Staunton, April 8 – Slightly more than one in every six Russians– some 24.5 million people—lives in a company town facing serious economic and demographic decline, with 68 of these 799 places rated as being high risk of complete depopulation unless a new five-year government program can reverse that trend, something that most Moscow specialists judge unlikely.
In an article on the “Svobodnaya pressa” portal yesterday, Vitaly Slovetsky says that Moscow has divided these company towns, known in Russian as “monogorody” into three categories: red for the most endangers, yellow, and green. Sixty-eight of them fall into the highest risk group (svpressa.ru/society/article/66459/).
He cites the findings of the Moscow Center for Problem Analysis and State-Administration Projections (rusrand.ru/mission/result/result_806.html) that unemployment in many of these places is about 30 percent, four times the level of the country as a whole, a reflection of the general “economic degradation of contemporary Russia.”
In some of these company towns, unemployment is much higher: In one, Yarovoye in Altay kray, no one has a job; in others, such a Fokino in Bryansk oblast, the number of working-age adults outnumbers available positions by almost three to one, forcing those who can to leave to find employment elsewhere.
After the popular protests in Pikalevo, Moscow announced that it would assist these company towns to overcome their reliance on a single factory. Initially, the central government said it would help 335 of these places. Later, it cut that figure to 200. And more recently, the Regional Development Ministry said that assistance had gone to only three.
Given that track record, experts with whom Slovetsky spoke are very skeptical that the problems of Russian company towns will be solved by the new five year plan. Indeed,Yevgeny Gontmakher of IMEMO said that most people in these company towns will depart and like many villages already, such places will “gradually disappear from the map of Russia.”
That is just one of the internal migration flows that is affecting Russia’s largest cities. In addition to the movement of people south and west, reversing the pattern of the late Soviet period, ever more Russians are moving from one city to another, most intriguingly from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
That reversal of fortune is described in a recent issue of “Obshchaya gazeta” which notes that over the past two years alone, Rosstat has found, some 100,000 Russians have moved into the northern capital, many of them directly from the southern one, Moscow (og.ru/articles/2013/03/28/33694.shtml