive and much more of a hassle. Fewer English speaking people, most Westerners can’t read the street names, the government is not as eager to integrate into Western business structures etc.

  38. It doesn’t say anything new.

  39. poast physique

  40. If you count the Pearl River conurbation as one city (and why not) it’s well ahead of London.

  41. Gerard1234 says

    Under a capitalist economy, a disproportionate share of the most complex manufacturing was indeed carried out in the most literate regions (the Baltics)

    Literacy nothing to do with it at all. …and it was Estonia in particular, not the Baltics as a whole . Location on the other hand was the one and only reason for it….this in turn fed logistics. Similiar thing with America…most of it’s initial major development centered around the north-east of the country with the great lakes ( with St Lawrence seaway linkup) and places with suitable ports at coastal location at roughly the same latitude as Estonia/Saint Petersburg, that was the location of it’s industry and subsequent production boom. With Russia it was initially industry centered around the north west of the country as they tried to find and extract oil and other natural resources from the south and “far east”…with America it was the same but in the north east of the country industry and trying to find and extract oil and other natural resources from the south and “far west”

    You do realise that Talinn isn’t that far from Russia’s pre-revolution financial,administrative, academic and cultural capital?

  42. Daniel Chieh says

    If I understand well there are no private messages here, so this is why I was wondering if the actual email address could be useful (while remaining hidden from public view).

    Barring pretty extreme edge cases, its almost never useful.

  43. Daniel Chieh says

    phenotype perlustration

  44. Greasy William says

    With MC-21 production projected at 20 per year around 2020 and 70 per year in 2024, Russia should be producing around 150-200 civilian aircraft each year by the mid-2020s, which will return it to RSFSR levels.

    This is great news for aviation fans.

    talk about the SU-57 and the Russian engine industry (civilian and military).

  45. most Westerners can’t read the street names

    In St. Petersburg duplicate street names in English,

    and gradually introduce announcements of stops in English in public transport

  46. In St. Petersburg duplicate street names in English,

    Complete cuckoldry. Once started in the historical capital, this process will lead to the inevitable abandonment of the Cyrillic alphabet.

  47. In St. Petersburg, a lot of tourists, duplicating names in English – for them. That’s right – I know how hard it is to navigate in a foreign city, if you do not know the language and cannot read the inscriptions.

  48. Why? They also started in Japan writing English names to help tourism. For example, in the metro.

    This allows foreign tourists to navigate in a new country.

    Although to some extent , it is less important than in the past because of the use of smartphones to navigate.

  49. perturbed primitivist

  50. Look, it is not difficult to learn how to merely decipher street names in a alphabet that is not that foreign from the Latin alphabet. In addition, one of the most interesting aspects of traveling is precisely that things are different from home. Having to figure out street names in Cyrillic is a lot of fun. I traveled through Crete 20 years ago and at the time the road/street signs were certainly not bilingual. It was fun to remember my Classical Greek from high school, that was the first time it had even been useful in real life.

    In the case of East Asia where writing systems are radically different from the European ones, it is more understandable. Although, if I were Japanese, I would pride myself in saying that those who are too perturbed by our way of writing stuff should just not visit us.

  51. That’s a good way to put it. Perturbed by the imbeciles like you roaming the internet.

  52. And this increases the level of tourism, generating more revenue – how?

  53. I happen to believe that there is more to life than just revenue.

  54. Did Russia prevously used to make its own turbine engines?

  55. Daniel Chieh says

    Man cannot live off bread alone.

    He must also have beer.

  56. Man cannot live off bread alone.

    He must also have beer.

    Beer without vodka – throwing money to the wind.

  57. Philip Owen says

    Aircraft engines – yes. Marine – yes.

    Specifically designed for power generation, not really.