262S11+_22Rescaling+Russia_s+Geography_22+2005

262S11+_22Rescaling+Russia_s+Geography_22+2005 -...

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Rescaling Russia’s Geography: the Challenges of Depopulating the Northern Periphery JOHN ROUND IT IS WIDELY ACKNOWLEDGED THAT the command economy’s geographical legacies hinder Russia’s attempts to create an efficient post-Soviet market system. Arguably, given the cost of maintaining them, one of the most problematic bequeathals is the series of relatively overpopulated settlements along the country’s northern periphery. Developed to facilitate the extraction of the region’s natural resources, such settlements, as the ‘transition’ period elongates, are becoming increasingly burdensome for the state owing to their crumbling infrastructures and growing welfare dependency. 1 With the state having to commit increasing levels of capital to support economically ‘non- productive’ populations, the need to rationalise such settlements becomes ever more pressing. In theory, at least from an economic rationale, Russia needs to ‘shrink’ its permanent geographical ‘reach’ by installing shift-work modes of production rather than sustaining permanent populations in these regions. The start of President Putin’s second term of office saw considerable discussion, among the political elite, on how to accomplish this. The emerging academic literature on the subject is, however, more or less limited to detailing the problems such settlements pose to the state. 2 To Fll this lacuna the discussions below critically explore the state’s mechanisms for rationalising its northern periphery. ±urthermore, this article is among the Frst to consider, through in-depth qualitative research, the micro-level resistance to these processes and the subsequent problems this poses for the state. TofacilitatethisthearticleFrstdetailshowthepost-Stalinstateencouragedmigration to such settlements. This is crucial as how individuals contemporarily mediate these methods is the bedrock of post-Soviet resistance to change. Then, to explore the impact oftheSovietUnion’scollapseonthenorthernperiphery,Magadancity,thecapitalofthe far north-eastern Magadan oblast’ (see map, ±igure 1), is employed as a case study. Through this settlement detailed examinations of post-Soviet attempts to rationalise Russia’snorthernperipheryarethenposited.Ofmostinterestisthecreation,withtheaid of the World Bank,of federal assisted migration schemes (AMS)aimedat the removal of welfare dependent individuals from three regions in the Russian north. While only in its third, and Fnal, pilot stage public response to the AMS has proved relatively disappointing. The article’s Fnal sections examine why. To do this a question crucial to the success of such schemes is posed. Why do people wish to remain in climatically inhospitable, increasingly expensive and marginal settlements?
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This document was uploaded on 10/27/2011 for the course GEO 262 at Rutgers.

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262S11+_22Rescaling+Russia_s+Geography_22+2005 -...

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