Sunday, April 5, 2020

New Russian Urban Landscape Makes Strict Self-Isolation Very Difficult, New Survey Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 2 – When there were stores on the first floor of apartment blocks, kiosks or neighborhood groceries Russians could walk to, the possibilities for self-isolating in the event of a pandemic were very large. But with the demise of those urban amenities and their replacement by malls and mega-stores, that task has become almost impossible for many.

            That conclusion follows from the results of a new survey conducted by the Center for Urban Competence of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives. It found that 56 percent of urban Russians now complain about the absence of any nearby clinic or hospital, and ten percent say that they have to leave their district to do food shopping (

            That is the result of the Putin administration’s campaign against kiosks and its healthcare “optimization” as well as rising rents for places in apartment buildings that food stores had operated in. And it has become a serious issue now that Vladimir Putin has extended the stay-at-home order until April 30.

            The survey also measured the impact of the pandemic on peoples’ lives. Fifty-one percent of residents of Russian megalopolises said it had affected them significantly, less than the 67 percent of residents of rural areas indicated. “Only seven percent of Russians asserted that that their lives had not changed at all,” Kommersant said in reporting the poll.

            Far from everyone has shifted to working at home. Sixty-nine percent of residents of cities with a million residents or more said they had, but only 32 percent of those in small cities said the same.  In both cases, Russians are using their time to watch entertainment events, take online courses, or using online devices for communicating with friends and family.

            Many are using delivery services, but in smaller and mid-sized city, every fourth resident says this is impossible, and almost as many oversall – 20 percent – say they are not satisfied with these services.

            Russian city planners say they have long been aware of these problems. Some are now calling for changes in location policies. But many are suggesting that the problems Russians face in this instance are shared by people in other countries and that there is very little that can be done about these issues at least in the short term.

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