Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lack of Amenities in Russia’s Villages and Smaller Cities Behind Rather than Low Pay Primary Cause of Flight of Young to Major Cities, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 19 – It is generally believed that young Russians are fleeing the country’s villages and smaller cities and moving to major metropolises in pursuit of higher incomes; but a new study by Moscow’s Stolypin Institute on Economic Growth finds that the lack of cultural amenities and infrastructure in the former is a more significant cause.

            The institute conducted focus groups with nearly 200 young people who had moved to major cities and found that 36 percent of those from the Siberian FD and 31 from the North-West FD pointed to the dearth of cultural amenities and infrastructure in the places they left as the reason (

 These figures were higher among what the investigators acknowledge was an anything but statistically representative sample than the 19 percent and 27 percent respectively who said they had moved to major cities in pursuit of higher incomes. But they say this study, the first of its kind, has relevance for policy makers.

Specifically, institute leaders say that it means that if Moscow really wants young people to remain in the villages and smaller cities then the central government needs to focus on improving entertainment, housing and transportation in the former rather than assuming that it can achieve that goal by somehow boosting incomes there.

But Russian experts are skeptical that this could be achieved. Natalya Zubarevich, a geographer at Moscow State University, for example, says that the pattern of young people moving to big cities is nearly universal in recent decades and that it is “naïve” to think the government can reverse that even by the means the Stolypin Institute proposes.

            The institute’s study clearly is part of Moscow’s search for a way to prevent the depopulation of rural areas and boost Russia’s birthrate by keeping more young people outside of Russian metropolises. Zubrevich’s words clearly indicate that there is little reason to think that the Kremlin can get young people to stay or return to villages in the way the institute suggests.

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