1. Novokuznetsk. Despite having a population now of 500,000, this Siberian city has never been attractive for people. Its industries pollute the air and are causing health problems for all generations. It also has one of the highest crime rates in Russia, with 11,000 crimes a year on average in recent times – more than ten times the number committed in the Chechen capital of Grozny. Not surprisingly, those who can leave do.
2. Artyom. Since 2000 when the last mine closed near this city in the Russian Far East, the environment there has improved but the economy has collapsed. It is a leading center of organized crime and the drug trade. Most of its population has or will move to nearby Vladivostok or to European Russia. But even if they don’t, Vladivostok is likely to expand and absorb it within a few decades.
3. Verkhoyansk. Long known as a city of prisoners and exiles, this city is now famed as the coldest in the world. It has only 1200 people even now. One can reach it by road only in the winter; air connections even from Yakutsk are expensive. This “God-forgotten place” will simply disappear in a few years.
4. Ivanovo. Long a center of the Russian textile industry, this city has seen its birth rates collapse and its death rates rise to the point that it will disappear before 2100 even if there is no outmigration. A major reason for the falling birthrate is that men have already left, leaving Ivanovo with one of the most gender-imbalanced populations in the country.
5. Artemovsk. Founded 300 years ago as a gold mining center, Artemovsk’s gold has now run out as have its silver and copper reserves. Over the last 50 years, its population has declined by 80 percent and now stands at 1970.
6. Norilsk. The second largest city in the Russian north, Norilsk is “at the same time one of the most polluted and depressed in the world.” Those who can leave are doing so: over the past decade its population fell from 213,000 to 177,000. Most of those leaving are heading toward one of the two capitals, whose real estate firms advertise massively in Norilsk.
7. Vorkuta. This is the most rapidly declining city in Russia, with the population having fallen from 79,000 in 2006 to 59,000 in 2016. “There is today no medical support for the population … there are no stores … and the mines in the area are all closing,” residents say. At the current rate of decline, Vorkuta will cease to exist before 2050.