The hidden life of 32 Russian monotowns
Monotown (monogorod) is a city or town whose economy is dominated by a single industry or company. The term is especially used in Russia, where the Soviet-era economic
and military planning created hundreds of single-industry towns, often in distant locations and hard conditions. In an international comparison, rather similar ‘factory towns’, ‘mill towns’ or ‘company towns’ used to exist in many other countries, eg. in UK, US and Germany, during the early phases of industrialization. The rise of the welfare state and structural changes in economy made the company town model that united production, housing and welfare, gradually obsolete.
Russia has several hundreds of cities and towns that can be classified as monotowns. Quite significant part of the population, about one sixth, lives in these urban settlements, distributed across Russia’s vast geographic area. In Russia’s monotowns, the uncoupling of public service provision and industrial work has occurred during the last three decades; partly the process is still underway. Thus, the questions of monotowns’ future viability and their citizens’ quality of life are acute. While monotowns current economic and social situation is often problematic, the SPIN Unit team has established a cautiously positive view regarding the everyday life in monotowns and their future potential. While there are big differences from case to case, in general the aim to improve monotowns’ public space, amenities spatial opportunities for youth is a meaningful and important task.