Staunton, July 25 – The Internet is now nearly as important as television as a source for news and information among rural Russian youth, a recent development that effectively breaks the monopoly state-controlled Moscow television had imposed on that portion of the population and one that could presage its mobilization by opposition groups.
That is just one of the conclusions suggested by the findings of a poll of more than 2500 young Russians in rural areas in nine federal subjects that was conducted in April and May by the Russian Union of Rural Youth with the support of specialists from the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) (rusk.ru/st.php?idar=43153).
The Union of Rural Youth conducted this survey in order to determine whether “general dissatisfaction with life is driving young people to leave the village,” something that would be hard to address, or whether there are specific causes for different age groups, conditions that organizations like itself could in fact address.
The poll showed, organizers say, that “satisfaction with life as a whole does not influence the intention of young citizens to link their lives with the village. Indicators of satisfaction and dissatisfaction among the group that intends to remain in the village and those who plan to leave for the city in practice correspond.”
That does not mean that many young people do not want to leave the villages for the city. According to the poll, 48.3 percent do not plan to remain in the village, while only a little more than a third, or 35.9 percent, say they plan to “live and work in the village” permanently or “return there after receiving professional education.”
Another interesting finding is that young men are far more likely to say they plan to remain in the village than are young women, with “almost two-thirds” of the women saying they plan to leave, while fewer than half of the young men indicating that they will leave the village permanently.
Not surprisingly, the “dangerous” age at which village residents are most likely to say they will leave is when they complete their educations and enter the workforce, a moment when the limitations of village life appear to be brought home most strongly, according to the results of this survey.
The survey identified the following issues as being of the greatest concern to rural young people: sufficient employment opportunities, the availability of recreation facilities, educational and training opportunities, and the presence of harmful phenomena like drug abuse, alcoholism, and the like.
Obviously, some of these problems are things the Union of Russian Youth can address on its own, while others are structural and may not have any easy answer. But the Union expressed concern that at present, most rural Russian young people do not know about the programs the Union and the government offer for young people.
That is surprising, the poll’s organizers said, because a large fraction of rural Russians now have access to both the traditional and electronic media. According to the survey, in fact, the percentage of rural Russian young people who use the Internet – 25.7 percent – is now almost as high as the share – 29.7 percent – who watch television for news and information.
Consequently, the Union suggested that its most immediate task is to spread the word about these programs in the hopes that more young Russians will take advantage of them and thus remain in the villages, something the Union and many others view as a key to the survival of traditional Russian national values.