214 localities in Kostroma region, Russia, became abandoned – it took only 6 years, from 2008 till 2014. Inhabitants left them because of poor roads, lack of schools and hospitals as well as electricity. Those who stayed refer to this area as Desert (Wilderness).
Kostroma Region is located in the north-east of the European part of Russia, about 344 km from Moscow. Population: 651,450 people (2016).
Kostroma Region is one of the largest constituent entities of the Russian Federation within the Central Federal District.
The region's favorable transport and geographical position in the center of the European Russia was a prerequisite for its transformation into a center of interregional and international cooperation on a number of aspects: economic, information, transport, communication, social, cultural, etc. through its territory run some major railways (connecting Moscow with Vladivostok), as well as the waterways and highways of the north-western routes.
Kostroma Region is both an industrial and agrarian region. Its traditional production profile includes forestry, agriculture, power generation, mechanical engineering, and textile industry.
During the year 2014, the population of the region decreased by almost 2,000, down to 654,390 inhabitants. The natural population decline is primarily due to a rise in mortality and falling birth rates.
Now, Kostroma Region has about one thousand of dead villages which is a third of all its villages. The total abandoned area has reached tens of thousands of square kilometers.
We found people who remain the last inhabitants of the deserted villages to see how they live and to understand why they have stayed there.
Elyakovo Village. Sasha grew up here. In winter he works as a stoker in the school of Vedenskoye where his parents live, in summer he does odd jobs around.
“It’s interesting there were so many people around. But time flies, that’s it.
I used to hunt cocks of the wood, and now I can’t find a single grouse.
There were 9 or more houses in Elyakovo. One house burned down, the other one collapsed. I remember 4 houses to be inhabited – our house and 3 more. Everyone left.
I don’t like city at all, I can go for a trip there for 4 days, but I can’t stand more than that.
There is a cemestry near the church, all the villagers are buried there. My grandma and uncle too. That’s a pity.”
Alexey Fedorovich and Zoya Timofeevna Chernovs
Assorino Village. The only inhabited house is occupied by farmer Alexey Chernov and his wife Zoya. Alexey owns nearly 20 ha of land – field and forest, the family keeps cows, pigs, sheep, hens, geese, an apiary.
“It’s hard for just the two of us to cope with everything, but during the summer our son and his wife come here to help us, bring the grandchildren – they help to haymake and to do housework.
There used to be more livestock - cows and sheep. We take them to the market. Zoya puts weighing scale, business starts by 9.
We should have stopped working, we have no energy left already. But we will regret to stop.
There were some binges, come to think of it. The problem is I have a screw loose. If there is some alcohol left, and I need to work – the hell I’m gonna work. If you drink again, you need more. And how can you work when you are drunk?
That’s how it is. Life is too short, you know. “
Spirdovo Village. Here lives Lecha, Donbass miner. Lecha has one more house in the inhabited village Konyshevo, but he doesn’t hurry to move there – he feels more comfortable living far away from other people. Sometimes he has guests, hunter friends.
“I arrived there when I was twenty something. Closed my eyes, pointed at the map and hit Kostroma.
I get minimum pension payment, but it’s enough for me. We have groundwater, I don’t need to pay electricity bill. All the money I get I spent on food and alcohol. If you want to earn something – pick berries or mushrooms. Go fishing, set traps, do as you wish – no need to go anywhere.
Those guys, hunters, drunk some and don’t need any hunting. Just shoot the bottles and leave.
I’ve been on a binge for 10 days. Take 6-7 bottles and I’m already wasted. Nevertheless, I’ll go and look for something more to drink. I buy all homemade vodka. A day earlier, two days later – we are all headed that way. What’s the difference whether I die today or 10 years later – no difference at all.
I’ve been married 3 times here. I have 10 children! All the girls liked me.
I don’t know why everyone is leaving! They had everything they need there – they grew and kept everything themselves. Perestroyka comes, and everybody fled to the city. They harried the villages. And there were a lot of villages there.”