It has been known for quite some time that once out of secondary school, young men and women in remote Russian provinces tend to move to regional centres for further education or employment, but the dynamics and outcomes of this trend remain poorly understood. Research Intern of the HSE Institute for Social Development Studies Centre for Migration Policy Ilya Kashnitsky looked at how many young people return home after completing their education and how many leave for good, and examined the demographic outlook for Russia's remote provinces.
He studied intraregional migration trends by examining 2002 and 2010 census data from five Russian regions, including Altai Krai, Kostroma, Kursk, and Rostov Oblasts, and the Republic of Bashkortostan.
Kashnitsky studied five cohorts born between 1988 and 1992 and aged between 10 and 14 in 2002 and between 18 and 22 in 2010. In particular, he compared the number of inhabitants from these groups in the aforementioned regions in 2002 and 2010; after excluding deaths, the remaining difference showed a definite trend of migration. "This study method is fairly straightforward: people can stay in the community, die, or move away. Given that mortality is quite low in these age groups – on average less than 1% in our cohorts – we can estimate the balance of migration," said Kashnitsky.
The study reveals that in recent years, the migration situation has become worse in Russian provinces. According to demographers, Russia's rural areas and small provincial towns lost some 40% of school leavers, who moved to regional centres and big cities between 1989 and 2002 censuses, but now their annual loss is more than 70%.
"Once out of secondary school, two thirds of young people leave their provincial communities for regional centres never to come back," Kashnitsky explains. "Particularly depressed regions lost some 70% of their school leavers in the period between the two censuses. Migration is a major driver of change in the demographic structure."
Russia’s remotest areas tend to be more depressed and to have fewer young people and more elderly inhabitants.
"Every major regional centre which is attracting many newcomers is surrounded by depressed areas depleted by this internal migration,” Kashnitsky notes. He further explains that Russian provinces experience a demographic decline due to this reason.
For example, Kursk Oblast lost 10,000 young people, the Republic of Bashkortostan lost 22,000, and Altay Territory lost 11,000 people to migration.
In addition to this, Kashnitsky notes, regional centres often serve as a starting point for youth who then move on to bigger cities; having obtained a university degree in Barnaul, one can then move to Moscow in the hope of finding a job and starting a family. "Provinces are depopulated and rapidly ageing, but regional centres also cannot offer enough jobs and thus they too watch young people go elsewhere", Kashnitsky concludes.