RUSSIA
The Way Home
Stories of Russians, who returned to their home town
One level houses are standing on both sides of the snowy road in a small village. Some of them are abandoned, while others have been recently constructed. A young woman with a stroller is walking along the road. She is wearing a new yellow down jacket and red rubber boots.

Olga, 27 y.o., is taking her son Ilya, 1.5 y.o, for a walk after breakfast.
«Are you from the city? It shows. You are a bit nervous. All people from the city are like that. I lived there myself for 6 years: first, I studied and then worked as a checkout cashier. However, I decided to come back. Are you going to ask why? (laughing) I want my son to have an alternative. If you were born in the city, you will never move out to the country. Being born here, he will be able to decide himself, where he will be most useful. I want him to learn manual work, live outdoors, spend time with his grandmother. Do I regret? Sometimes. I could have become a chief accountant», - reasons the young mother.
Olga is one of the 5 million young people aged 18-30, who live in rural areas in Russia. According to the Federal State Statistics Service, as of 2017 about one quarter of Russian citizens live in their home towns. About one third of them are young people in the age of 18 to 30. Every year their number is declining due to relocation to a different town or region, decline in the birthrate, etc.


According to the Federal State Statistics Service of Russia significant outflow of young people from Russian rural areas occurred in 1988-1989. At the dawn of the millennium it has subsided.

Experts say that these are usually high school graduates, who have no possibility to get vocational training or university education in their home village or town. Only about 20-25% of them come back from the city. Some of them manage to find their way and make a living at home, while others fail.

«Frankly speaking, if I could have received my education here, I would have stayed. There are too many enticements in the city. Why, do you think, young people become alcoholics after graduating from the university? Without the supervision of their parents, they taste freedom. However, it is very hard to realize your full potential with that kind of freedom. Having failed to find their way, many of them come back home. Some of them turn to drinking. Probably, it makes it easier for them. There are three types of young people in rural areas: those who live according to the work and home schedule, those who just drink, and those who truly care about their homeland and try to do something to improve the situation», - says Olga.

A teenager with a backpack passes by the young mother with the stroller. In several minutes, Ivan will be at the desk together with his classmates. The first class is the English language.

«It's not easy for me, but I have to do my best. I'm going to enter the school of foreign languages and literature this spring. I want and my mother insists that I become a translator. May be I will go traveling or work at an embassy in a different country. We will see. The most important thing now is to pass the exams».

Ivan is an ordinary village teenager. His school classes begin at 8.30 am, then, he attends extra tutoring classes in Russian and Mathematics. He is striving to get an A in these subjects, since he has to pass the unified exam soon. Then, he has to shovel snow around the house, feed the hens, and wait for his parents to come home. While they are away, he can play computer games.

Ivan is one of the twelve pupils of the 11th grade, who graduate from school this year (seven girls and five boys). All of them are already planning to move to the city to enter the university.

«And then we'll see. It's never too late to come back», - considers Ivan.
«Stop drinking, Vasya!»
A young man is standing in front of a new house with a green roof in Arikovo village of Debessky region. He is wearing a blue jacket, work uniform, and warm boots. The fence with the gate is only on one side of the house built with his own hands.

This quite ordinary at first sight young man is the head of Nizhnepykhtinskoye municipal unit. Grigory Lozhkin is 26 years old and he was one of the youngest municipality heads in the republic and in Privolzhsky federal district. Unfortunately, it was the last time that he talked to a journalist. On April 11, 2017, he died in a road accident on his way home from a business trip.

Grigory never thought of becoming an official. After school, he entered Glazov Technical College and studied to become an electrician. Having worked in the city for several years, he decided to move closer to his home area. The young weight lifter was invited to be a part of the regional deputy council and then they proposed him as the head of the municipality.

«A lot of young people have left the village recently. It was hard for me to see that happen. I wanted to change something. Then, I was offered to become a part of the Deputy Council. Then, former municipality head proposed me as a candidate and I was elected».
Arikovo village is located in Nizhnepykhtinskoye municipality that is a part of Debessky region in Udmurtia. The municipality includes 7 villages, one of which is abandoned. The population of Arikovo is 160 people. The population of municipality is 860 people and 156 of them are children under 18 y.o.
Official records indicate that 220 live in Grigory's home village. In reality, only 160 people live here. The village has a dairy farm, where local people work, a primary school up to the 4th grade, a day care, and a store. The main school is 5 km away in Nizhnyaya Pykhta village.

«Information? There is nothing bad about it. Even if it is with a tablet in their hands, at least the children are spending time in the fresh air. One can feel almost no difference between the urban and rural areas today. It's good. Children live in the countryside and have everything at hand at the same time», - reasons Grigory.

Recently a man with a family has moved to Arikovo village. He decided to build a house and work here. According to Grigory, it happens quite often currently.

«In the 2000s many young people were leaving, but today a lot has changed, I believe. Young people are ready to live in the rural area, they are ready to come back here. The hardest thing is to build a house. I have experienced it myself. It is very difficult without any help. Those, who have come back here, have to live with their parents, which is not always easy. Sometimes it leads to families falling apart. If there was some help with construction and if young people had their own housing, they would stay here».

According to Grigory, about 30% of young people work at the village farm. Men work with special machinery. Women work as machine milking operators. Unfortunately, even among the hard working villagers, there are those, who turn to drinking.

«You can find a common language with a young man under 20 years old. It's possible to get him out of the drinking habit through involvement in public events and sport competitions. Other approaches should be used for people over 20 y.o. including psychological therapy and treatment. However, the young people would never turn to it themselves. May be it is time to come back to occupational therapy rehabilitation centers. It is easy to say: "Stop drinking, Vasya!», but it just won't help.
The person should be willing to do it himself. The municipality head started to construct his own house back in 2014. He completed the construction in 2017. His aunt helped him financially. Part of the materials was purchased with the help of a bank loan. The water in the house comes from central water supply system and wood fired water heater keeps the house warm. Electricity and Internet are also there.

Grigory's salary after taxes was 24 thousand rubles. He lived together with his wife, who worked as a school teacher. He had a dog and his parents had a goat.

All generations on Grigory's father's side were born and lived in Arikovo village. Even if someone left, they tried to come back to their home area.

«After the military service, I worked as an electrician in the city. However, I realized, that it was not the lifestyle I wanted. When I was offered to come back (to the home village, editor's note) to work, I immediately agreed. I just want to keep developing. At that time I wanted to build my own house».
Volunteer community police
The regional center, Debessy village, is seven kilometers away from the municipality head home village. Sportloto-2017 game is taking place in the Vertical youth center at the moment. Seven teams of students and working youth are competing for the main prize.
Artyom Durnovtsev, 24 y.o., works here. He is a specialist on interacting with the youth, the Youth Parliament Chair, and a member of the Volunteer community police.

«After finishing my studies, I worked in the city for a year. It was hard. Now I live with my parents, although we have an apartment in the village. In winter, however, only the heating costs about 4,000 rubles. Not everyone can afford it», says Artyom.

Artyom's salary is about 12 thousand rubles. The young man is very busy and has very little free time. Most of the salary pays for the two car loans.

«I don't drink. I have to earn money. If I have free time, I don't like to stay at home. I head into town to hang out with friends and relax».
Together with other members of the Volunteer community police, Artyom provides security at all public events to prevent fights and drinking in public places. On top of that, from 11 pm to 2 am they join local police to round up teenagers on the streets. Artyom says that he does not touch people from his village. Usually they detain those, who come "to relax" and drink from other villages and regions.



«When I was 16, I often went to the town center to spend time with friends. The center was always full of young people. Nobody was fighting. Today you don't see young people outside. Everyone is either at the computer or hiding».

The young man is currently studying state and municipal administration.

«If I find work here, I will stay. There is no place like home. It is better to be the first person in the village, than the last in the city. Well, not exactly the last, but not the first either. My dream is to get university education and find a well-paid job. I also want to develop our region, so it is not falling behind other regions in the republic. We are the most distant area. Not everyone remembers about us, while we have so many good people here».

Only 7 out of 25 Artyom's classmates stayed in their home town. Most of them work in private businesses or have government jobs.

«We hold political meetings as a part of the Youth parliament activity. We want to organize "breakfast" with the region head, so the young people can discuss all their questions. We talked about attracting investors in the tourist sector. We have unique areas that can be used for recreation of local people and guests», shares his ideas Artyom.
«We should not impose limitations on children. If only on those under 14 years old. My mother gave me freedom of choice and I could decide myself what university to enter and where to study. When parents try to give advice, the child usually rejects it. Today I try to listen to my parents' opinion, even if I don't show it to them».
The Echo of Beslan
September 1, 2004. The terrorist act in Beslan is being covered on TV. For two and a half days terrorists held 1128 people as hostages, including children, parents, and teachers, in a building rigged with explosives. It was a watershed moment that divided the life of people in North Ossetia and all Russia into before and after.
It also changed the life of Yulia Kardapoltseva from Tylovay village in Debess region. The young woman, 27 y. o., works as a journalist in "Novy Put" (The New Way) village newspaper, although her parents were against her choice of profession.
«When I saw the coverage about Beslan, I realized that I want to become a journalist. I want to travel to flashpoint areas and tell about those events. However, my parents insisted that I go to college and become a teacher. I agreed to dance after their whistle. While I was studying, I kept visiting the newspaper and offering my articles for publication. They published about 10 articles that way, which helped me to enter the university (Yulia completed distance learning program at the School of journalism, author's note). I'm glad I stayed. I was offered a position of a journalist and I agreed to take it».
Debessy village. Population: 5778 people (according to 2015, author's note). The village was founded in 1946 as a small settlement in a forest clearing. In the 19th century, it was an intersection of the Moscow and Petersburg branches of the Siberian tract.
Yulia is a late child in the family. By the time she was born, her three elder brothers were 15, 17, and 19 years old. All of them stayed in their hometowns, where they built houses and married.

When the young woman received a part-time position in the local newspaper, she had to commute to work by bus every day from her home village of Tylovay to Debessy. It was a 25 km trip and every evening she had to traveled back home. Then, she decided to relocate and live closer to her work.

Now Yulia is married. Her husband is older than her. He is a graduate of Izhevsk Agricultural Academy. They have two children: a son (7 y.o.) and a daughter (3 y.o.). They bought a house with a large garden together and currently they are in the process of constructing a new house.

«It was probably a crazy idea, but I have no regrets».

The New Way newspaper is published once a week. Journalists write stories about interesting people of the region, publish anniversary congratulations and obituaries. It also features notes on political decisions under discussion in the region and the republic. Sometimes they arrange interesting projects. For example, together with the newspaper they sent sunflower seeds to the readers with the suggestion to grow flowers and send their picture to the editing house.

Yulia's work day is from 9 am to 4 pm. It takes her 15-20 minutes to walk from her house to the office. Every day after work she has to pick up her daughter from the day care center, which takes about an hour. At home Yulia becomes a mother, wife, and housewife after being a journalist at work.

«I'm a very flexible mother. I do my best to listen to what my children have to say. Our father, on the contrary, is very strict. That is why I hope that strictness on the one hand and flexibility on the other will help them chose their way in life».

Yulia likes to repeat: "Currently I'm doing the right thing. This is where I should be." It helps her in life and in bringing up children.

«My son plays with toy tanks, while my daughter does not know what a telephone with buttons is. She moves her finger around it. They know that they can find everything on the Internet. I could not teach my son to read before the first grade at school. At some point, he realized that it would help him to type the names of cartoons on the Internet. I have no idea what will become of him».

Scary, but interesting
Ivan is in the 11th grade in high school. After classes, he visits his friend. According to his parents, there are only two strict rules: do homework immediately after classes and come back home before 8 pm.

«If my father banged his fist on the table and told me to stay at home instead of going to the city to study, it would be much easier. In contrast, already now I have the right to choose. Honestly, it is a bit scary, although very interesting at the same time. If I leave, I will make new friends and learn a lot of new things».

Ivan dreams a lot, although he does not like to talk about it. He says that all conflicts with the parents are behind.

«Sometimes I think that after the university I will come back home. I want to live next to my parents. I want to build a house here and find a job. I want to live the life that I had had before I entered the university».

According to the Federal State Statistics Service of Russia, the number of graduates, who get vocational training, increases every year and 35% of them are young people from rural areas.


Rural schedule
It's getting dark outside. Journalist Yulia Kardopoltseva is going back home. It's time to be a housewife, make dinner and do other household chores.

«I think that the situation in the village changed when they started to offer vocational training in specific trades in the local college. More boys took the decision to stay. Not that many, in fact. A lot of them turn to drinking. Those, who look for the salary of 30-40 thousand rubles, leave the village. To be honest, I don't know what to do with the drinking youth. They have no motivation. Young people are very passive. It is much easier to drink alcohol. They don't take interest in anything you offer. There are so many young and talented people, but they all drink when you take a closer look at them. At the same time, they all have good salaries, especially those who work in the collective farm. It is about 30 thousand rubles. Why do they turn to drinking?»

Many young people, who work in local businesses or for the government, get used to rural schedule. The working day finishes between 4 and 6 pm and then it is time to do housework. Hard-working people are ready to work at any time.

For example, they could come to talk to municipality head Grigory Lozhkin late at night or at the weekend. Every villager knows, where he lives.

«What else can I do? I will listen to everyone…».

By the way, every spring the small village of Arikovo takes a new start. Guests and students from the city come to visit. Some people come to see their parents and others just want to take some rest in the open air. Some houses would suddenly have tents nearby.

«In the summer, the garden by one of the houses is full of tents with about 20 people. Some would live in the house and others in the tents. They bathe in the river and go to banya. Isn't it great!»

The young man lifted weights in his free time. He took part in competitions of the republic. In the summer, he would do gardening, in the winter – skiing and going to the city.

«I don't see a problem with driving to the city. The roads are there. Young people certainly have more recreation options in the city. They can go to clubs and parties. However, I believe that with time people will understand that this is not the meaning of life. It does not help the economy and it does not help them».

The municipality head had a dream to visit China. He never traveled abroad. He studied, worked, and then had a family.

By the way, Grigory was the youngest leader in the municipal administration.

«Sometimes I feel uncomfortable, but I'm getting used to it. Being young is an advantage. I have energy, while my older colleagues teach me to take carefully weighed decisions».
Casting an anchor
Artyom Durnovtsev, President of the Youth parliament, gets into his car. It is time to go home. He went to the city in the morning and then he helped to organize an event for the young people. He sees his parents at home only late at night on Saturday. Being at home helps, according to the young man.

Journalist Yulia is going to spend this evening with her son, daughter, and husband, too.

Young mother Olga together with her son are going to banya in the neighbouring village.

High school student Ivan is studying English. Then, he is going to his friend's birthday party.

There are thousands of such villages in Russia with Olgas, Artyoms, and Ivans. Unfortunately, some of them would never be able to come back to former "abundance" with young mothers walking with strollers, classes with 20-30 pupils instead of 5-6 pupils at schools, and young men being confident they would find a decent job. However, there are still villages with a large number of young people. Everyone has their own reason and anchor.

«Usually, if you stay in your hometown, you have some sort of anchor. It can be parents, family, good job. It can also be a desire to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There can be multiple anchors of the kind. If there is none, one can easily turn to drinking, which happens to some people. However, it proves once again that there is no difference between the city and rural area. Clubs, cars, apartments, expensive clothes will not be your anchor. You can become an alcoholic or homeless in the city as well», says a young woman in red rubber boots as she sees us off to the village exit.
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