Suboptimal optimization. Cutbacks to Russia’s social spending are erasing jobs and childcare in remote towns

On November 20, the website 7×7 published online correspondence between Anna Vlasova, a woman living in the town of Suoeki, and Artur Parfenchikov, the governor of the Republic of Karelia. Vlasova wrote to her governor to complain that her town has no kindergarten, explaining that she has no one to care for her children, while she’s at work. Parfenchikov’s response was harsh: he told the woman to “work something out with the grandmothers” or “hire a nanny, like everyone does.” When these messages found their way to Russia’s news media, the governor rushed to Suoeki to meet Vlasova in person and “solve the problem.” Vlasova’s situation isn’t unusual, however. Thanks to the “optimization” initiative underway in Karelia and other regions across the country, officials are shutting down kindergartens, schools, and hospital wards, and laying off staff. In a special report for Meduza, Petrozavodsk Govorit correspondent Georgy Chentemirov takes a closer look at the fallout from these budget cuts.