Saturday, November 18, 2023

Russian Efforts to Consolidate Dying Villages Facing Resistance – and Officials Respond by Cutting Off Services and Destroying Housing

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 16 – In response to the dying out of Russian villages, Moscow has taken three steps: It has worked to conceal what is happening by closing local and regional media ( It has announced plans to save the villages ( And, most disturbingly, it has taken increasingly radical measures to kill off the smallest villages and consolidate their residents into larger ones ( and

            Such consolidated villages are easier and less expensive to provide services like post offices, medical points and stores than the smaller ones. But many of the residents in the dying villages don’t want to leave what have long been their homes, and they are resisting official pressure to move.

            In response, the Russian authorities at least in some places are taking more draconian steps to force them to agree to consolidation: they are closing remaining services, and they are even destroying houses, sometimes burning them when people are still inside, so that villagers will have no place to stay or will be unable to return.

            How widespread this phenomenon is remains unknown given Moscow’s unwillingness to report on it, but there can be little doubt that what Novaya vkladka journalist Oleg Koltsov describes as being the case of the village of Ust-Kos in the Komi-Permyak District of Perm Kray is happening elsewhere as well (

            He describes the broken promises that officials have made to get people to move and then actions like burning houses where people were still living to force them to move or even taking bulldozers to knock down part of a house where there were residents remaining in other parts of that structure to force the issue.

            Not surprisingly, people are outraged; and many of the residents told Koltsov that they believe they should have the right to remain where they have lived for decades or even generations and the government should take steps to provide services rather than trying to herd them like cattle into some new reservation.

            Anyone who has experienced consolidation of even a more limited kind – the writer of these lines lived through school consolidation in Ohio in the 1950s – knows that as rational as it may be, it is never easier or popular. But the heavy-handed methods Russian officials in the Putin era are now employing is hardly the best way to overcome such resistance.

            Instead, such official actions are likely to breed more resistance not less, triggering a vicious cycle in which the dying out of rural Russia will become even more tragic in the future than it has been in recent decades.

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