Reuters

The Russian capital has officially added more than 500 square miles to its footprint.

On Sunday, Moscow swallowed up two nearby cities, 19 residential areas and more than 230,000 people as it more than doubled its official size. The city is about 150,000 hectares larger as of Sunday, July 1 and with a total population of about 11.2 million, as RIA Novosti reports.

The expansion of the city to the southwest is part of a plan launched last June by then-President Dmitry Medvedev, "in order to improve the development of the metropolitan area, for the needs of the [international] financial center and simply to make life easier for numerous people," as he then explained. That expansion was made official this week, with the city's footprint growing from 109,100 to 253,100 hectares – a jump from roughly 421 to 977 square miles. That's like taking the cities of New York and New Orleans and adding on the city of Los Angeles.

This graphic from RIA Novosti shows how the city's borders have changed. Once a circle, Moscow now looks a little bit like a comet, with the newly annexed southwestern part of the city its tail.

As we reported back in February, this expansion is part of an effort to reduce congestion in the city center. Roughly two-thirds of the jobs are concentrated in the center of the city, while two-thirds of the city's roughly 11 million people live farther out. Officials are hoping that this expansion of the city's borders will allow more offices to move out of the center, thereby dispersing the commuting patterns. They're leading the way by moving the offices of roughly 40,000 officials to the newly acquired land in what's now being called a "metropolitan federal district."

How well that works remains to be seen, but the city certainly has much more space to work with. And now that it's more than doubled its size, the city also has a new nickname: "Big Moscow."

Photo credit: Reuters

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