Staunton, Nov. 26 – The Russian economics ministry has announced plans to drop 163 of the cities with only a single industry, the monogorody or “company towns,” from the previous list of 321. That means that Moscow will provide far less money to these dying towns, saving itself money but setting the stage for massive outmigration and protests.
The basis for the exclusion of the 163 is not that conditions in them are improving but rather that they are located no more than 50 kilometers from other cities where, Moscow officials say, they can reasonably find work and therefore do not need the subsidies they have been receiving (kommersant.ru/doc/5099062).
But that ignores the fact that many of these nearby cities are economically depressed and that those who try to find work there will either grow discouraged or migrate to metropolises like Moscow and St. Petersburg where they will put even more pressure on social services there, experts say (nakanune.ru/articles/117985/).
Vitaly Pashin, who represents Chelyabinsk and Kurgan oblasts in the Russian Duma, says that this Moscow plan will deprive both the company towns and their neighbors of any prospects they may have hoped for. And economist Andrey Pesotsky says this decision another example of the Kremlin’s optimization campaign to save the state budget regardless of the consequences.
And those consequences already have been serious: the demise of key industries or any chance to rebuild them, social and political protests in the monogorody themselves, and new, unfunded liabilities on the regions, such as the Urals, where many of these places are located, liabilities they are not in a position to pay.
(On this tragic history, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/moscows-billion-dollar-program-to-save.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/01/another-fatal-flaw-in-russias-company.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/12/one-russian-monogorod-may-soon-drop-off.html, and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/05/russias-one-industry-towns-continue-on.html.)