Terra Incognita of the Russian Near North: Counter-Urbanization in Today’S Russia and the Formation of Dacha Communities

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Abstract

This article considers the salient features of counter-urbanization, which take place when urban residents, during the summer months, move to live in their second homes or their dachas [country homes or summer cottages]. Due to the social forces that are the result of incomplete urbanization, class polarization, and the rapid growth of major city centers, there are two powerful oppositional flows of migration taking place today in Russia. The first is centripetal migration or the movement of rural populations to large cities. The second form of migration is centrifugal migration or counterurbanization, which is the relocation of urban populations to rural areas. The article gives a theoretical overview of a new vision of migration as a part of modern flexible ‘liquid’ mobility, which enables urban residents to be constantly ‘on the move’, migrating between their urban apartments and suburban or distant dachas. A theoretical sociological background provides the field research, presented in the article, with an understanding of the realm of meanings of de-urbanization in a short and long historical run and in perspective. Russian men and women, who work in various professions due to advances in telecommunication technologies, are able to spend some extended periods at their dachas where they simultaneously work and enjoy the natural beauty and countryside. The different types of dachas in Russia that are either close to cities or in remote regions are examined. The case study of dacha counter-urbanization in the periphery region of Kostroma oblast' considers: 1) various features of the return counter-urbanization to remote dacha and 2) the social, economic and cultural effects that these dacha settlements have had on both the urban and rural residents.

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