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Article

"Свои" и "чужие" в русском провинциальном городе

Locals” and “alien” in Russian provincial town

Ju.M. Plusnin

 

The article is based on empirical social research of the local communities in Russia. Their centers are situated in provincial towns, but the territory occupied by the local community, is located in the wider boundaries in the limes of former county and modern administrative district. We have studied only one component of the provincial social structure: the differentiation in categorical opposition "locals" and "aliens" (or “insiders – outsiders”).

The basic concept is the introduction and determination of necessary and sufficient criteria for the recognition of an individual or group as "us", or “insiders”. These criteria are: (1) duration of communal life, or cohabitation, (2) co-residence – the neighborhood, (3) the relationship and the interaction between "insiders", “locals”, (4) reciprocal altruism – the reciprocity relations, (5) the local privileges and their control, (6) regulatory identification with "we" - communal local mentality.

Not all criteria are symmetrical and the oppositional for the categories of "locals" and "alien". The category of "alien" characterized by following significant criteria: (1) the duration of cohabitation and (2) neighborhood. However, in modern terms is irrelevant criterion (3) relationship. On the contrary, the criterion (4) reciprocal altruism is more important for the differentiation of "aliens" than "locals" Criteria (5) the local privilege and (6) the regulatory identification with "we" no longer significant segregation signs for "aliens"; the reason is a widespread system of public benefits and the availability of mass-media. Local privileges and community mentality shifted to the periphery of public consciousness as a criteria of “we”.

The materials are obtained from the field sociological researches of provincial communities during 1992-2012 years. There are also materials of two all-Russian surveys in 1999 and 2009, used for the statistical analysis. Special emphasis on the study of the social structure of the provincial society was implemented as a result of my research project "Social Structure of Provincial Russian Society" supported in 2011-2012  by the Fund "Khamovniki."

The material was collected in more than 50 towns (local populations). They are located in the European part of Russia and in the Urals and Siberia. The selection of the local communities I have undertaken on the basis of four criteria: (1) a small population of the local community, which involves a broad network of acquaintances, the absence of anomie and anonymity, (2) the duration of the local social life, which means society has long been a "natural" way, and many people are related one another. Society forcibly collected from heterogeneous and alien elements, and (3) the town is not a transportation hub, so there is no high level of migration, (4) in the town absence of urban development enterprise, which employs large numbers of people and such a venture "contracts" for all the life-support local society and distorts the social structure.

Field research methodology was required qualitative methods mainly. There have been direct observational method and expert interviews. Analytical materials obtained as a result of sample representative questionnaires residents.

Results. The significant empirical features of “locals” and “aliens” in the urban provincial society were presented. A number of “locals” traits is analyzed statistically, especially the duration of habitation and resident status (temporal and spatial parameters). Sociological analytical procedures can select only the outward signs of division between "insiders" and "outsiders." The share of "indigenous friends" in a provincial town, at least nine out of ten, on the basis of statistical calculations on materials of mass surveys in 1999 and 2009. This result is consistent with my direct observation and experience with fellow researchers, and an assessment of the respondents. It is clear that not all of these people are recognized for their local community and will be full "friends", or “locals”. But in terms of "neighborhood" they are all neighbors. They are familiar with each other. This acquaintance is pretty close. In a provincial town, almost all the residents - relatives and neighbors. They do not have the passion to migration and prefer to spend all his life in his hometown. "Aliens", or “outsiders” has no more than 5% - 10%, but our other observations are much smaller. Most of the " outsiders" is a "flow-through people", the current flow through the town in its motion in space of the country, has not yet stopped. "Outsiders" live in the city no longer 5-7 years, and then they leave.

The profound differences in the degree of closeness of people in local communities are helped by phenomenological approach. I gave a presentation of case studies of social differentiation in the axis of "insiders – outsiders, alien" in the examples of three long-established provincial societies. Differentiation between “locals" and "alien" is caused mainly by the local social and socio-economic history, including nowadays history. The differentiation caused by ethnic, historical or demographic (migration) factors. A variety of factors are important for the evolution of "locals". This group is a heterogeneous population, and always well differentiated and distanced itself from "aliens".

A few examples show the formation and consolidation processes of "locals": (1) at one time as a homogeneous group of kinship and neighbor with further prolonged stabilization, (2) serial (for 2-3 generations) inclusion and incorporation of new groups of "locals" in the local society, (3) selective inclusion of particular groups of "aliens" in the existing closed local society, and the rejection of other groups. "Locals" in the provincial society is homogeneous group in population-demographic and social traits. The local population has a low level of migration, and the boundaries population extends far beyond the city limits, usually covering most of the population of modern municipal region, or the administrative district.

Provincial Russian town is made in the vast majority of "friendly people. People are very familiar with each other inhabitants, a lot of them are relatives, and they give mutually support each other, and have common attitudes. Outsiders is not existing in a small provincial town, that's true. Aliens forms small and compact groups, that are clearly visible and segregate. This status of aliens reflects the homogenously and low difference of “locals”. But, it is the main factor of local solidarity. In such society is not loneliness. Such society has the real local self-government, but it is not receptive to civil society established by state. The society of “locals” is not a civil society.