Staunton, December 17 – Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin’s recent suggestion that there are “15 million superfluous people” in rural Russia and former minister Aleksey Kudrin’s call for restructuring the country around a small number of urban agglomerations has sparked a lively debate on the future of the country outside the big cities.
Aleksey Firsov, head of the Platform Center for Social Prognostication, provides a detailed discussion of the arguments for allowing the rural areas off the country to continue to empty out of people and those for trying to slow that trend or even reverse it (chaskor.ru/article/est_li_budushchee_u_malyh_territorij_42837).
Firsov’s most unsettling conclusion at least as far as Moscow is concerned is that the emptying out of the rural areas of the Russian Federation will adversely affect the country’s national security and the ability of the central government not only to hold things together but to counter any invasion by a foreign power.
According to the analyst and the experts he spoke with and cites, those who favor amalgamation consider the issue from the point of view of economics rather than culture or security, while those who support the existing “small territories” consider that there are arguments “more important than economics.”
Those who favor amalgamation and letting the rural areas die out make three arguments: first, this will address regional inequality; second, it will improve the quality of life of residents as measured in economic terms; and third, it will counter what such people view as “the low level of initiative” in rural areas and small cities.
Those who oppose amalgamation and seek to hold the population in rural areas also make three arguments: first, they say that this is a question of national security – “what and who will occupy the space between the agglomerations?” – second, people are attached to the localities; and third, Moscow doesn’t have enough accurate data to move forward.
Firsov clearly opposes amalgamation and calls for the economic development of rural areas and small cities which he suggests can become sources of innovative change and diversity, something larger agglomerations may fail to do. Moreover, their existence can promote both security and decentralization, both of which Russia needs.
Unfortunately, he concludes, “now is not the time for the final solution of the issue of small territories.” Thus, “Russia is not ready to turn away from small cities; and this means that their interests must be more carefully considered at the federal level” than they are today.