Friday, March 18, 2022

Moscow Districts as Socially and Politically Varied as Russia Beyond the Ring Road, Perm Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 13 – Many Muscovites are accustomed to thinking of Russia beyond the ring road as an undifferentiated whole, and many Russians who live outside the capital often view the city of Moscow in the same way, as a place where conditions and people are strikingly homogeneous.

            Both views are wrong; but if a great deal of progress has been made in correcting the former error in judgment, far less research has been done to undermine the latter. That makes a study by Vsevolod Bederson of Perm State University especially important (

            Moscow has 125 different municipalities and districts who vary widely not only in terms of how their economic foundations and infrastructure but also in terms of how much public activity they engage in and how they vote, he says, drawing on the Mechanics of Moscow project and Levada Center polling.

            The Mechanics of Moscow project of the Institute for Socio-Cultural Programs, divides the city’s districts into “Comfortable Moscow,” “Family Territories,” “Neighboring Territories,” “Excluded Territories” and other, thus highlighting “the complex relationship between the social characteristics of district residents and the quality of the urban environment.”

            According to Bederson, that study has shown that “the infrastructure self-sufficient of some districts may be linked to social adversity, while the availability of cultural or educational institutions may be tied to dissatisfaction with the quality and lead to public actions seeking to improve them.”

            Muscovites like other Russians and varying as they do “are willing to get involved in collective initiatives especially if they concern their properties,” the Perm scholar says. That sometimes but not always serves as the basis for broader political action or voting for opposition groups.

            And Bederson makes this key point: “Participation by Muscovites in political or near-political protests is not nearly as common as many assume.” But many Muscovites do take part in social and charitable actions even if they do not move on to political ones. How these things are related remains to be studied, he says.

            What is clear so far is that the level of participation in social or environmental actions and voting for opposition groups is not positively correlated across the regions of Moscow. In some places, it is closely correlated; but in others, it appears not to be related at all, indicating that far more factors are at work.

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