Российская провинция и ее обитатели (опыт наблюдения и попытка описания)
One of the key problems in understanding contemporary Russia’s development, to our opinion, is the lack of the non-judgmental knowledge about the life of population and management processes on the local level. It can, however, be resolved through an unbiased observation and descriptive studies based on thenon-theoretical schema description. We have been conducting such studies duringthe last 5 years (42 expeditions in about 80 settlements, primarily towns).The article provides an attempt to describe the life of contemporary provincial Russia in three aspects: (1) territorial, administrative and economic organization of space, (2) social structure and life styles of local population, (3) structure of local government and power relations.A preliminary 'snapshot' of activities in a local society shows that the realorganization of life is a lot more multifold than the one that exists in formal classifications and schemes developed by sociologists and used by officials. As a result of the non-compliance between schemes and reality any reform imposed from above is either being neutralized or adapted on a local level to the realities of the local government and population. However, such neutralization processes areusually invisible, if we consider the official information (i.e. municipal statisticsor local opinion surveys). A problem of inconsistence between the municipal status of settlements(urban or rural) and their historically determined social weight is being revealedas well. The lack of sustainability in municipal structure is a lot more evidentin the case with urban districts – their administrative and territorial statusis still quite amorphous. The municipal differences in social and economic characteristics and their development prospects are determined by the access todifferent resources, including the latent ones (i.e. seasonal works, illegal smallbusinesses, etc.), which can only be revealed through participant observation. According to this principle two settlement types can be distinguished: developing and escheated ones.Within the social structure of settlements several groups can be distinguished, which are quite isolated with respect to each other. These are the groups of 'indigenous' settlers, seasonal cottagers and landowners, and seasonal workers. At the same time the social differentiation is based primarily status differences(‘people’ and ‘elites’) rather than economic resources. The most common form of structuring local elites is a so called 'civil society of public servants' – an informal community of people with relatively similar statuses, who can affect the decision-making in local governments.The research has shown that many common perceptions of the life styles of people in provincial Russia (poverty, alcoholism, total corruption, religiosity, etc.) are mythical. Yet mythical as well are the dominant perceptions of the exclusive state healthcare system and the generally accessible education.The structure of local government and power relations is also rather versatile. Along with the less numerous examples of (1) the real municipal selfgovernance and (2) politicized municipalities, where authorities keep the balanceof interests, more common are the following two types: (3) municipalities,which have practically turned into manors of local entrepreneurs and municipalofficials, and (4) municipalities with officials, who support the Soviet structureof government. At the same time different strategies of the local government can bedistinguished with respect to their relation to the voting population. The first strategy is biased towards those, who are in desperate need of social support (pensioners, budget workers, lower officials). The second strategy is based on the'insider interactions' with those, whom the government officials make businesswith or provide with possibility of making business for a certain rent or bribe(seasonal workers, entrepreneurs). In many settlements there has formed a socalled administrative business, which makes income on various compensations from entrepreneurs. Thus, the official political and public activity in settlements is mostly imitational. The real local politics is basically a reflection of a strugglefor resources.