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Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The article covers the result of a visual field sociological study that was conducted in Tambov Region in the summer of 2013. Our findings demonstrate that this stage of a sociologist’s research is completely valid in and of itself. The study has revealed a radical discrepancy between the actual reality of life in Russian rural regions and the reality that is constructed by mass media. There are no visual signs of particularly intense economic activity in Tambov and its vicinity. The last few remnants of Soviet production facilities are struggling to keep afloat, while agriculture is subjected to some global influence thanks to agrarian technology. Nevertheless, the city and region are carrying out restoration work as much as their scarce resources can allow, and even go beyond that. Tambov has a vibrant cultural life, which (unlike its economic or political life) is quite evident. The locals enjoy delicious food and beautiful clothing, and happily celebrate their unique historical identity. The mainstream souvenirs featuring the Tambov Wolf also contribute to promoting a sense of identity. In this case, visual observation confirms one of conclusions that we arrived at by employing different methodology: given the lack of resources, the social and cultural development of the region at large, as well as of specific localities, is only possible when there are enough actors involved and the mechanisms of supporting such actors are working properly. Unfortunately, the question posed at the very beginning of the article still remains without an answer. Namely, why do mass media almost completely gloss over Tambov Region, with its wealth of historical heritage, modern culture scene, and thriving social activism? Why is it written off from the Russian mentality? The same occurs with many other regions that we have studied (and are yet to study). One plausible explanation behind this more than strange phenomenon is that, rather than there being a conspiracy, we are witnessing the effects of globalization, which makes the unique image of the “motherland” irrelevant. All that matters is an endless, faceless black earth expanse that agricultural holdings are exploiting by using the rotation system.
field research, visual observation, Russian regions, construction of social reality, social and cultural development, media