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Leave-not-Stay Dilemma

The question whether there is life outside Moscow, loses its relevance: with the creation of a so-called new Moscow in 2012 the capital itself strongly stepped over the "ring". Now geographers, historians and demographers are increasingly wonder how people live in very small towns. A phenomenon of small towns in Russia, their types, characteristics and trends of development, including the development R&D sector and city-tech industries were a topic "Small towns, company towns and scientific cities of Russia - Problems and Prospects: a view of youth" round table held in the framework of the first meeting of the Youth Intellectual Club of the Russian Geographical Society (RGS). STRF.ru participated ) in the organization of the roundtable.

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Small but perfect

In Russia, a town is considered small one if its population does not exceed 50 thousand people, and today they are a home to about 15% of the population of the country. There are several kinds of small towns. This are company towns, where the whole life is built around a single enterprise (often it is associated with the extraction and processing of minerals), there are 313 of them in Russia on the 20th January, 2015, and science cities, where scientific-industrial complex is a city-forming one, and scientific developments and innovations are product, there are only 14 of them. But there are a lot of just small towns, which have arisen on their own, in our country, there are more than 700 of them.

The desire of Russians to become better acquainted with their country is in the air, and is embodied now in a variety of ethnographic and tourist projects. Dmitry Shkaev, the pro-rector of the Institute of World Economy and Information, Head of the Secretariat of Uglich club, told about one of them. He and a team of like-minded people are forming a kind of Russian living traditions database, "Legendary Russia". In the framework of the project, at the origins of which are such people as Vladimir Sofienko, the champion of Kazakhstan on swimming, the famous blogger and writer, anyone can tell his story: a city or a family legend, but always connected with a particular place. Organizers come to those authors who the community like the most and shoot the story professionally. According to Shkaev, the project Legendary Russia is in the long run of the team, where the legends of Russian storytellers will be translated into English. And as the primary means of communication is the community channel on Youtube, the audience of the project can indeed be very wide.

But the potential of small towns is much more than as the tourist places, experts believe.

Challenges and solutions

"The paradox is that, on the one hand, the population of еру small towns is being decreased now, but on the other such formations, particularly company towns and science cities, have a task, for example, of new industrialization", - Alexei Andreev, deputy dean of FGP of the Moscow State University, outlined the problem.

Alexander_Grebenyuk
Alexander Grebenyuk

Alexander Grebenyuk, Associate Professor of the Graduate School of Social Sciences of the Moscow State University, gave more details about the reason for such trends for company towns, which were created to serve a large enterprise. According to the young scientist, in principle, company towns are not the notion of the Soviet system at all, they are quite viable formations, and there are even more such towns in Europe and in the United States than in Russia. However, less than a half of Russia's company towns are economically prosperous, and their number continues to decline.

There are a number of problems faced by these settlements. The first is a "conservation" of core enterprises and their backlog from advanced production facilities and consequently reduced competitiveness and loss of markets. Moreover, if the company is upgraded, the new problems arise. As a rule, new technologies displace man from the production process today, and this is a recipe for unemployment.

Due to the fact that the Russian company towns are "tied" with the production of raw materials or semi-finished products, not the final products, they are very dependent on world market conditions. For example, the current unstable oil prices have already had a negative impact on oil settlements, the expert said.

Another important issue is related to the fact that successful universities are in the big cities in Russia, and they are "pull talented youth like a vacuum cleaner".

In our own experience

In general, experts agreed that if you show the students that they can find work in their own city, the percentage of leaving ones decline significantly.

So, Nikita Garaja, senior lecturer of Moscow State University and member of the HRF Steering Board spoke about the experience of the Aleksino town in the Tula region.

Alexino chemical plant opened during the Great Patriotic War, began to gradually decline with the fall of the Soviet Union. The situation was quite deplorable, when the company entered into an agreement with the Chemistry Faculty of Moscow State University.

Chemists arrived on the scene and prompted technological solutions, and in addition, opened a few laboratories. As a result, for now the local technical school has started again to accept on the specialty of chemical engineer, and there was a competition in this area for the first time in many years.

As Ilya Smirnov, the winner of last year's RGS school, assistant of the Department of Social and Economic Geography and Spatial Planning of the Faculty of Geography and Geo ecology of the Tver State University, who himself hails from the town of Torzhok of the Tver Region, told, 80% of young people in his hometown are planning to go away after school. And the most of them are going to St. Petersburg, the second most popular city is Tver and Moscow is only the third one. Moscow is too big and bustling city, he said, and the guys from Torzhok are mostly very creative and tend to recognized artists’ city on the Neva.

Ilya_SmirnovIlya Smirnov

At the same time, according to him, they are involved in the urban cultural activities not very actively, primarily due to the fact that they just do not know about them. "The website of the town exists only for show, and only the members of the administration go on it". - Smirnov said.

Are the Science Cities a different story?

Scientific cities stand a little bit apart. Today, only 14 cities in Russia have a status of science city, 9 of which are located in the Moscow region, and one more - Troitsk – is a part of the new Moscow.

These cities created in the Soviet era, did not have to pay for themselves - they benefited in the form of fruits of scientific research, not a finished product. Therefore, while there was state purchase/order, they fulfill their role properly.

Alexander Terentyev, head of the laboratory at the RAS Institute of Organic Chemistry, said the following about it: "The guys from small towns come to us. And after they had a taste for the opportunities that a big city gives, nothing will tempt them get home "- noting that if the graduates were required to work at a certain company for several years after the high school (which may be in a small town also) he would be able to find his niche there.

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