Saturday, February 23, 2019

For Environmental and Security Reasons, Moscow Must Combat Emptying Out of Rural Areas, Economist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – At the present time, Andrey Gudkov says, two-thirds of Russia is virtually unpopulated, and with both demographic decline in adjoining regions, even more of the country’s territory will almost completely empty of people, with both the environmental and security risks that entails.

            The specialist on regional economics at the Academy of Labor and Social Relations says that if this trend continues, an ever greater share of Russia will become a swamp, forest fires will increase in number and size, and Moscow’s control of the land will slip (

                If there are no people in these regions, there will be no one to raise the alarm if there are problems; and there are going to be more such because it is precisely in these un- and under-populated regions where “processes connected with global warming are actively occurring, Gudkov points out.

            “Perhaps,” he says, Russia doesn’t need to boost its overall population; but it very much does need to increase “the size of the population of particular regions.”  Unfortunately, the economist continues, “demographic policy in Russia is supported less well than in many countries of Europe.”

            For example, the Russian government does not have a program to support demographic development “at the level of municipalities.”  And yet it is precisely there that Russia should be devoting its greatest efforts.

            Vladimir Putin talks regularly about boosting the birthrate and extending life expectancy, but he rarely seems opposed in any way to rapid urbanization and rural depopulation. His health and education “optimization” programs have closed enormous numbers of hospitals and schools in rural areas – and contributed to the more rapid emptying out of the countryside.

            Promoting a Russia of the cities (“agglomerzations”) is normally associated with Andrey Kudrin, but in actual fact, although Gudkov does not talk about it here, Putin by his actions or inactions is doing as much to make that image of Russia a reality, a trend that as the economist warns will involve significant collateral damage.   

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