Thursday, January 13, 2022

Large Russian Rural Settlements Increasingly Resisting Efforts to Reclassify Them as Cities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 24 – Historically, villages and other settlements which had sufficient populations to become cities have welcomed that change; but now, “the status of urban resident” has declined, two Russian commentators say; and many large villages and settlements are refusing to make the change because of costs and other problems becoming a city entail.

            Zoya Yemelyanova and Yekaterina Bulatova say that today, in contrast to the past, “residents of major rural population points don’t want to become urban residents” even when the number of people in them exceeds the number of people in many Russian cities (

            They survey numerous cases across the country in which rural residents and even rural officials have fought to avoid having to make this choice and then, if they were not successful in that way, to vote overwhelmingly against gaining the status of a city on their own or being joined to a larger urban center.

            In most cases, the two report, residents of these rural settlements oppose change primarily because it would increase their cost of living – city residents typically pay more for communal services than rural ones do – or cut the subsidies some workers there receive for being willing to work outside an urban area.

            But in others, it reflects local pride and the fear that if residents chose to amalgamate with a larger city, they will be marginalized and their distinctive local identities compromised. Cossacks in Rostov Oblast, for example, fear that if their settlement was joined to a city, their museum would not get the support it needs to continue to operate.

            And there is a broader change in attitudes at work, Yemelyanova and Bulatova say. Increasingly, Russians associate cities not so much with progress as with environmental degradation, crime and high costs. They don’t want those things and thus prefer to remain villagers, even though many young are fleeing these very same villages to the cities.

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