Russia's Remote Areas: 2000 — 2002

Once again Russia appears before the world and its own inhabitants as a vast blank spot on the map. Rumors about recent events in Moscow and to some extent in St. Petersburg are readily available to everyone, but only the residents of small towns and settlements are well aware about events there. All the others know only about recurrent seasonal mishaps which sometimes develop into disasters. Images of despair and desolation created by the mass media haunt the common mentality. A series of expeditions, arranged by the Center for Strategic Research of Volga Federal District in 2000—2002 under the leadership of the author (an acknowledged expert in the organization and development of the urban environment, a Professor at the Moscow Institute of Architecture and a consultant for the Spatial Development Commission of the Volga Federal District, as well as a series of project workshops performed by him in regions of the district) has changed the representation of Russia's remote areas. Mosaics of the way of life and environmental quality in the area where 32 million people reside in 15 subjects of federation, appears much more varied and the difference between settlements much more striking than one could expect.

Observation of everyday details — from the price of a disco ticket to the status of town cemeteries — is combined with numerous interviews and an analysis of available information, interweaving into an elaborate rug of impressions. A major interest of the researchers was to discover if the differences are present between settlements located close to the borders of federation subjects, so one should not expect comprehensiveness or uniformity in the areas' coverage. Inaccuracies unfortunately are unavoidable in a study of such kind; however, the accumulated material is sufficient to destroy the myth about the provinces as a kingdom of sleep, and about the sweeping decay of economy and morals.

The major contents of the book are constructed as two parallel readings. The “Left” book presents collected data about towns and settlements in alphabetical order. The “Right” book presents reflection about the town as a vehicle of culture and the fate of Russian town in particular. Generalization of observations over two hundreds of towns and settlements during two seasons of expeditions concludes the empirical discourse of the book. The key conclusion may be unexpected for many readers: not only does the principle of municipal government make its way with great difficulty, but even the role of civil society leaders is often taken over by local authorities, who attract many of the most active citizens. Comments to sketches by Afanasy Fet conclude the book. The sketches, written ten years after the first “perestroyka,” invoked by the reforms of 1860—1870s, suggest a correspondence with the post-perestroyka decade of the 1990s. Psychological patterns show an obvious similarity notwithstanding differences in levels of development.

На русском

See also:

§ That mystery called the region

...Функциональная необходимость проводить долгие часы на разного рода "посиделках" облегчается почти автоматическим процессом выкладывания линий на случайных листах, с помощью случайного инструмента... — см. подробнее