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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Decreasing Social Differences

In the late 1980s, rural depopulation and modernization were eroding those aspects of rural society that distinguished it from its urban counterpart. Depopulation resulted from the migration of young people to the city to study and acquire a trade. This migration was especially apparent in the European part of the Russian Republic and in the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian republics, where annually 2 to 3 percent of the rural population moved from the countryside to the city. (In Soviet Central Asia, the reverse was true; the rural population continued to increase because of high birthrates and a reluctance to move out of the countryside.) The loss of young people made rural society older, and because of the loss of males in World War II, the older agegroups were predominantly female (see fig. 8).

Concurrent with the increased flight from rural areas was the urbanization of members of the rural areas themselves. The government, for example, merged many villages to form urban-style centers for rural areas. Farming itself had become more professional, requiring a higher level of education or training obtainable only in cities. Additionally, in the late 1980s farming became more industrialized as rural processing industries were developed, as stock breeding become more industrialized, and as more agro-industrial organizations were formed. The modernization of rural areas developed unevenly, however; modernization was more evident in the Baltic area and the fertile northwest Caucasus and less evident in the southeast Caucasus and Central Asia. Rural areas also experienced a constant influx of urbanites: people who had moved to the cities but returned to visit, urban residents vacationing in the countryside, and seasonal workers and students mobilized for the harvest. During each harvest, the government organized about 900,000 city dwellers and 400,000 to 600,000 students to assist in gathering crops. All of these factors lessened the decreasing, although still profound, distinction between urban and rural society.

The reverse process--the "ruralization" of urban society--has not occurred in the Soviet Union, despite the rural origin of many unskilled urban laborers. The percentage of rural-born unskilled workers in the urban work force was declining in the 1980s as more urban-born workers reached working age. This process also was occurring in industry, where the percentage of urban workers with peasant backgrounds was greater among older workers. Workers in skilled industrial positions generally had urban backgrounds.

Data as of May 1989