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Reasons Why Urban Russians Don't Move to Countryside

The wide popularity of ecovillages in Russia is little more than a myth. Most urban Russians who have considered living in the countryside have a dacha or cottage community in mind, rather than real farm and agricultural work.

STUDY'S AUTHORS:

Yury Voinylov, Expert, HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK).
Darya Maltseva, Analyst, ZIRCON Research Group.

Longing to escape to the rural idyll from the hustle and bustle of the city, often portrayed by mass media as a current trend among urbanites, can be a gross exaggeration, at least in Russia. Indeed, only 3% of Russian city dwellers are prepared to move to the countryside, while 67% have never even considered this option, according to Voinylov and Maltseva's study 'Moving from Cities to Villages: Potential for Russian Urban Residents' Relocation to Countryside'.

Urban Dwellers Not Lured by Rural Idyll

The study estimates the proportion of urban residents prepared to move to the countryside at 3%, of whom just 1% have made the decision and are actively preparing for the move, while 2% are still researching their options (Figure 1), according to Voinylov and Maltseva. However, a clear majority (67%) have never even considered such relocation.

Countryside Means Dacha

A significant majority of urban residents considering the move have in mind living in a dacha or cottage community, either seasonally (58%) or year round (43%, Figure 2).

At the same time, 44% of potential movers associate the countryside with living in a real village, 24% refer to ecovillages, and only 12% would consider relocation under a vacant land development scheme.

Consistent with the common perception of country life as living in a dacha is the finding that most potential movers are not planning to travel too far away from their current home: 36% would only consider moving somewhere close to their current residence, while 31% would agree to resettle within their home region.

Potential Movers Not Attracted to Farming

Not all urban residents considering a move to the country associate it with taking up a job in agriculture: 40% are not prepared to do this type of work, another 12% think of it as something they are not likely to choose (Figure 3), and only 24% of potential movers are determined to engage in farming.

Figure 3. Answers to question, 'If you move to the countryside, would you consider employment in agriculture?' (% of urban residents who have ever considered relocation to the countryside).

Five Incentives for Moving

  • Good ecology: 81% of respondents complain of a polluted urban environment, and 61% believe that truly natural foods can only be found in villages;
  • Living in the countryside is safer, according to 58% of urban respondents;
  • Humans are designed to live closer to nature as opposed to unnatural urban environments, according to 56%;
  • A private house is a better place to live than a city apartment, according to 57%;
  • A leisurely, unhurried rural life is preferable to the hustle and bustle of big cities, according to 48% of respondents.

Five Barriers to Moving

  • Cities offer more opportunites for  creativity and self-expression, according to 70% of respondents;
  • Urban dwellers tend to be discouraged by lower wages and inadequate social infrastructure in rural areas (58% each), as well as a lack of retail stores and service centres (34%);
  • Problems with public utilities, poor transportation and inadequate roads are mentioned by 55% of respondents;
  • Another barrier is the high cost of land in rural areas (28%);
  • Having to travel long distances to visit family and friends in the city is perceived as a problem by 22%.

Need for Better Living Standards

According to the authors, better socioeconomic conditions in rural areas could encourage more people to move from cities to villages. Thus, 57% of respondents believe that bigger wages could tip the scale for them and 31% would be more likely to make the move if they could find employment in the same occupation as in the city. According to respondents, they would need support from government, such as real estate subsidies (58%), compensation of relocation costs (30%), etc.

Availability of healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and clinics, is essential for potential movers to the countryside (68%), followed by adequate power, water and gas supply (45-51%), schools and preschool facilities (38%), and decent roads (33%).

The paper is based on findings from a project conducted by ZIRCON Research Group in collaboration with the Green League NGO in the spring of 2015, which included a survey of 1,600 people (1,259 urban and 341 rural residents), an expert session attended by researchers of city-to-country migration, representatives of rural development groups and leaders of online communities of people having moved from cities to villages, and an online focus group.

August 31, 2016