Staunton, April 21 – The heroine of Nevil Shute’s classic novel, A Town like Alice, observes that there is something worse than being a prisoner of war in a camp: that is being a prisoner of war but not held in a camp and thus denied even those minimal rations and supports that such camps provided.
As a female POW in Malaya during World War II, she and a group of other women were forced to march from one camp to another because none of the Japanese commandants wanted to assume responsibility for them and indeed none had specific orders that they should be given a place in the regular camps. As a result, they were ignored and died at a faster rate.
Many have written about how the Putin regime’s various “optimization” campaigns have accelerated the death of villages across the Russian Federation by depriving them of schools, medical points, stores and transport. But in an eerie echo of Shute’s lines, there may be something even worse for many Russian villages and that is to be forgotten altogether.
According to an article by Regnum journalist Anna Alyabyeva, many Russian villages will soon cease to exist because the authorities are eliminating the key institutions – schools and hospitals – that have kept them going. By 2023, there won’t be any hospitals in villages and by the mid-2030s, no schools (regnum.ru/news/society/2407208.html).
But at the same time, the Russian government has announced various programs to help “save” the Russian village. Unfortunately, the journalist says, these programs are not only underfunded or a priority for many regional leaders but don’t even involve many of the villages that are most at risk. The latter are thus simply ignored and left to die even more quickly.
Alyabayeva says that in many cases, officials in the cities don’t know anything about small and distant villages, are uncertain as to who is supposed to do something, and consequently in the end don’t do anything at all. She cites figures from several oblasts and republics where such population points simply disappear, unassisted and apparently unmourned as well.