Farewell to Matyora

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Experts Predict the Closure of All Rural Hospitals by 2023 
Ilya Nemchenko
RBC
December 9, 2016

If the number of social welfare institutions continues to decrease at the same pace, there will be no hospitals in rural areas within seven years. Experts argue that all rural schools and medical clinics could be closed within seventeen to twenty years.

Due to “optimization” processes, over the past twenty years, rural areas have lost much of their social infrastucture, experts at the Center for Economic and Political Reform (CEPR) have concluded. In report entitled “Russia, Land of Dying Villages,” they note the numbers of hospitals, schools, and clinics in rural areas will continue to decline in the coming years. RCB has a copy of the report.

Based on Rosstat’s data, the CEPR has calculated that, over the past fifteen to twenty years, the number of rural schools had shrunk by nearly 1.7 times (from 45,100 in 2000 to 25,900 in 2014), the number of rural hospitals by four times (from 4,300 to 1,060), and the number of rural clinics by 2.7 times (from 8,400 to 3,060).

The upshot is that all rural hospitals could close in seven years, while all rural schools and clinics could close in seventeen to twenty years, claims the report.

“It is clear that this is not possible and that all ‘optimizations’ have their limits. However, there are fears that social welfare institutions will continue to close in the countryside in the coming years, albeit at a much less impressive pace,” write the report’s authors.

The optimization of schools and hospitals is often justified by decreases in population, although it is socio-economic problems that facilitate flight to the cities. The experts argue the government has deliberately pursued a policy of depopulating rural areas and has deprived the countryside of its “last hope for the future.” They call the current circumstances a vicious circle. Optimization of social welfare facilities has proceeded at a much faster rate than rural depopulation and the abandonment of villages.

According to the report, the rural population has been in constant decline over the past twenty years. This has happened due both to migration outflows and the fact that the death rate has exceeded the birth rate. The number of deserted villages increased by more than six thousand from 2002 to 2010, to 19,500. Moreover, less than one hundred people live in more than half of all rural settlements.

The experts note that while the number of depopulated villages has continued to grow in Central Russia and the north, rural areas have been developing vigorously in the south. In 2016, the North Caucasus Federal District had the largest population in terms of percentages (50.9%), while the Northwest Federal District had the lowest (15.8%).

The study underscores that the main causes of depopulation in the countryside are social and economic problems. The standard of living is low in rural areas, while unemployment is relatively high, and this has spurred a growth in the crime rate. The experts note that prices in rural areas are high, so country dwellers spend more money on food than city dwellers do.

Population outflow has also been due to the poor quality of utilities and housing. According to the CEPR, only 57% of rural housing stock is supplied with running water, while only 33% of houses have hot water. The condition of the water mains in the countrsyide has constantly grown worse: only 54.7% of residents are supplied with safe drinking water. The experts note that only 5% of villagers have sewers. (This figure has not changed since 1995.) However, the provision of natural gas is relatively better. According to Rosstat, approximately 75% of the rural housing stock is supplied with pipeline or liquefied gas.

The CEPR’s researchers write that the government policy has concentrated capital, jobs, and people in the large cities, while attempts to maintain the rural population have failed, because there are no conditions for developing the villages. The experts believe that comprehensive socio-economic reforms are needed to solve the problem. Otherwise, the number of deserted villages will have increased by the time of the next census.

Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

See some of my previous posts on life in the Russian countryside:

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Sergey Khakhayev, 1938-2016

Sergey Khakhayev. Photo by Irina Flige
Sergey Khakhayev. Photo by Irina Flige

Sergey Khakhayev Has Died
Cogita.ru
December 5, 2016

Sergey Khakhayev, co-chair of St. Petersburg Memorial, died today, December 5, 2016. His funeral will take place on Friday, December 9.

Petersburg Memorial regretfully announces that Sergey Dmitryevich Khakhayev, co-chair of its board of directors, has passed away. Sergey Dmitryevich was admitted to Alexandrovsky Hospital with a massive stroke on November 13, 2016. This morning, we received word of his death. He never came out of the coma caused by the stroke. Sergey Dmitryevich was seventy-nine years old.

[…]

Sergey Khakhayev was born in Leningrad on September 24, 1938. He graduated from the city’s Technological Institute in 1960 with a degree in chemical engineering, and worked at the Krylov Shipbuilding Research Institute (Krylov State Research Center). Khakhayev was a leader of the Union of Communards, an underground Marxist group (aka the Kolokol Group, the Kolokol Magazine Group, and the Kolokolchiki) and co-authored the group’s program, “From a Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy to a Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” with Valery Ronkin. On November 26, 1965, Leningrad City Court sentenced Khakhayev to seven years in a labor camp and three years in exile. He served his sentence in Dubravlag and his exile in Ust-Abakan. Released in 1975, he was involved in the Soviet civil rights movement. Khakhayev served as co-chair of Petersburg Memorial, as well as on the Petersburg Human Rights Council and the Commission for the Restoration of Rights of Rehabilitated Victims of Political Repression in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region.

Kolokolchiki, 1965-2015 (in Russian, with English subtitles)

The film’s co-director, Yevgenia Kulakova, wrote the following today:

“Sergey Dmitryevch Khakhayev died today. It is hard to believe he is no longer with us, because he was always in Memorial, and it seemed like he would be there forever. I cannot recall him ever missing a single event, rally, meeting or telephone call. I recently wrote about how, a couple of years ago, I went to the site of Timur Kacharava’s murder on November 13, quite late in evening. No one was left there except Sergey Dmitryevich. He stood there and stood there and would not leave. I was really struck by this. This year, Sergey Dmitryevich did not go to Bukvoyed bookstore [where Kacharava was stabbed to death by neo-Nazis in 2005]. When we got there, we learned from Irina [Flige] that he was in hospital.

“Sergey Dmitryevich was one of the Kolokolchiki. Getting to know them and working with them last year was an important event in my life. Here I’d like to quote part of our interview with Sergey Dmitryevich:

‘The fact is that when a person is still young, he has a thirst for justice. With age, the thirst goes away, but it exists in youth, at any rate, amongst a significant part of the populace. Some people could not care less from the get-go: nothing interests them except a half liter of vodka. But many people want justice, and they react badly to any setbacks and try to fight for justice, locally and more generally. Communist ideas are perennial ideas in this sense. Because this is the fundamental principle: the desire to make the world more just. When push comes to shove you use what comes to hand. Marx was what came to hand in our case.’

“The Kolokolchiki were born in 1962, when Sergey Khakhayev and Valery Ronkin, Communist Youth League members, public order volunteers, and Technology Institute graduates, wrote the pamphlet ‘From a Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy to a Dictatorship of the Proletariat.’ The pamphlet opened as follows: ‘The first thing that strikes a person entering adult life in socialist society is the enormous amount of lies and hypocrisy that have permeated our reality.’ This was followed by leaflets handed out among volunteers traveling to work in the Virgin Lands Campaign, at a rally of camping enthusiasts, and at Leningrad University. Then there were two issues of the magazine Kolokol. The third issue was never published: the manuscript was arrested along with the Kolokolchiki. Khakhayev and Ronkin got the worst of it: seven years in labor camps and three years in exile. Sergey Dmitryevich served his sentence in Mordovia, and his exile in Ust-Abakan in Krasnoyarsk Territory. He was joined in exile by Valeria Chikatuyeva, who had been released earlier. They were married, got a dog, and lived for three years in a tiny eleven-meter-square house. They and the dog moved to Luga, which was located beyond the 101st kilometer restriction zone around Leningrad. I could probably tick off on my fingers the number of times I met with them when the two of them were not together. They were always together. It was in Luga that Khakhayev and Ronkin wrote their last joint article, ‘Socialism’s Past and Future.’ Then came perestroika, and Memorial, with which Khakhayev was involved until his final days.

I see the Kolokolchiki as exemplars of camaraderie, friendship, love, and a zest for life. The way they talk about one another in interviews, the way they call each other on Skype from thousands of kilometers away, the way they miss and talk about their comrades who have already passed away. It is hardest for them right now. Hang in there, my dear friends.”

[…]

Sergey Khakhayev on a work brigade (before his arrest)
Sergey Khakhayev, 1960s
Sergey Khakhayev, 1960s
Sergey Khakhayev and his wife Valeria Chikatuyeva, Ust-Abakan, 1970s
Sergey Khakhayev and his wife Valeria Chikatuyeva, Ust-Abakan, 1970s
Valery Ronkin and Sergey Khakhayev, Leningrad, 1976
Valery Ronkin and Sergey Khakhayev, Leningrad, 1976

[…]

Translated by the Russian Reader. All photos courtesy of Cogita.ru