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LJ Idol - DW - 15: Periphery (~575 words)

People from large towns tend to look down on those who live in the smaller ones and in the country and call those undereducated mannerless louts many unpleasant names.

One such name, which was popular in Russia in the XIX and early XX century, is "provincial", a noun derived from the word "province", the official small territorial unit of the Russian empire. In 1719, Peter the Great divided the Russian territory into governorates, which, in turn, consisted of smaller provinces. Over time, the word "provincial", the inhabitant of a province, took on a deprecating meaning.

One of those provincials was my mother's grandfather Samson, an honorary citizen of the Georgian town Ozurgety. Another was my father's mother Anna, a peasant girl from the Orel governance who went from her home village to Orel town to middle school in the 1920s and from Orel to Moscow to a railway college in the 1930s all on her own courage and hard work.

As time goes on, language changes. The territory of the Soviet Union was not divided into governances, but into Republics and those, into regions. Another popular way to divide the country was into centres (regional and republican) and "periphery". In theory, the more advanced centres supply innovations to the periphery, which provides the resources needed.

In practice, "periphery" became a new deprecating word to describe the stagnant backwater undereducated places, together with a new word coined to describe young people born there who were sent to the centres to study: "limita", with the stress falling on the last vowel "a" pronounced the same as the one in the word "tar".

"Limita" (plural) were people who were guaranteed a "limit" or quota of the places in colleges and universities, and who often had lower grades and inferior knowledge to those who entered the same institutions on their own merit, causing tension.

While my father Vladimir, Anna's son, was not using one of the "limited" places at the Moscow college where he studied in the 1960s, he definitely came from the semi-periphery, the regional centre Vladimir, the town after which he was named and where Anna had settled with her husband and two sons after living and working in many "provincial" towns where they were sent by the railway they both worked for.

Today, the friction continues. People say that "Moscow isn't the whole of Russia" and mean that we lead better, more comfortable and prosperous and, presumably, happier lives here, while the "periphery" suffers, starves and dies out. That the centre robs them blind and gives back nothing but more and more inhuman laws.

This stereotype is as exaggerated as the once about provincial louts. The larger cities are more diverse and tolerant of differences, richer in opportunity, provide higher salaries. The life there is also faster paced and more brutal; they are overpopulated, have higher prices and make people grow tougher skins and become less sensitive to the suffering of others. Large cities are strong people magnets, but their streets are not paved with gold, merely better-kept asphalt, and what grass grows in their parks and squares is not greener, it is covered in dust from the endless traffic in the surrounding streets.


If you want to get a glimpse of life in the Russian "periphery" today, take a look at the Instagram pictures of Ann Big Dipper, who lives in Degtyarsk in Sverdlovsk region of the Ural district, especially those taken several months ago.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
kehlen
Feb. 9th, 2019 10:16 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome.
bellatrix
Feb. 10th, 2019 02:27 am (UTC)
Large cities are strong people magnets, but their streets are not paved with gold, merely better-kept asphalt, and what grass grows in their parks and squares is not greener, it is covered in dust from the endless traffic in the surrounding streets. So, so true! And perfect description here too.

I really enjoyed this, as always! The stereotypes about cities and villages is relevant in the country where I live too, so I could relate a lot also!

Edited at 2019-02-10 02:28 am (UTC)
kehlen
Feb. 12th, 2019 05:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

Yes, as someone mentioned below, the "them vs us" mentality is one of the big evils.
meridian_rose
Feb. 10th, 2019 10:13 am (UTC)
This is the same other places I think. You see this when Americans in New York talk disparagingly about people who don't live in NY or California, Canadians eye roll at Toronto placing itself at the pinnacle of Canadian success, and the deep British divide of those seen as "evil old uneducated provincials" vs "intelligent tolerant young Londoners" is currently playing out post the referendum (also seen as "practical working class vs the out of touch elite/academics/luvvies").
And yet people want to escape the rat race, they long for a quieter life in the countryside or at the coast but some are still too attached to the hustle of city life despite the higher crime rates. And deprivation exists in pockets of cities and neglected rural communities alike.
A thoughtful piece, gets a vote.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 10th, 2019 05:57 pm (UTC)
This definitely has universal appeal. Could be said to be true of America and other places.
rayaso
Feb. 11th, 2019 05:35 pm (UTC)
I guess the urban/small town divide exists everywhere. It was interesting to read the evolution of the terminology. It all comes down to here v. not here. Another fascinating entry!
halfshellvenus
Feb. 11th, 2019 09:04 pm (UTC)
I always thought 'provincial' originated in France, but for much the same reason-- division into provinces, and those who lived in the more rural areas were looked down on as being ignorant and unrefined. 'yokels' or 'hicks' would be the modern US slang for them.

It does seem that the divide between urban cities and rural country areas is one that has been around for a long time (centuries!) and crosses many cultures.

Your father's mother sounds like an interesting woman-- one who was ahead of her time!
dmousey
Feb. 11th, 2019 09:15 pm (UTC)
To get to the flavor/ heart of any city or country one must visit the underbelly, and get outside of the 'touresty' places. Thank for sharing this bit of your culture. 🎀😊🐭🐞🐁✌
kehlen
Feb. 12th, 2019 05:32 pm (UTC)
True. And if possible, also visit or at least meet with someone who lives there. They will tell you things you will never even think to ask :)

You're welcome.
bleodswean
Feb. 11th, 2019 11:47 pm (UTC)
This is really nicely written and proof of that is how universal you've made your the history and language "lessons" within. America is the same. And it's tearing the country apart!

I love the way you finish with "if this then that." Nice!
kehlen
Feb. 12th, 2019 05:36 pm (UTC)
I'd hoped that this division was less pronounced in the states, actually, because your people appear to be more mobile, and less focused on living in the à capital and a few other major cities. Ah well.

Thank you!
alycewilson
Feb. 12th, 2019 12:13 am (UTC)
The Instagram photos remind me of parts of Pennsylvania.
kehlen
Feb. 12th, 2019 05:29 pm (UTC)
I have never been to that state, but I think some rural structures are universal :).
itsjustc
Feb. 12th, 2019 02:08 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading this, as always!

Large cities are strong people magnets, but their streets are not paved with gold, merely better-kept asphalt, and what grass grows in their parks and squares is not greener, it is covered in dust from the endless traffic in the surrounding streets. great sentence and very true!

It does seem as if the divide between people living in cities and rural areas appears in so many different countries and cultures which is a shame really!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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