Thursday, November 17, 2022

A Third Russian Exodus – from the Cities to the Villages

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 15 – Two forms of Russian flight – from rural areas and smaller cities to the megalopolises to seek higher incomes and from Russia as a whole to foreign countries to escape the draft and likely participation in Putin’s war in Ukraine. But a third form, from the cities to villages, has passed under the radar screens of most.

            This flow began in small numbers as long as a decade ago when distance working became possible and expanded rapidly during the pandemic when Russians sought to avoid being infected. But now it is continuing to grow as people seek to avoid the troubles of urban life and, in at least some cases, the attentions of draft boards.

            If the distance-working and pandemic-driven moves have been at least acknowledged, the more recent flight has not, although it may prove to be as large. Realtors report that urbanites seeking to move to rural areas drove up rural housing prices by 15 to 20 percent after the declaration of partial mobilization (

            Up to now, the Putin regime has ignored this latest flow, concentrating instead what money it does spend on social needs in urban areas. Some in rural areas hope that the flow of more educated professionals into their areas will help them get out of the depressed situation they have fallen in. But there are few reasons to think that will happen.

            First, this flow from cities to countryside is concentrated in areas not far from major urban centers. Most of rural Russia won’t be helped. Second, the IT professionals who move out of cities live their own lives and do little to help the rural economies other than by spending on housing and food.

            And third, the Russian government seems quite pleased to have immigrant workers from Central Asia or the Caucasus move into rural areas and do agricultural work. At least for the present and because of this attitude, those immigrants are orders of magnitude more numerous than are the Russians fleeing the cities.


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