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Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The article uses visual analysis methods to review the results of studies carried out in Nizhny Novgorod Region in May 2013. Our findings show that, despite the negative portrayal of rural areas in the Russian media, life still goes on here, and the visual improvement of the local community’s living environment is quite evident. Rather than just spend a few days in the region’s capital and conduct some in-depth interviews with respondents, the visual analysis method aims to take a close look at the researcher’s surroundings and get a feel of the ambience. To glean a more complete picture of the life in the region, it is essential not to stop at merely its administrative center and to visit smaller districts and rural settlements. It was visual observation during our field trip to Nizhny Novgorod Region that allowed us to collect new data and properly correct the data derived by other means. We now believe that the overwhelmingly negative attitude towards the processes occurring in the region is flawed at its core. Nizhny Novgorod Region is, in fact, developing, albeit with a significant degree of spontaneity, ungoverned by any official strategy and following a direction that is more than difficult to define clearly. While the local industry is shrinking, specific sectors are on the rise. There is active construction of new shopping malls and residential properties. And also some infrastructural construction, albeit less active. The lands surrounding Nizhny Novgorod still retain their significance as a major hub of traditional crafts, which act as a significant embodiment of the unique Russian cultural identity. Far from dying out amid the onslaught of globalization and cultural unification, traditional crafts are gaining second wind. Some districts have even revived crafts that were considered almost lost to time. There are issues, of course; many issues, and serious ones at that, but they are not covered in the federal-level public discourse. Preliminary analysis shows that the source of these issues lies beyond the respective regions. Problems usually arise out of half-baked reforms introduced by the federal center, or out of global trends.
region, traditions, transformations, municipal management, civil society, visual sociology