«Отдельная типа республичка»: структурные особенности пространственно изолированных локальных сельских сообществ
Existing descriptions of rural communities in the Russian North are based on surveys conducted in non-isolated villages. However, many rural settlements in this area have poor to non-existent transport communication with the outer world. Many villages find themselves spatially isolated and these are poorly represented in the existing research. In this paper, the author fills this gap and identifies the structural specifics of territorially isolated local rural communities. Empirically, the study draws on the records from field research conducted by the author in fifteen villages located in five regions of the European part of Russia. The data were collected using in-depth interviews (63 interviews with local inhabitants and 5 with external experts) and participant observation. The research reveals that isolated communities are structurally different from the more common non-isolated ones. While their demography is similar, the population in isolated communities generally has a higher percentage of children and younger people. The inhabitants of such hard-to-reach villages stand out by their way of life, including subsistence patterns, environmental behavior, and housekeeping. Isolation gives the local population certain advantages. The principal one is the practical absence of any interaction with the authorities, both in terms of control and support. The resulting lack of regulatory oversight and control enables the locals to remain in the shadow economy, and resort to the most available and efficient (and thus beneficial for themselves and the community) means of subsistence, such as the appropriation of local natural resources. In turn, the lack of assistance stimulates mutual support and self-organization, which allows the resolution of private and communal issues quickly and efficiently. In sum, these advantages have a positive impact on self-sufficiency and sustainability of hard-to-reach communities.