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Article

Границы, соседи и соседство в жизни малых городов на российских границах

Зотова М. В., Гриценко А. А.

Neighborhood and border interactions have a significant impact on localities situated on the state borders, turning them into contact zones where the spaces of two neighboring states face each other at the grass-roots level, creating various challenges for people and their well-being. This article analyzes and compares the social functions of neighborhood and borders through the example of several small peripheral towns located on different sections of the Russian border: Armyansk and Dzhankoy – on the new contested border with Ukraine; Troitsk – on the integration border with Kazakhstan; Zabaikalsk – on the old border with China. Based on interviews with local experts, field observations and focus groups with the most representative members of the local communities, we studied the attitude of residents of the four border towns to their neighbors and neighboring states, local development, border, its regime, contact and barrier functions, and their impact on everyday life. The study showed that the local communities distinguish between the attitude to the neighboring state as to ‘a state and government’ and as to ‘a country and people’. Concerning the first category, people expressed mostly negative emotions, while feelings for the second category were mostly positive, which is due to regular interactions and personal experience. We also found differences in people's perceptions of the relationship and significance of the contact and barrier functions of the Russian border, reflecting differences in the neighborhood and relations between Russia and neighboring countries. In conclusion, our results suggest that the subjective feelings of people make the considered border situations similar since the problems created by the border are perceived by local residents as secondary against the increasing peripherization.