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  • #344809

    Anonymous

    Traditionally Russia’s agricultural land was subdivided into a patchwork of villages and fields, interspersed by forest and marsh. Now the villages are deserted and crumbling: the state closes them down, often on a whim, and young people leave to find work elsewhere. Matilda Moreton tells the tragic story based on fieldwork in the Russian North.

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    During my five years of travelling in the Russian North (2006-2011), on the trail of its last remaining wooden churches, I heard stories describing the fate of the villages that became as familiar to me as they were tragic. The disappearance of churches throughout Russia is a tragedy of huge proportions in itself, but the surrounding tragedy is even greater: the demise of country villages far and wide has been taking place throughout the whole vastness of the former Soviet Union for decades.  Sadly, in recent years the situation has deteriorated still further. My own travels opened my eyes to the problem of dying villages in Russia’s northern regions of Vologda, Archangel and Murmansk,  and the Republic of Karelia. These are snippets of what I heard from villagers in four villages on the northern shores of Lake Onega in Karelia:

    ‘There used to be 23 houses here and another 13 across the field, now only two remain, with a few summer visitors. In winter there is no one here at all.’ (Natalia Mikhailovna, Ust’ Yandoma)

    ‘There were thriving collective farms here, fields of barley and rye, cattle. There was a school, fishing and forestry collectives… They started herding people into towns in the 60s. There were still cows here into the 80s. But now everything has gone, even the fish. In the winter there is no one.’ (Larissa Leonidovna, Yandomozero)

    ‘There were four villages here, working together in a thriving collective farm. Every kind of crop was grown: barley; rye; wheat; peas… and we grew potatoes for the soldiers in Murmansk. There were hundreds of animals: pigs; cows; horses. I left for the army in 1962 and when I returned there were only ten people left. Now it is only the two of us, me and my daughter.’ (Nikolai, Vegoruksa)

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    ‘Two years ago, people had 3 cows each. Now there are only nine in the entire village. No one brings hay for the winter any more, and we have no horses to go and fetch it. All the young have gone away, only the very oldest remain.’ (Klavdia Mikhailovna, Kosmozero.)

    Destruction of churches and villages

    In so many places in the Russian North, village life has all but disappeared. It seems that farming is no longer a sustainable way of life and the young have left to find a living elsewhere. The land, once busy with cows and tractors, is now uncultivated, overgrown, reclaimed by bog and forest. Former ‘millionaires’ (prize-winning) collective farms stand empty, their vast granaries and cow sheds rotting away in the same state of neglect as the villages themselves – now ghostly, almost totally empty – beautiful houses, schools and exquisite churches all collapsed or collapsing.

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    The demise of the villages and that of the churches are interlinked but stem from quite different Soviet government policies. While I was collecting the histories of the churches, I was constantly reminded of the depopulation and disintegration of the villages around them.

    The Church as an institution was outlawed by the Bolsheviks in one of their first steps to reinvent Russia. The ardent revolutionaries closed and destroyed churches with a vengeance during the 1920s and 1930s. Priests and clergy were shot, crosses thrown from the rooftops, icons and valuables ripped from within and burnt on public bonfires or simply chopped up for reuse as firewood. Persecution continued throughout Soviet times. Many churches were used as farm stores or clubs. They also collapsed through neglect: fire, whether arson, lightning strike or careless cigarette end, often contributed to the disappearance of wooden churches in particular.

    While the churches are casualties of the Soviet desire to stamp out religious life, the villages themselves, as an economic entity, are the casualties of an attempt by the State to increase agricultural output.

    The population of farming men was reduced by a third during the ‘Great Patriotic’ War [WWII] and further decimated in some areas by famine. During the collectivisation and accompanying ‘dekulakisation’ [Rn. kulak: rich peasant] programmes of the 1930s, the peasantry was decimated; millions of people were deported and shot.

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    Profit and loss

    From the 1930s to 1960s the collective farm dominated and shaped Russian villages. In the late fifties and early sixties, under Nikita Khrushchev, the principle of ‘profit’ was applied to farming in an attempt to cover increased production costs. Villages were assessed in terms of profitability, and then pronounced either perspektivnie (with prospects) or neperspektivnie (without prospects) accordingly. If a village was unlucky enough to be deemed ‘without prospects’, the wheels of destruction began to roll.

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    Firstly and most catastrophically, the collective farm would be closed. As a result of this closure, funds for improvements on local roads and to supply electricity and plumbing systems for the village, as well as for schools, shops, medical and cultural services would be diverted to the nominated ‘villages with prospects for the future’.

    With country roads unmaintained and vital infrastructure (gas, water, electricity) compromised, the village would gradually become less and less viable, the post-office, school and shops would be closed, until finally the electricity would be cut and the residents forced to leave. They would be resettled in so-called ‘agrocentres’, often in blocks of flats, in the larger perspektivnie villages or towns, leaving behind their family homes, many of their treasured possessions and their native farmland. It is no wonder they turned to alcohol.

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    Although the aim of centralising collective farming (turning the so-called kolkhozes or collective farms into the bigger sovkhozes or state farms) was to maximise production, the result was in fact its loss – farming became less efficient and the land located beyond the easy reach of the new sovkhozes was abandoned. Pockets of farmland between areas of swamp and forest, which had been cultivated and used as pasture for centuries, were now left to grow wild. The new system failed to take into account the patchwork nature of the Russian landscape.

    Villages with a future – or not?

    The programme of ‘Liquidation of Villages with no Prospects’ continued through the 1960s and 1970s, affecting hundreds of thousands of villages and its effects are still felt today. The statistics beggar belief. In the Nechernozem’ya region of northern European Russia i.e. not the productive Chernozem’ya  or ‘Black Earth Belt’ Region of Central and Southern Russia, during the 1960s alone, a total of 5,000 collective farms were closed, with the resulting disappearance of about 235,000 villages.

    In the north-western part of this area, approximately one third of villages have been lost. From 1930 to 2002, the population in the villages of Archangel Region has almost halved (from 24,000 to 13,000). Between 1939 and 1970, in Karelia alone, 1,904 villages were closed – nearly two thirds of the total. It is estimated that in 20 years over 60 million people have left their condemned villages. According to a survey in 2010, there were a total of 36,700 villages in Russia with fewer than 10 inhabitants.

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    For centuries Northern European Russia was a thriving and prosperous area, with a crucial network of trading posts along its rivers, and exporting furs, fish, dairy products and other local commodities to other parts of Russia as well as to Europe. In 1963 Russia began to import bread, and between 1970-80 its import of grain multiplied 14 times and meat 5 times. While the historic northern pasturelands stayed empty, the import of butter increased no less than 184 times.

    A ray of hope?

    Sadly the ‘wiped out’ Russian villages have not been restored and are still dying out today. Their future looks bleak. In many parts of the far North, villages are still being threatened with closure. In Komi last year 250 villages were pronounced neperspektivnie, along with their populations, totalling about 8,000 people. But it is not only the remote areas of the North that are affected, villages are dying even within a few hundred miles of Moscow. During Putin’s time in office, when Moscow has become home to more billionaires than any other city in the world, it is estimated that around 6,000 villages have died. According to official figures, over 3,000 of them became deserted in 2010 alone. In January this year a new law stipulated that a village may be closed only with the agreement of all the villagers.

    image

    The post-perestroika period of the 1980 and 90s added pressure to life in rural communities, with the collapse of Communism leading to the collapse of many collective farms and a mass exodus of young people to towns. Sadly recent governments have done nothing to alleviate the situation, in fact government input seems to be dwindling, not growing. It is a small consolation perhaps, that new freedoms have encouraged some private initiatives, so that the dedicated old men of Sholomya are able to visit their childhood homes and rebuild their ruined churches without interference from the state. In 2007 the former residents of Sholomya celebrated the 250th anniversary of the village. A grand reunion took place, of original inhabitants of the village from all over Russia, from as far as Siberia, and even America. In this rare instance, a ghost village may be coming back to life.

    Source; http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/matilda-moreton/death-of-russian-village

    #405690

    Anonymous

    The reliable article, this is all true.

    On the other hand, such processes take place in all countries, no one wants to deal with hellish agricultural work in the 21st century. Just because of anti-human regime in Russia, this process goes in much worse way..

    #405691

    Anonymous

    Urbanization is worldwide today.  How can family farmers compete with GMO crops?  The giant, mechanized and high yield corporate farms are burying many rural communities. 

    #405692

    Anonymous

    It is very sad..I hope, someday people will care about the villages and agriculture.

    #405693

    Anonymous

    A nation needs to have agricultural,  industrial,  financial and scientific development.  Without it, there is no real independence. 

    #405694

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    Urbanization is worldwide today.  How can family farmers compete with GMO crops?  The giant, mechanized and high yield corporate farms are burying many rural communities.

    Is GMO growing allowed in Russia?

    I've seen a documentary about big companies like Monsanto and GMO in USA. But it seemed to me that American farmers have A LOT of land, not comparable to these village people the article deals with.

    #405695

    Anonymous

    Think GMO is banned in Russia.  Not sure if the USA has more useable land.  It's half the size of Russia and the southwest is a desert.  Russia also has half the population as the USA.  They might balance out

    #405696

    Anonymous

    I don't get it. Yes it is true that villages are getting empty worldwide but for Russia this is unlogical. There is huge space of land and family owned farms could be big and farmers could organize local cooperative dairies, creameries, butcheries, cereal and flour mills, etc. which in turn would create extra jobs in rural areas meaning more population, establishment of public offices, improvement of infrastructure and so on. Excuse that northern lands might not have as great soil as in south is bad because if it is so bad then there is always place for animal husbandry.

    Anyway remember average Slovene farm is below 10 hectares, 20 hectares is considered gangsta redneck! It is true also that most Slovene farmers are also usually industrial workers because farms are to small. Farmers here are heavy workers since they have job and farm work to do.

    Quote:
    no one wants to deal with hellish agricultural work in the 21st century.

    Scythian give me a middle sized farm, i would love to work on it! :D

    Quote:
    How can family farmers compete with GMO crops?  The giant, mechanized and high yield corporate farms are burying many rural communities. 

    Here this is not really present and i hope it will stay that way. Gmo's are not banned but there isn't widespread use of them (if there even is, i don't have clue) and generally people are quite against them here so i am surprised there is no public initiative to ban them.

    #405697

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    Think GMO is banned in Russia.  Not sure if the USA has more useable land.  It's half the size of Russia and the southwest is a desert.  Russia also has half the population as the USA.  They might balance out

    GMO isn't banned in Russia, more than half of food in Russia is made of foreign products which often have GMO admixture. The situation with the cultivation of GMO products in Russia is not controlled at all. Prior to joining the WTO, manufacturers were required to label products with a high content of GMOs, now this restriction is removed.

    Quote:
    I don't get it. Yes it is true that villages are getting empty worldwide but for Russia this is unlogical. There is huge space of land and family owned farms could be big and farmers could organize local cooperative dairies, creameries, butcheries, cereal and flour mills, etc. which in turn would create extra jobs in rural areas meaning more population, establishment of public offices, improvement of infrastructure and so on. Excuse that northern lands might not have as great soil as in south is bad because if it is so bad then there is always place for animal husbandry.

    Scythian give me a middle sized farm, i would love to work on it! :D

    You already asked me this question once, but I still don't know how to explain… :) 

    For example, you can buy a middle sized farm somewhere in European Russia or Western Siberia.. The cost of the land will be comparable with the European level considering corruption and numerous bureaucratic red tape.. Not sure if you wouldn't be cheated by traders and officials :)

    Lack of water, electricity and internet ensures the unity with nature…  If you do not live in southern Russia, the temperature range for your farm will vary from – 40 C to 40 C during the year. Forget about the European crops, to grow something you should plow as oxen and pour land with super expensive chemicals. I wonder where you will get money for chemicals, money simply don't exist in rural area here… Never mind of such things as government grants and bank loans, if you are not going to work all your life for repayment at high interest rates. With no ties, you just can not sell your few fairy grown products, because you couldn't get an access to market, although you can sell products for mediator from Kavkasus at unprofitable prices if you wish.

    In any case do not forget about criminality. Corrupt officials aren't only outlaws in this country, drunken rednecks in the neighborhood would not give you peace, better for you to provide their free access to your farm and products, unless of course you do not want to rebuild the home after huge fire. Do not get them wrong, drug addicted neighbours from Armenia also want to be happy and get money..

    [img width=500]http://s15.postimage.org/5rmsx7q9n/da4515a95416df0b5cfa91147fa4b0e4.jpg” />

    "Christian brothers" from Armenia aren't only troublemakers in the village, their ****** comrades are acting as tax collectors, feel free to share your income   If you wonderfully managed to get a license for the weapon, do not rush to apply it against criminals, because you are always guilty for the law. Call the police? 😮 They're always ready to protect their kavkazian masters and employers:

    [img width=500]http://media.nazaccent.ru/cache/24/42/2442bcb29515bf4ebb0e71bfc293bb66.jpg” />

    But unlikely the police will ever visit your farm..  If you haven't got a personal helicopter, you can try to get to the police or an ambulance on the road:

    [img width=500]http://www.resursafun.ro/watermark.php?src=ZGF0YV9maWxlcy9yZXNvdXJjZXMvNjQyNS9sYXJnZV80LmpwZw==” />

    P.S. I haven't personally talked with people from rural area quite long time, so I'm not well informed about all their troubles, though don't doubt, they would tell you much more dramatical stories.. But do not despair if you have a lot of money and fighting qualities, you can survive anywhere, even on the moon, there are not less empty areas

    #405698

    Anonymous

    Way I see it, there's two options: you will either produce genetically modified crops, to your own specifications, or you can always buy them from China, which is the plan in my country and the whole EU zone by the looks of it.

    #405699

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    GMO isn't banned in Russia, more than half of food in Russia is made of foreign products which often have GMO admixture. The situation with the cultivation of GMO products in Russia is not controlled at all. Prior to joining the WTO, manufacturers were required to label products with a high content of GMOs, now this restriction is removed.

    You already asked me this question once, but I still don't know how to explain… :) 

    For example, you can buy a middle sized farm somewhere in European Russia or Western Siberia.. The cost of the land will be comparable with the European level considering corruption and numerous bureaucratic red tape.. Not sure if you wouldn't be cheated by traders and officials :)

    Lack of water, electricity and internet ensures the unity with nature…  If you do not live in southern Russia, the temperature range for your farm will vary from – 40 C to 40 C during the year. Forget about the European crops, to grow something you should plow as oxen and pour land with super expensive chemicals. I wonder where you will get money for chemicals, money simply don't exist in rural area here… Never mind of such things as government grants and bank loans, if you are not going to work all your life for repayment at high interest rates. With no ties, you just can not sell your few fairy grown products, because you couldn't get an access to market, although you can sell products for mediator from Kavkasus at unprofitable prices if you wish.

    In any case do not forget about criminality. Corrupt officials aren't only outlaws in this country, drunken rednecks in the neighborhood would not give you peace, better for you to provide their free access to your farm and products, unless of course you do not want to rebuild the home after huge fire. Do not get them wrong, drug addicted neighbours from Armenia also want to be happy and get money..

    [img width=500]http://s15.postimage.org/5rmsx7q9n/da4515a95416df0b5cfa91147fa4b0e4.jpg” />

    "Christian brothers" from Armenia aren't only troublemakers in the village, their ****** comrades are acting as tax collectors, feel free to share your income   If you wonderfully managed to get a license for the weapon, do not rush to apply it against criminals, because you are always guilty for the law. Call the police? 😮 They're always ready to protect their kavkazian masters and employers:

    [img width=500]http://media.nazaccent.ru/cache/24/42/2442bcb29515bf4ebb0e71bfc293bb66.jpg” />

    But unlikely the police will ever visit your farm..  If you haven't got a personal helicopter, you can try to get to the police or an ambulance on the road:

    [img width=500]http://www.resursafun.ro/watermark.php?src=ZGF0YV9maWxlcy9yZXNvdXJjZXMvNjQyNS9sYXJnZV80LmpwZw==” />

    P.S. I haven't personally talked with people from rural area quite long time, so I'm not well informed about all their troubles, though don't doubt, they would tell you much more dramatical stories.. But do not despair if you have a lot of money and fighting qualities, you can survive anywhere, even on the moon, there are not less empty areas

    :-[ :-[

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