Based on the elusive statistical data available on the closed cities of the USSR, this pioneering geographical study on the Russian-speaking northern half of Kazakhstan identifies a “closed city effect,” consisting of a demographic stability superior to those of ‘normal’ cities since the country’s independence (to the notable exception of Semipalatinsk and of its periphery). Several hypotheses are formulated as to the causes of this phenomenon, such as the existence of better employment opportunities till the present day, or the long isolation of closed cities’ inhabitants during the Soviet period, which did not permit them to establish strong contacts with people in other parts of the Soviet Union, and may have left them with fewer potential migration destinations after 1991. Another hypothesis of the author’s is the probability of a gradual decrease in importance of the closed city effect compared with other factors ― though a precondition for that would be a better appraisal of the still extremely vague statistical reality of the closed city phenomenon as a whole.

The Redaction
CER: II-2.4-85