DROZDOVA Yu.A. A Declining Region: Provincial Renaissance Revisited (Case of Volgograd Region)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2014.6.8

Drozdova Yuliya Alekseevna

Candidate of Sciences (Sociology), Associate Professor, Department of Corporate Governance,

Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (Volgograd Branch)

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Gagarina St., 8, 400131 Volgograd, Russian Federation

Abstract. The paper analyzes findings yielded by the empirical study performed in the framework of an RGNF grant entitled “Image of a region as a communicative strategy for the authorities and mass media”. The methods of study included expert survey and formal survey (N=1000, July-September 2013), studying the opinion of respondents who were either internal experts residing in the Volgograd region (N=20; May-September 2013) or external experts who reside outside the region but maintain stable ties with the representatives of state and municipal authorities, regional mass media and business. The findings indicate that the Volgograd region has fallen behind other modernized Russian regions, that young people tend to leave it, that a negative image of the region as a declining territory persists.

Answers to the open question “What is unacceptable for you in the existing image of the Volgograd region?” revealed major problems determining the local context of a declining region, and those were issues associated with inefficient regional/municipal administration: “the condition of the roads”, “constant replacement of people in the administration”, “politics as a whole”, “a destitute region without a good manager”, “unemployment”, “countryside is dying off”, “indifference of the authorities”, “roads, housing and public utilities and the administration”, “the authorities are not responsible for the people”, “the authorities do not solve the problems of the city or its people”, “thieving”, “dishonest authorities”, “the region goes to rack and ruin, no kindergartens or jobs”, “one cannot even walk in the streets”, “corruption”, “a stagnant region with low pay”, “no perspectives in the future”, “the region is stagnating due to corruption among officials”.

According to the local Census Bureau, the Volgograd region can be classified as a declining territory where the population decline exceeds incoming migrants. Young people under 35 showed the highest rate of willingness to leave the region – 57.6 % of respondents, which arouses concern about the region’s future as this cohort capable of developing the region is the target of all plans about boosting the regional image, and these people are not going to cast in their lot with the Volgograd region.

For the moment, we can point out that the region shows poor attractiveness for the main target groups in the region, which encumbers the formation of the region’s image and regional identity, indicates negative tendencies and implies great effort on the part of management entities if they want to change the situation in the Volgograd region.

Our study revealed the main trends in building a positive image of the region and changing the local context; these are traditional (centre of war and history memorials – 38 % of respondents, industrial – 46.0 % of respondents, tourism – 26.8 % of respondents), and innovative (centre for training and education – 35.5 %, centre for culture – 37.9 % of respondents). The regional image and local context do not change spontaneously; they are rather a product of conscious, well-regulated conceptualization, a product of artificially organized public reflection and projection.

According to the surveyed people residing in the region, the region’s development and change in local context can be helped along by such factors as “active cooperation of the authorities and business – 49.3 % of respondents; “honesty among regional and municipal officials – 38.6 % of respondents; “safety of business operations” – 34.3 % of respondents; “presence of a regional strategy that meets the region’s needs” – 33.9 % of respondents; “social and tax benefits” – 33.0 % of respondents; “the people should be informed about the project of regional development and take part in them” – 26.8 % of respondents.

Revealing the factors that determine the local context the author suggests changing the trajectory of development, building a positive image of the Volgograd region, enhancing the investment attractiveness of the region, improving the quality of life, building on the advantageous geographic and historical situation (the region’s past, natural and climatic conditions, natural resources, economic and geographic situation, agrarian conditions, prestigious universities), building trust in the authorities due to the efforts on the part of regional and municipal administration and improving the reputation of public servants, which would promote the strategy of adjusting inter-regional inequality and a renaissance of a provincial region.

Key words: local context, a ‘declining’ region, image of the region, investment attractiveness of the region, trajectory of territorial development, inter-regional inequalities, regional identity.

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A Declining Region: Provincial Renaissance Revisited (Case of Volgograd Region)  by Drozdova Yu.A. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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