Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ghost Towns in Neighboring Russia Unlikely to Attract Kazakhstan’s Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 8 – Russian villages are dying out across the entire country, but the death of those in regions along foreign borders is likely to have geopolitical consequences. On the Russian side of the Russian-Kazakhstan border, dozens of villages are dying out, hardly the kind of advertisement for Russia Moscow might hope for among Kazakhstan’s ethnic Russians.

            The demise of villages in the Russian Federation has long been viewed as a threat not only to Russian culture but also to its demographic and economic future and even to the country’s territorial integrity (

            But it may have even more immediate geopolitical consequences in places where the quality of life on the Russian side of a border is significantly worse than it is on the other and especially when there are ethnic Russians in the border area of the non-Russian country whom Moscow hopes to attract to its side.

            The situation along the Russian-Kazakhstan border is instructive in this regard. Since the collapse of the USSR, Russian villages on the Kazakhstan border have developed, while those on the Russian side have slid into economic and social decay and now are becoming more often than not “ghost towns” (

            And that is likely to mean that ethnic Russians south of the border are far less likely to support calls to have them “return to Russia” or have their region in Kazakhstan annexed by Moscow, yet another unintended consequence of Vladimir Putin’s optimization programs which have hit rural residents of Russia hard and which are now compromising his geopolitical goals.

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