Staunton, August 27 – As people in various countries move from rural areas to the cities, the places they are from gradually decline with the passing of these former centers of life marked by various changes. In some countries, school consolidation and the end of local high schools is enough; in others, the closing of a restaurant, café, store or even gas station may be.
Those who bemoan the passing of village life in Russia have often pointed to the closing of stores and schools as the key events, but they are now confronted with a Moscow plan under development that will signal the death of villages even more dramatically: the likely closing of thousands of post offices in rural areas.
Without a post office and thus an official identity, many villages are likely to decline even more quickly as their residents refocus on neighboring settlements that still have this outpost of official life. Consequently, what may seem like simple efficiency – not surprisingly, Russian officials are calling this another example of “optimization” – is far more fateful.
The Russian Federation currently has “almost 42,000” post offices. Their location is governed by a set of rules that hasn’t been updated since 1982. According to experts, 70 percent of these are operating at a loss, something correctable only if each is at the center of a larger “market” (ura.news/news/1052400947).
The draft measure the communications ministry is preparing would set the stage for increasing the number of post offices in cities, with those in millionaire cities supposed to serve 15,000 residents as opposed to 20-25,000 now and those in cities of 100,000 to 250,000 to serve six to ten thousand residents as opposed to 9,000 to 13,000 at present.
To make those increases possible, post offices elsewhere and especially in rural areas where the number of customers is much smaller will have to be closed if the postal service wants to save money as it says it does in justifying these changes.
At the same time, the communications ministry says that it will not close any post office without the agreement of local people, but “specialists do not exclude that the new norms will lead to a reduction in post offices. At the very least, these norms will give the government “legal cover” to do so (kommersant.ru/doc/4104635).
Given how Putin’s healthcare “optimization” program ahs been carried out, with rural areas stripped of medical services (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/08/admitting-optimization-has-failed-putin.html), there is every reason to believe postal service “optimization” will be handled in exactly the same way, benefiting the treasury at the expense of rural Russians.