Topology of a Settlement Network as a Factor of Rural Population Dynamics (a Case Study of Tyumen Oblast)
During the last decades, the Russian countryside has been strongly losing in the number of residents. People are moving to large cities, mainly, to regional capitals. Migration outflow increases with distance from cities. Centripetal tendencies in migration can be strengthened or mitigated in the local context due to the specific properties of a territory, rooted in its history. The authors consider the configuration of a settlement network as one such contextual factor. The study poses two questions: do the topological properties of a settlement network, namely, connectivity and centralization, affect the rate the settlement network is shrinking, and how do the population dynamics in individual settlements depend on their position in a settlement network. The authors addressed these questions using Tyumen oblast as a case region, where they studied the settlement network dynamics in 2002–2010. The settlement network was divided into segments according to the cluster analysis based on the shortest road distances matrix. Then the authors measured the connectivity and centralization of each segment and centrality metrics for individual settlements. The results showed no statistical relationship between the topological properties of the network segments and their depopulation rates. Yet, for individual settlements, the position in the settlement network was a significant factor for population dynamics. Together with the population size, the centrality metrics explained 23–24% of the variance in population dynamics among the settlements between 2002 and 2010. Outside the metropolitan area of Tyumen, the settlements with high interdistrict centrality were growing. It is noteworthy that the configuration of the settlement network at the interdistrict scale rooted back in times of the Russian colonization of Western Siberia in the 17th–19th centuries and largely followed the river network pattern. In the 20th century, the rivers lost their transport role, yet the roads connected settlements within existed settlement groups reaffirming the riverine pattern.