I first came to Norilsk in 1986. It was a business trip: we are in the Central economic Institute of the Gosplan of the RSFSR did the program of socio-economic development of the Krasnoyarsk region. The strongest impression I had formulated for myself is very simple: how can you live there women, children, seniors? Not only that, this far North, with low temperatures, winds, polar night and the long winter, and the atmospheric emissions from the Norilsk mining and metallurgical combine them. A. P. Zavenyagin. When I got to cozy Moscow apartment and opened the door, his wife asked, puzzled: why you smell that sulfur?

Since then I have been in Norilsk many more times. Despite changes for the better from the point of view of air quality and new, modern technologies, the city remains a symbol of a bad environment, that vividly showed us the recent disaster with the spill 21 thousand tons of fuel. And the climate hasn’t changed. Thus as they dwelled there about 200 thousand people of all ages, and continue to live.

I remembered Norilsk, because in Russia, along with many existing systemic issues, which quite rightly say, there is another important node: this contradiction between the vastness of our territory and population living on it population. From this contradiction it follows a lot of social, economic and political consequences, exacerbating nearly all of our swollen to a critical level of the problem.

What is the population density in Russia? About 9 people per 1 square kilometer. This 181-e a place in the world. Below us — only a few African countries, occupying desert, Mongolia, and Australia and Canada. Even in the Krasnodar region with its favourable climate the population density is only 75 people per 1 square kilometer. For comparison: in great Britain, Germany, the figure is 3-4 times more. In a rather big area of the United States, including sparsely populated Alaska in 1 square kilometer there is 32 people.

Such a glaring difference is due, of course, objective circumstances. For example, 65% of Russian territory is permafrost. It is obvious that living there very uncomfortable. In addition, for decades we have slow, but the decline in population. In 1991, we in what was then the RSFSR was 148 million, and last year (without Crimea and Sevastopol) — 144 million.

However, there is already visible the important problem of spatial development: what do we do with the huge Northern territories? In Soviet times they were completely mastered, despite any climatic features. Still we remember the many victims of the Gulag, made for the Kolyma gold, Norilsk copper and Nickel, the Vorkuta coal. The legacy of those times became stationary city, m�� of which Norilsk, but in the same breath with them the whole Deposit of oil and gas settlements of the Tyumen North. And nothing would be terrible, but there is, as I said, women give birth to children and long retired. While it has long been proven that staying there for at least several years negative impact on health. No wonder the Russian legislation there is benefit for early retirement for those who lived in “the far North and equated localities” and to those who have worked there for at least 15 years.

in Order not to exacerbate this adverse social situation, it is necessary to make decisions about the development of these territories only in shifts. This will allow, in particular, to reduce anthropogenic pressure on nature and to remove the risk of ill health for women with children and the elderly. One of the possible political consequences of such step could be empowering the management of these territories the indigenous peoples of the North. Now these rights are decorative and are continuously reduced, for example, through the elimination of the Autonomous regions that has already happened in Krasnoyarsk region, on Kamchatka and it was recently stated in relation to the Nenets Okrug.

But if you look at the remaining 35% of the territory of Russia, which is located South of the permafrost zone, then here is revealed another urgent problem: the contraction of the population in so-called megacities and their surrounding that obsluzhivaet the space between them. For example, in Moscow and Moscow region in 1991 had 16 million permanent residents, and in 2019 — for 20 million. In St.-Petersburg and Leningrad region population over the same period increased from 6.7 to 7.2 million. But in the Tver region, located between the two capitals, these figures decreased from 1.6 to less than 1.3 million. It must be borne in mind that many people in this area there are only officially registered, migrating to work in the same Metropolitan area. There is the population density — 15 people per 1 square kilometer, which corresponds to a much more Northern Finland, and the desert of Algeria.

In fact, if you look at a map of resettlement of people on the territory of Russia, we see, first, a few dense compact spots, the extreme East of which — million Novosibirsk, adding 1992-2019 for years. about 200 thousand people. And, secondly, the relatively densely and evenly populated regions of the South and the Volga region — Krasnodar Krai, the republics of the North Caucasus, and parts of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Stavropol territory, Rostov and Volgograd regions. All the rest is sparsely populated and degraded areas, despite the fact that they have a good climate and economic potential. A striking example of such degradation — fertile Altai Krai, ��aselena which in 1991 was 2.6 million, and last year fell to 2.3 million.

where all this leads? The negative effects are many. Of these, perhaps the most difficult:

— the deterioration of the quality of life of the vast population of degraded areas, especially in small towns and rural areas, as well as sugarbush of the inhabitants of the cities and their vicinities;

— the gap uniform all-Russian social space, when the territorial differences in the level and quality of life not just grow, but reach dramatic sizes;

— thus, pardon the bureaucratese, reduced as a considerable part of Russian “human capital”, which in turn undermines the investment process for the most part of territory of Russia, even more concentrating the economic activity in the capitals and a few other compact points.

And here arises a fundamental question: can a society declaring its democratic character and respecting the rights and freedoms of the individual, recognizing the inviolability of private property, attempt to regulate the resettlement of people in the territory? We all remember the Soviet experience, when the then government decided: if at the deserted point N it is necessary to build a plant, then there will be people who will still have many years to live in mud huts and barracks. And now regularly write projects that will create incentives that will attract people to move to Siberia and the far East. But that’s just can’t do it: people (especially young people) still wants to go there. A vivid example of the loudly touted free “far Eastern acres,” which first drew the attention of the many, but quickly blown away: the number of those who received it, according to official data, 76 thousand people, of which not all lead to the hectare economic activity. It is clear that this does not affect the demographic, social and economic situation in the far East.

So to throw that all away? The answer to this question is rooted in the very foundations of the current Russian regime.

in order to conduct an active regional policy, we need to attract investment for the construction of transport infrastructure and create new jobs in depressed areas. This is the basics. But everything depends on the Russian realities that determine the current toxic climate for investment. To reverse the trend, we need fundamental changes in the political system, which are reduced to very simple things:

1) from secrecy and hostility to the European space to implement it saving all of our advantages and cultural features;

2) from the sunekvatora of the state in the economy to free enterprise, especially small and medium;

3) from centralization of power to the real federalism and full-fledged local self-government, taking on most of the social programs.

4) social policy for small handouts and a total under-funding for priority financial support for effective social “expenditures,” which actually form the future of the country’s GDP.

Therefore, any attempt to declare changes in the spatial development of Russia in isolation from the fundamental reforms in scope (and somewhat content) comparable to those that occurred in the early 90s, useless and just stain the paper. But debate about this most important element of the perfect Russia of the future must begin now.