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BISR analyst tells how a modern village of the future might look like

Rural life with elite filling

Small settlements can develop both as agricultural production clusters and as places for elite country residence.

The unpromising nature of the rustic lifestyle in comparison with the urban one is greatly exaggerated. Another question is that it is advisable to look at modern country life in the spirit of the time: both the current needs of people and the technologies that can provide these needs. And not only indigenous villagers, but also residents of large urban agglomerations. Especially young people who have completely new markers of life quality, there is a demand for environmental friendliness, originality (and even exclusivity) of their place of residence, possession of modern technologies that allow proper work remotely. Belarus needs fundamentally new approaches to shaping the ideology of the village of the future, based on which it is already necessary to invest in infrastructure.

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Ирина Русак
Irina Rusak

The revival of the village, for which the President literally fought almost from his first days of tenure, by and large took place. Of course, there are drawbacks, as well as people's suggestions for improving their comfort and quality of life. In some regions, local authorities are frankly underworking. But from the social standards and infrastructure formation viewpoint, the majority of Belarusian rural settlements have been transformed in recent history. Especially those with a population of over 500 people or more. Yes, surveys of rural residents show that the older generation would like more "fast" medicine, young parents — kindergartens and schools, young people — more places of entertainment. Plus, the improvement of trade with the expanded range of goods.

Of course, the demands of the villagers are fair. In terms of comfort,country life should not differ from urban life. To meet basic needs, this approach is well justified. But is it possible in principle and in all nuances to recreate the infrastructure of a large city in a village or even an agro-town?

There is a well-grounded opinion of part of the expert community that a settlement with a population of over 700 residents should have at least 21 infrastructure facilities. Starting from kindergarten, school and polyclinic, ending with a hotel, an agro-estate, a House of culture… A quite pragmatic question arises: are there financial resources available to invest in such a diverse infrastructure and will these facilities be in demand in a small settlement to the extent providing minimal positive profitability for simple reproduction? After all, why is business not rushing to the village? There is geographically dispersed demand. It is objectively lower than in district centers, not to mention regional centers and the capital. It is no secret that many infrastructure businesses in rural areas can survive only with subsidies.

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At the same time, it is doubtful whether hotels, cafes and cinemas will be able to completely stop the outflow of population to industrial centers. In terms of the variety of recreation areas (and for a certain part of the youth this is fundamentally important), the city will always win over the village. The famous party streets and places in Minsk and regional centers attract young people like a magnet, even from very prosperous and wealthy district centers.

However, there is another trend: the demand of urban residents for a country vacation, environmental initiatives, various sports (for example, 3D archery), trainings in which can be organized only in nature. The covid pandemic has made many urban residents think about epidemiological safety. From this point of view, country life seems more promising. Besides, today there is a growing demand for the unique design of own home. A rural estate provides more opportunities compared to a city apartment.

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As it seems, it is logical to form a new stage in the rural settlements development around a special, unique lifestyle that is possible only in rural areas. Moreover, it is attractive for broad social strata, that is, not only for natives of the districts and agrarian workers, local enterprises. As part of the BISR project "The Future of Rural Areas", it is planned to study in depth various options for the agricultural territories development based on new economic and social realities. Some of trends in general have not yet been studied and digitized. For example, during and after the pandemic, a fairly large number of citizens moved out of town. As a rule, these are middle-aged people, economically very active, mobile, highly qualified, using modern technologies for remote employment, with an above-average income level. Most often, their children are already students, and such suburban residents do not need kindergartens and schools. On the other hand, there is a demand for communication infrastructure, since the remote work style often implies the need for rapid exchange of large amounts of data between the user and central servers. This largely new and promising category of residents for our village is not a source of labor for small settlements. But they can create additional customer demand and ensure the profitability of both existing and potentially possible infrastructure.

As it seems, the modern village of the future should be a kind of rural agglomeration designed to accommodate representatives of different strata: indigenous villagers, those who moved from the urban environment, and others. Different socio-economic groups would complement each other and create an environment for rural development.