Poverty in Russia
During the rise of the Soviet Union, former General Secretary of the Communist Party Joseph Stalin developed weapons programs and other strategic plans to insulate and defend the Union from possible attack. To keep these matters private and accessible only to the government, Stalin chose more than 44 closed administrative territory entities (ZATO) to store and maintain these resources. These territories are now famous as closed cities in Russia. Here is some information about closed cities and their effect on poverty in Russia.

Closed Cities in Russia

After the allied forces of Western Europe, the Soviet Union and the United States defeated Germany, Italy and Japan, thus ending World War II, some ZATO closed cities in Russia re-opened to the public whereas others have remained closed even after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992. 

Closed cities span the entire nation of Russia. If a citizen is born and raised in any particular closed city in Russia, they have unique citizenship status and pass to the city where routine exit and re-entry into the closed city is permitted. However, once that individual chooses to move residence outside of the closed city, the city may not allow them back in. The exit/re-entry requirements are strict because many of these ZATO cities housed nuclear weapons plants during the period of the Soviet Union. 

Life in Closed Cities in Russia

Closed cities in Russia contribute to the poor middle class. In Russia’s modern, globalized economy, Stalinist economics no longer have their place. Closed cities are very similar to isolated nations such as Cuba and North Korea and the residents of these cities are insulated from the rest of the nation to a great extent. Business development struggles to make advances and indigenous people experience boredom and a lack of productivity.  

The cities also experienced exclusion from train and bus routes and people generally knew them only by a postal code that consisted of a name and a number. Numbered one to 44, these cities continue to isolate more than 1.5 million Russian citizens from the rest of the nation. During the 1980s and 1990s, inhabitants of closed cities were to carry their lives in secrecy to the same extent as KGB agents of the Soviet Union. For their privacy and secrecy, residents of closed cities in Russia received private apartments, health care and jobs for life.

The Present and Future of Closed Cities in Russia

In 2018, all 44 closed cities in Russia still exist almost independently of the Russian Federation. Similar to non-committal Switzerland with respect to the European Union, closed cities operate independently from the rest of the country but citizens still carry all the rights and privileges inherent to Russian citizenship. Notwithstanding the simplicity of life for residents of closed cities, their inability to reach out to the rest of the country, globalize, integrate, trade and work openly contributes to national poverty in Russia. 

To address the issue of closed cities in Russia, and thus, poverty in Russia, one possibility for the residents of these cities to congregate is to represent themselves in the legislative appeal to re-open particular cities that appear to particularly suffer from a current state of affairs. Alternatively, the Russian government can begin to take progressive measures to re-open these borders and take a more liberal stance on the issue entirely. Considering pressure from the West in terms of sanctions, embargoes and political strife, Russia is only serving to further hurt itself in the globalized world by keeping these cities closed. 

– Nicholas Maldarelli

Photo: Flickr