Staunton, Jan. 20 – Russians have long been troubled by the demise of the villages that defined Russian life for most of its history. Now, however, they face a new threat, the demise of the small and mid-sized cities that have played an outsized role in creating modern Russians, according to Stanislav Voskresensky, the governor of Ivanovo Oblast.
In a paean of praise to a world he says is disappearing, Voskresensky says that Russia’s small cities which helped people acquire the habits of adaptation to life that megalopolises cannot give are now losing out to the latter as people go directly from villages in contrast to the ways they had done in the past (rg.ru/2023/01/18/reg-cfo/delo-za-malymi.html).
For most of Russian history, the country’s smaller cities were weigh stations important in their own right; but now, the governor says, people are leaving them in droves and people from the villages aren’t making up that loss but contributing to it by choosing to go to Moscow or St. Petersburg instead of their own regional urban centers.
With the passing of small cities, he continues, many are forgetting that they are special, “with all the advantages of a cultured urban life but without the total dependence on the technosphere.” An as a result, they helped promote and sustain Russian national character and the values of citizenship.
“People in small cities are traditionally more conservative … they follow their own moral principles and ideas while sharing national interests,” Voskresensky says, adding that “this conservativism organically balances the passion for change, sometimes radical, found in the capitals.”
Now, however, Russia’s smaller cities are dying. “It isn’t surprising that with the collapse of the Soviet system, many factories have refused to support the infrastructure they created and shifted responsibility to the state,” and that the state facing ever more challenges has not picked up the slack.
As a result, today life in small cities in more difficult than a century ago,” and “young people often simply don’t see any prospects in them.” They go to the major urban centers but often find themselves lost there, something that would not be the case if they were to remain in smaller cities.
Given its size, Russia is in a very different situation than are European countries. Its smaller cities are often far from the capitals. And if the country is to be saved, then the smaller cities must as well, by redirecting resources via changes in tax policy and encouraging people to live in them rather than see the megalopolises swallow up the country.
Voskresensky then makes the following provocative suggestion: “Small cities could become centers of attraction for those compatriots returning to the country” and serve to integrate them into the traditional values of Russian life. Everyone must come to see that the good life doesn’t end at Moscow’s ring road.