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Moscow is not Russia: How Moscow Builds its Well-being on the Ill-being of the Rest of the Country
June 15, 2020 15:31

The problem of complex relations between the capital and the province exists for many societies, but in our country it is aggravated by the supercentralization of various resources. The pandemic only exacerbated this problem, sociologists Alexei Levinson and Lyubov Borusyak say.

There is a saying: "Moscow is not Russia." Among the inhabitants of cities and villages of our large country, it is difficult to find those who would not agree with it.  It often conceals  the idea that living in Moscow is good. But this is not praise of Moscow, but an accusation, because the idea that the rest of Russia lives poorly is also wired into this formula. Moscow causes not just envy, but also more difficult feelings, because this formula - the people's mathematical inequality - also contains the following meaning: Moscow builds its well-being on the ill-being of the rest of the country.  This judgment can be heard in conversations,  can be read on the Internet,   sound in focus groups, and are found in all-Russian polls.

Moscow is not Russia
From the central idea of ​​“Moscow is not Russia”, “anti-Moscow” thoughts of different kinds diverge. On the one hand, there are arguments that look like rational: “80% of the country's wealth, everyone knows, is concentrated in Moscow.” Some explain that this is 80% of the turnover, others that it is 80% of all money, and others that it is 80% of all taxes. In any case, such a heavy figure of “eighty percent” itself acts as an argument: “Moscow is robbing the country, sucking out all the juices.”

On the other hand, there are accusations of a more moral sense. "Moscow is living, while the rest of the country is in poverty." All that Moscow and its authorities are proud of - new buildings, expansion of streets, construction of roads and overpasses - in the anti-Moscow discourse becomes an occasion for accusing Moscow of parasitism and wastefulness.

Russia is Moscow

It should be noticed that this anti-Moscow discourse is not just adjacent, but is in close dynamic connection with two apparently opposite types of talks about Moscow. In them, Moscow is Russia, and, moreover, in the best sense of these  words. The first of them is the normative and official representation of Moscow as the capital of the country, or rather, the state. In this case, Moscow is a synonym for Russia. When a Russian citizen hears from television or radio that “Moscow and Washington are in tense negotiations ...”, it is understood that Moscow is Russia, Moscow is entrusted with representing and designating the whole nation in its most responsible international relations and confrontations with the most powerful adversaries.

Moscow symbolizes Russia in the eyes of the Russians themselves. The Kremlin and Red Square are symbols of Russia, which are considered to be significant for everyone. This is how children are taught throughout the country, starting from kindergarten.  But along with these extremes there is also a business notion. This is the idea that Moscow is a place (some say it is the only place), where there is always work, where you can earn money, make a career. 

Center and Province

The problem of complex moral relations between the capital and the province existed and exists for many societies, but in our country it is aggravated by the supercentralization of various resources. The vast majority (even the same 80%) of the power resource is concentrated in Moscow.  Claims against Moscow include claims against those who rule the country. The word "Moscow" in the speech of officials is a synonym for the concept of "power", and it is the central, supreme power. At the same time, surveys of the Levada Center show that for Russians, their local boss is a more important figure than the highest boss.   In the situation with the coronavirus, for the first time,  federalism came from where it was not expected. Moscow suggested that the regions should independently regulate the relationship between the local community and the disease.
The situation with the epidemic again aggravated the theme of "Moscow is not Russia." Moscow met the disease first and is about to leave it first. It is believed that the most means of combating the disease are in Moscow. Here again, the theme arises: "We have fewer of them in the province because there are more of them in Moscow."   Because of their wealth, the ability to travel abroad, Muscovites, they say, "first brought the epidemic to their city, and then they transported it around the country." When the April "vacation" was announced by the president, "it was the Muscovites who went around the country en masse, and carried the virus."

Many people come to Moscow from all over the country. But a considerable number of them, like the native Muscovites, leave Moscow, going abroad. The laws of urbanization, the laws of economics, the laws of sociology and psychology inexorably lead people up the stairs. For these people, Moscow is Russia, but it is also a step from Russia to the wide world.


Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Moscow Russian regions society   

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