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Exodus leaves Russia's villages to ghosts

Bright lights, big city – that is what inspires most young Russians to leave their home villages in search of employment and excitement. This rural exodus, however, is leaving many Russian communities fighting for survival.

­No hot water or stable electricity supplies; the nearest pharmacy, post office and grocery store are miles away. But for Tatyana Samsonova, even that is not the most difficult thing to cope with – it is having no neighbors.

“There used to be so many families living here, but then some people died, some left… Everybody's gone now. Even the roads,” she told RT.

It used to be a successful tiny agricultural community where everyone knew each other's names and celebrated birthdays together. Tatyana has been here all her life, but now nearly all that is left of the village is her memories.

The area used to be a collective farm back in Soviet times. Now it looks more like ancient ruins rather than something which was functioning not so long ago. It is particularly astonishing knowing that the place is some 200 miles away from Moscow.

As a part of his hobby, Sergey – a.k.a. “GothicSerge” – travels around the country and explores deserted towns and villages. He says he is used to seeing tumbledown barns and abandoned houses even in this area, known for centuries for its great harvests.

“This is fertile land. You can stick a pole in the soil here and it will have peppers growing on one side and tomatoes on the other,” he says. “Sure, some agricultural facilities are still left in some areas, but mostly the lands are empty, abandoned. There's no logic in this.”

Official figures show that over 3,000 villages in Russia became deserted last year alone. Many small schools and hospitals have shut down – there is simply no-one to educate or treat. Life in the countryside is not attractive anymore, especially for young people who are fleeing to cities, looking for a better life.

“It's not the village which is becoming extinct, it's the youth’s reasons for self-motivation,” Yury Krupnov of the Moscow-based Institute of Demography, Migration and Regional Development explains. “People are leaving their villages for big cities. But they often don't know what to do there, so they can't find a job or a family, build a life.”

Of course there are examples of successful farming businesses in Russia. But experts agree they are only a drop in the ocean and are not enough to motivate the youth to work and live in rural communities. And as many try to eke out a living in the big cities, the lifeblood of Russia’s vast and fertile countryside appears to be draining away forever.