Staunton, Aug. 31 – Since the 1980s, the number of villages in the Russian Federation has declined dramatically, with 25,000 disappearing entirely and another 35,000 on their way to such a fate as they have fewer than ten residents each. As a result, vast swaths of the country are unpopulated, and rural Russia now has a total population barely equal to that of the largest cities.
This has enormous socio-cultural, economic and security issues, given that the decline has been greatest in predominantly ethnic Russian regions near the center and much less in non-Russian areas, commentator Dmitry Kapustin says. And its impact is especially great in border areas other countries may be interested in (svpressa.ru/world/article/385508/).
Russian officials have treated this development as both natural and inevitable and even exacerbated it via various “optimization” campaigns that have destroyed many of the institutions that are the anchors of remaining villages. And by doing so, the commentator argues, they are putting the country’s territorial integrity at risk.
The fact is, he argues, the disappearance of villages is neither natural nor inevitable; and governments in other countries have shown what can be done to keep people in the villages, especially when these population centers are in strategically important border regions. One country that has been especially effective in that regard is China.
In its northern regions, China faced problems in its villages similar to those in many parts of Russia, Kapustin says. But instead of concluding that nothing could be done about it, Beijing has launched a major program to save these villages and keep people from migrating to major cities and putting more pressure on the infrastructure of urban centers.
Moscow should find the money to do the same because only by copying what China has done with success will Russia be able to ensure that its border regions and others beside retain a Russian population and remain within the existing borders of the Russian Federation. Kapustin does not say where the Russian authorities will get the money needed for such a policy.