Coastal villages: economy, infrastructure, community and tourism (at the Terskii Coast, Murmanskaia oblast’)

The research project focuses on life-style changes in the villages of the Terskii Coast of the White Sea in the northwest of Russia. Changes in the following spheres will be considered: modes of travelling; infrastructure; fishing practices and regulations; and tourism development.

The people living on the Terskii Coast have traditionally been called Pomors and are considered to be a local subgroup of Russian people. The Terskii Coast is an economically distinct region within the Russian state. Historically, fishing has been the main activity and source of livelihood in the area.

Over the past twenty years, villages on the Terskii Coast have gone through significant changes in modes of travelling available both to their permanent residents and various types of visitors.

1. Transportation along the Coast used to be done mainly by air and water. Due to the deterioration of air services in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet state, and as the road along the Coast was built in the 1990s to reach some of the villages, the modes of transportation changed significantly. As a result, some of the villages became more easily accessible whereas others experienced the opposite. In my research, I would like to look at the impact that these factors have had on the population dynamics and socio-economic situation in villages. In particular, I will look at how variations in accessibility have generated local differences in terms of economic strategies, identity issues and attitudes to natural resources in the villages.

2. The Terskii Coast presents a rural section of the otherwise highly urbanized Murmansk oblast. In the second half of the 20th century, many people moved from villages to cities as the kolkhoz system deteriorated. From the late 1980s-early 1990s people started to come back, because they had reached their retirement age and wanted to reunite with their rural homeland, and also, because many of them could not afford to travel to the south anymore due to economic hardships and thus had to change their recreation practices. In this respect, I plan to investigate the consequences that urban-rural migration has had on the villages, in terms of local identity issues and functions of social networks.

Recent technological and infrastructural changes, such as the spread of Internet communication and the construction of the road, have affected villages in a number of ways. First, increasing numbers of mainly urban outsiders visit the Terskii Coast. I would like to explore the factors that attract people to villages on the Coast and the impact that such in-migration has had on local matters. I am interested in both actual/physical spaces that people from elsewhere experience on the Coast and in virtual/internet spaces that may emerge from such visits. I plan to look at websites, live-journals and other online communities that people established after their visits to the Coast.
Second, Internet communication has become a means for people, in particular of the younger generation who moved from villages to cities, to reconnect with their home places. For example, people create various virtual communities of fellow-villagers. To gain a deeper insight into this form of engaging with space, I propose to create a website about the Terskii Coast, with subsections on concrete villages. I will monitor people’s interaction with the resource and among each other and look at the interplay of identities through this means of communication. People will be encouraged to publish their photographs and descriptions of their home villages, and share news and opinions on local matters.
The recent development of ecological and cultural tourism in Russia has encouraged the development of a variety of new practices in villages on the Terskii Coast. For example, people provide accommodation, transportation and guidance to incomers. Such practices have had certain consequences for local matters: they have prompted tensions between villagers and authorities, in particular the kolkhoz administration, and have generated controversial opinions on the loss and preservation of local tradition and culture. I would like to investigate further the consequences of tourism development in the area and to look at the discourses, practices and representations to which it has given rise.
Further factors have led to the differentiation of lifestyles on the Terskii Coast. For example, innovations in legislation on fishing and more generally on the use of water resources have had an impact on people’s lives, especially in the sphere of travelling and social networking. Further, the recent implementation of the municipal reform in Russia has significantly affected local matters, challenging existing power relations and bringing changes in living conditions. Looking into the local specificity of the implementation of all-Russian legislation helps elucidate the peculiar combination of factors that shape lifestyle conditions in contemporary Russia.
I propose to choose two villages on the Terskii Coast to explore the questions I have outlined.

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