Saturday, November 24, 2012

Window on Eurasia: To Stem Outflow of Young, Regional Elites Highlight Difficulties Facing Those Who Move to Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 24 – Ambitious young people in many regions of Russia want to move to Moscow to pursue a career, a trend that along with other demographic factors is leading to the hollowing out of arts of the country.  In an attempt to slow if not stop this exodus, regional leaders are producing films highlighting the difficulties such migrants will face.

            In the Russian Far East, for example, a new poll shows that 40 percent of the graduates of universities there believe that the only way for them to have a chance to succeed in the future is to leave that region and move to Moscow or another Russian metropolis in the European portion of the country (
            Writing on the “Osobaya bukhva” portal this week, Vladimir Titov says that “regional authorities are dissatisfied that their ‘principalities’ must pay tribute to Moscow not only in the form of taxes but also with the outflow of ‘human capital.’”  While at present they can do little about the former, they are now trying to do something about the latter.
                In Kaluga, for example, Titov says, “the ‘city fathers’” following the example of Kirov oblast “have made a propaganda film in which young people are told” about the problems they would face in the Russian capital and the opportunities they have if they will remain in the oblast (

            The Kaluga film, “Myths about Moscow,” contrasts the images of the good life in the Russian capital – high pay, good infrastructure, and opportunities for advancement – with the experiences of Kalugans who have gone there, “not made a career, failed to become a pop star, or built a business which could survive the competition” (

                The message of the new film which has not yet been widely shown but is scheduled to be is “simple” – Kalugans, both those who never went to the capital and those who returned home after failures there, have done much better in their native region and, more than that, have real prospects for the future.

            It is far from clear whether the film will have the impact its backers hope.  On the one hand, Moscow remains attractive: there are some 60,000 Kalugans living there now. And on the other hand, the gap between incomes and expenses may now be as great for most people in Kaluga as it is in the Russian capital.

            In his commentary, Titov extrapolates from the Kaluga experience to speak about what it reflects more generally. He argues that unlike the United States in the past, Russia like Ancient Rome and Byzantium has been a centripedal rather than centrifugal empire, a place where people have sought to come to the capital rather than succeed on the periphery.

            But he notes that Russia “was not always” that way.  Now, however, Titov suggests, it is becoming even more so, with Moscow controlling all the flows of wealth and development in the country and the regions, increasingly losing population, fighting a rearguard action to block the further “hollowing out” of the country.

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