Shrinking Urban System of the Largest Country: Research Progress and Unsolved Issues
The article is a review of trends of the last decade in the development and study of the urban system of Russia and its largest agglomerations, Moscow, in particular. The features of Russia’s urban network are noted against the global background and key features, shifts in the urban network, including the ongoing concentration of people in major cities and urban agglomerations with the degradation of lower levels of the urban system—small towns and urban-type settlements. The reasons for these processes are associated both with the natural increase/decrease and, in particular, migrations of the population and administrative decisions: the expansion of large cities, elimination of urban-type settlements, etc. The differences between the Russian regions in the number and size of urban settlements are shown, as well as the direction of the drift of demographic centers. A review of studies on urban agglomerations revealed their continuity with Soviet ones. The main conclusions on the dynamics of the development of urban agglomerations correspond to those obtained earlier: the growth of the largest urban agglomerations, primarily, the Moscow and St. Petersburg ones, continues, while the demographic resource for feeding smaller agglomerations is gradually decreasing: they grow more slowly or even decrease in size. Migration remains the key transformation mechanism, largely due to the strongest polarization of the state of the labor market between the centers of urban agglomerations, their belts, and the periphery outside the agglomeration, which initiates large-scale temporary labor and resettlement migrations. Against this background, the Moscow agglomeration stands out ever more significantly, growing into the core of the emerging Central Russian megalopolis. The direct impact of the capital’s labor and housing markets and associated migration spans Central and Southern Russia, while the indirect impact is felt throughout the country. The growth of the share and role of the Moscow agglomeration in the settlement
system is determined by a set of factors that have consolidated its image as a “land of opportunity”: capital rent, centralization of economic and political decisions, agglomeration effect, concentration of the best human capital, and polarization of the labor market and career opportunities.