Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Rapidly Growing Town Near Moscow ‘on Brink of Revolt’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 25 – Every day three Russian villages cease to exist, but most pass away quietly when the last residents die (forum-msk.org/material/news/16775591.html), but a town near Moscow may go out with an explosion because officials have failed to respond to its rapid growth by providing key services, Pavel Khaustov says.  

            Having grown from fewer than 2500 residents in 2000, Goluboye now has 20,000, the Novaya gazeta writer explains, but the authorities have not opened a single school and only one kindergarten despite constitutional guarantees, leaving people there with little hope and a great deal of anger (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/10/25/87695-ne-dayut-rasti-i-uchitsya).

            Goluboye has grown from a rural village to a bedroom community for Moscow, and people have come for its lower rents and promises that the authorities will soon provide basic services like schools. But while the rents remain lower than in the city, the services available to those who pay them have not become available.

            According to Khaustov, that has left the rapidly growing town “on the brink of revolt.” The authorities have not moved apparently because there are private schools and private kindergartens available, but those have tuition rates far beyond the ability of most residents of Goluboye to pay.

            For more than three years, residents have been complaining to officials about the situation, but they have been put off with formal responses that include ever-changing explanations for why the school situation hasn’t been solved. Now, the regional officials are blaming the pandemic for the lack of money.

            But at the same time, these same officials have helped churches to be built and roads improved, the latter so that residents of Goluboye can take their children to schools elsewhere and still get to work on time. They have opened a public kindergarten this fall but still no schools, residents say.

            In the face of this official indifference, obfuscation, and delay, the people of Goluboyev have decided to begin an open-ended act of protest. They say that they don’t expect any miracles, but they hope that by protesting they can attract the attention of Moscow and others and at least get a school or two.

            Whether they will succeed or not, their decision to protest in this way, a decision likely to be echoed in other villages and towns as well, creates a whack-a-mole problem for the powers that be. They may be able to address the problems of one village or town without changing the system, but they will be able to address the problems of all of them only if they do.

            Consequently, what may seem a small and unimportant action sets the stage for broader and more fundamental changes, changes demanded by people who have read the Constitution thanks to Putin’s amendment process and know that their rights include having a public school near where they live. 

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