Staunton, January 24 – Estonia and Latvia are hardly viewed as “the wealthiest countries by EU standards, Denis Kamalyagin says; but for the residents of impoverished Pskov Oblast on the other side of the Russian border, they are “a window on Europe and civilization,” something that makes their current travails especially difficult to bear.
Kamalyagin, who is editor of the path-breaking Pskovskaya Gubernia and a personal “foreign agent” under Russian law, says that the gap between the two sides of the border is striking to anyone who visits both. Because of the pandemic, however, that border is now closed, and Pskov’s problems risk being ignored.
Among the problems fPskov residents face are a decaying electrical grid, declining industry, roads needing repair, and especially a healthcare system that the authorities have been destroying rather than building up (rus.delfi.ee/projects/opinion/mayus-mezhdu-prigranichnaya-pskovskaya-oblast-v-postsovetskoe-vremya-stala-odnim-iz-samyh-bednyh-regionov-rossii?id=92340939 reposted at region.expert/majus/).
More than 20,000 residents of the oblast spent the New Year’s holidays without electric power because the network had collapsed. But the situation in healthcare is especially dire: Pskov doctors are among the most poorly paid in Russia, and “98 percent of htem are forced to combine jobs and work more than one shift.”
Statistics show that only 55 percent of the positions for doctors in the Pskov system are currently filled; and the share would be even greater if the authorities had not decided during the pandemic to shutter two hospitals specializing in the treatment of infectious illnesses, Kamalyagin continues.
Pskov has the highest mortality rate in Russia, the editor says. And it is officially included in the ten most economically backward there. Russian TV says everything is fine and that Moscow is putting money in to fix everything up. Yes, Moscow is putting money in, but “more than 50 percent of the roads in Pskov Oblast aren’t paved.”
The money Moscow does sent doesn’t go to the people or their needs, Kamalyagin says. Instead, it goes to the Kremlin’s friends and to officials to ensure their loyalty. Pskov and Moscow say they have a strategy of development, but it is for the elite and in no way for the population.
Over the next five years, Pskov is slated to receive five billion rubles (70 million US dollars), but 80 percent of this money will go to the elite. The people will get nothing. “Alas,” the editor concludes, “the problem lies not just with what the powers are doing but in the fact that the people are silent.”
That is a problem, of course, not only in Pskov but in Russia as a whole and has been for generations, Kamalyagin says.