The head of the project: Tatyana G. Nefedova
The title of the project: Early developed regions under socio-economic polarization and shrinkage of the active areas in European Russia.
Key words: Socio-economic development, regional development, polarization, peripheralization, settlement patterns, depopulation, cities, population mobility, rural areas, industry, agriculture, land use
The present socio-economic development in Russia is characterized by large spatial heterogeneity. While the dichotomous process of centralization-peripheralization represents a global trend, its most prominent manifestation in European Russia is the polarization of social space along the center-periphery and the North-South axes. The old industrial and agricultural areas show significant differences in the trajectories of socio-economic development. Fast and predominant development of central territories — first of all, large cities — is combined with prevailing inertial or descending trends in the development of periphery. However, the range of possible scenarios of socio-economic development is wider.
The relevance of the project is determined by the fact that polarization of social space affects economy and living conditions, especially in peripheral areas. Periphery is forced to adapt to reducing investment and social services as well as growing unemployment. Its population feels excluded from global and regional information and production networks. Local governments are unable to pursue independent development policy.
‘Territorial development’ was and remains one of the key concepts in Russian human geography. It was designed before and, especially, after 1917 – in soviet times – in relation to colonization and pioneering development. At the same time scientific interest to the early developed and, especially, depressive regions has weakened over the past 25–30 years.
The project is focused on the old industrial and old agricultural regions of European Russia. By analyzing their historical evolution, the results of deliberate development during the soviet period and spontaneous transformations in recent decades, we seek for identifying the present types of early developed areas as well as their prospects in different natural and socio-economic conditions. The changes are mainly indicated by population dynamics, the changes in settlement patterns, transformation of the economy, the growth of spatial mobility of small towns' and rural areas population, as one of the factors of its adaptation to changing conditions. Particular attention is paid to industry, transforming due to technological and managerial innovations, and to agriculture, which has become in market conditions more oriented towards the quality of the land, better infrastructural conditions, and the proximity to the markets, with consequent significant changes in land use and agricultural employment. One of the key goals of the project is to reveal alternative trajectories of the development in old industrial and agricultural regions, including with respect to their internal factors.
An important characteristic of the project is a multiscale approach: from a general theoretical study of early-developed areas as a phenomenon, their natural, economic and social contents and diversity in European Russia to a detailed study of lower territorial units – rural and urban settlements, land use patterns and changes in natural landscapes. According to multiscale approach, we combine an analysis of statistics and legal information from different administrative levels, the use of cartographic methods, including an analysis of remote sensing data, with expert and in-depth interviews during the field research in case regions.
The complexity of the research, combining, on the one hand, an analysis of economic practices, lifestyle of the population and its spatial mobility with, on the other hand, an analysis of the changes in the use of landscape and resource potential of the territories, including the transformation of land use, works for the practical relevance of the project: identifying both the prerequisites and limitations for the emergence of local growth poles and the main trends in employment in different natural and socio-economic conditions, against the changes in economic and nature management practices.
The differences in possible trajectories of the economic development of the territories are also considered as an effect of different legal regulations at regional scale.
The expected results
Polarization of socio-economic space has divided the old industrial and agricultural areas into groups of more and less successful ones, changing range of their types and development problems. For a long time, the outcome of this process, the development paths of the regions with common demographic, economic, socio-cultural potential, have been studied superficially or selectively – successful areas and centers were separated from the areas of depopulation and economic depression. The project aims at filling this gap by using modern approaches and methods.
The idea of the project is to analyze early-developed areas from two perspectives:
- as old settled areas of long history of development and natural resources exploitation, with different development trajectories, and, often, accumulated negative socio-economic effects;
- as areas of new development, reproduction, and accumulation of new features related to changes in functions, nature use practices, internal and external resources, including human capital.
The project aims at revealing alternative trajectories of the old industrial and agricultural regions development, as well as at identifying the territories whose development has been limited by previous paths.
The participants of the project will investigate population dynamics and transformation of settlement patterns associated with the depopulation in some areas and concentration of population in southern regions and large urban agglomerations. Such a spatial redistribution of the population my lead to changes in infrastructure and housing requirements as well as shortage or excess of labor forces. While labour market does not always adequately meet redistribution of population, we pay special attention to employment problems in early-developed areas of different types.
Strengthening spatial mobility of various types (migration from small cities and rural areas to urban agglomerations, the return labour mobility, educational migrations) indicates polarization of socio-economic space and population adaptation to changing conditions. These problems are at the forefront of international research and form new spatio-temporal approaches to the study of society and its life space. That links this project to the previous studies of the research group, conducted within the framework of the Russian Scientific Fund project, and focused on spatial mobility of population in the rural-urban continuum.
The project seeks for a better understanding of the factors, which provide the preservation of old industrial areas in Russia, sometimes with outdated technologies, and possible directions of their development. The study includes an analysis of industrial cities development from the perspectives of historical specialization, diversification, re-industrialization of depressed territories, loss of industrial functions and degradation. One of the project’s goals is to analyze an impact of peripheralization on industrial and urban development. The typology of cities of different size in early-developed areas and identification of common and unique features of peripheralization process and potential for deperipheralization provide practical significance of the study.
Location of agricultural production has become more oriented to the quality of land resources, infrastructural conditions and proximity to the markets, which has led to abandonment of remote and low-fertile lands, mostly located in old agricultural regions of Central Russia. Rural depopulation in a previous – soviet – period contributed to present agricultural production decline. The study suggests an analysis of relationship between structural changes in agro-industrial and forestry complexes and the changes in land-use and labour market, including during the period of the production recovery and growth in the 2000s. Analysis of the natural and socio-economic prerequisites and constraints, including the impact large cities have on the countryside, will make it possible to identify different models of economic development in the early-developed regions, such as replacement of traditional farming with new activities related to use of new resources. Micro-level research, which is devoted to the study of socio-economic dynamics in old rural settlements and settlements that emerged during the Soviet period, will reveal the influence of landscape conditions on present socio-economic dynamics and assess scales of further possible shrinkage of active space.
The novelty of the research is provided by combination of traditional approaches and methods with the new ones, such as an analysis of statistical and cartographic information, field surveys and in-depth interviews with officials, entrepreneurs and local communities’ members, an analysis of remote sensing data in order to identify the changes in settlement and land use patterns in early-developed areas.
The study also includes an analysis of institutional and legal prerequisites of spatial development, regional and federal regulations and their types. New proposals to eliminate inconsistencies and contradictions of the regulatory mechanisms at different administrative levels constitute practical implications of the work.