Staunton, June 2 – Russians for decades have focused on the death of the country’s villages, but they and the government should now focus on the demise of smaller and mid-sized cities were a quarter of Russia’s population lives. Otherwise, Yevgeny Yasin says, Russia will consist of 15 megalopolises surrounded by empty land.
The former Russian economics minister that 52.8 million people live in cities with fewer than 250,000 and that 25 million live in urban centers with between 250,000 and a million. Together these categories amount for more than half of the population of the country, although they are not now growing while the 14 “millionaire” cities which have about 30 million are (echo.msk.ru/blog/yasin/1775192-echo/).
If current trends continue, Yasin says, in approximately a century, Russia will be a country of megalopolises surrounded by a largely vacant space. That has obvious and negative security and economic consequences, and the government should adopt policies to support the smaller cities so that they remain vital.
Among the best ways to do that, he argues, is to promote local self-government which “activates the population of smaller cities and involves in civic affairs many capable people.” This involvement can be greater in such cities, and it could easily save many of them
Yasin’s argument for local self-government is potentially significant because of the security implications of the emptying out of large portions of the country because, as he says, “the territorial question is one of the most complex for Russia. One needs to think about it.”
Unfortunately, the Russian government at least at present prefers to be in denial: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, for example, has manipulated data in an effort to show that Russians are not leaving the Far East when in fact they continue to do so (meduza.io/feature/2016/05/27/kak-dmitriy-medvedev-manipuliruet-dannymi-o-naselenii-dalnego-vostoka-faktchek).