Staunton, December 4 – Russian media are celebrating the fact this soon one of the country’s “monogorods” or company towns in which a single industry dominates everything may be dropped from that list as soon as 2018; but they concede that more than 300 such places remain and that even if the government meets its goals, there will be 285 at the end of 2025.
“Izvestiya” reported this past week that the city of Cherepovets in Vologda Oblast may soon be dropped from the list because of the effectiveness of its leaders in attracting new industry and thus employment for one of the rust belt-like company towns across the Russian Federation (izvestia.ru/news/648945).
But the paper conceded that even if it is dropped, there will be at least 318 other such hard-pressed places in which some 14 million residents – ten percent of the country’s population -- now live. And it noted that the government isn’t even promising to help these places out very quickly: Its program calls for reducing them only to 310 by 2018 and 285 by 2025.
In discussing what is an indictment of the Putin regime for its failure to invest in these cities during the “fat” years of high oil prices and its inability now in those of the “thin,” Aleksandr Chizhenov of “Kommsersant” spoke with Roman Popov of the Institute for the Economy of the City (polit.ru/article/2016/12/02/mono/).
The urban affairs expert reminds that “the federal monogorod list exists in order that the government will understand the objects of its potential support,” which range from small settlements to large cities and from those that have already entered a dangerous crisis stage to those which are eeking out a more stable existence.
Popov suggested that one of the reason Cherepovets was doing better is that the local business and political leaders are committed to saving the city and because that company town is one of the rare ones which is not an oblast center and thus is not entangled in the center-periphery struggles of the latter.
But the large number of company towns still on the list that do not enjoy those advantages and are not coming back almost certainly means that these will be the site of worker unrest of the kind Vladimir Putin personally intervened to address in a few cases but cannot possibly intervene in that way in all.