City slickers leave Moscow for fresh milk and green grass

In big cities around the world, people have long dreamed of giving up their jobs and going to live stress-free in the countryside. Muscovites have joined the trend.

Nearly 20 years ago, Stepan Privalikhin swapped a life of scientific research for living off of the land.

“Being closer to nature had long been my dream,” Privalikhin told RT. “This is what I’ve always wanted, countryside living has always run in my blood. And I won’t go back, I’ll never swap my farm even for the most luxurious Moscow flat.”

In the village of Dmitrovo, some 40 kilometers south of Moscow, Privalikhin is enjoying his passion: horses. He is far from the only one to find life in a big city daunting.

Successful businessmen giving up their office jobs and embarking on a quest for a simpler and stress-free life elsewhere is a pattern already well-established in Europe and the US – so-called “downshifting.”

In Russia, researchers say, it is too early to speak of a trend, but figures show that more and more Muscovites are unhappy.

“The biggest problems that are pointed out by Russians residing in Moscow are transportation and ecology,” said Olga Kamenchuk, from the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. “Then there’s a problem of crime, and, like in many big cities around the world that experience a big influx of people, a problem of migration and some ethnic tensions.”

According to recent polls, some three percent of Muscovites quit the capital for village life every year. Fifteen percent more are seriously considering the option. No wonder that the number of websites and online communities dedicated to building a new life on the greener side is mushrooming.

Cleaner and quieter places have their problems, too, of course. In Russia, village life often lacks modern conveniences, good health care and schooling may be hard to find, and options are certainly more limited when it comes to culture and entertainment.

Still, Privalikhin does not regret his choice. He says all his dreams have come true, except maybe a racetrack for training his horses – which he says he would like to build.

“Living closer to nature is what life should be all about,” Privalikhin said. “Living off of the land is a huge part of our country’s history and way of life. When I observe my animals, the way they behave, I learn from them, I begin to realize what’s important and what’s not.”

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