Rural Settlement

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Rural Settlement


a populated area not meeting the criteria established for urban settlements in a given country. Rural settlements include populated areas whose inhabitants are engaged primarily in agriculture, forestry, or hunting; they also include settlements whose inhabitants are involved in other types of occupations (industrial, transport, construction) if the settlements have small populations and are located in rural areas.

Rural settlements can be divided into three categories: agricultural, nonagricultural, and mixed, that is, with a population engaged in various economic sectors. In addition to permanent rural settlements, which are inhabited year-round and have been in existence for a number of years, there are seasonally inhabited settlements; the latter can be either agricultural, such as the winter and summer settlements of livestock herders and farm workers, or nonagricultural, such as summer tourist centers and Pioneer camps. There are also temporary rural settlements, established for limited periods of time, for example, lumber camps and expeditionary bases, and itinerant settlements, for example, nomadic settlements and the camps of reindeer herders.

It is impossible to determine the total number of rural settlements throughout the world, including the permanent ones, since the concept of an individual populated area is defined differently in each country. In the United States, for example, approximately one-fifth of the rural population at the beginning of the 1970’s was listed as residing in officially registered rural settlements, while the remaining farm population was grouped, for statistical purposes, into broader territorial units. In many countries, particularly densely populated ones, where large rural settlements are in close proximity to individual farms and estates, the population of all the settlements within a single territorial administrative unit (for example, a commune in France and Belgium and Gemeinde in the German Democratic Republic) is considered to be a single group for statistical purposes.

As of 1970, according to UN estimates, 63 percent of the world’s population lived in rural settlements, compared to 67 percent in 1960. The inhabitants of rural settlements represented 78 percent (82 percent in 1960) of the population in Africa, 79 percent (82 percent) in South Asia, 70 percent (77 percent) in East Asia, 44 percent (52 percent) in Latin America, 26 percent (30 percent) in North America, and 36 percent (42 percent) in Europe, not including the USSR. In the USSR, 40 percent of the population lived in rural settlements in 1974, compared to 51 percent in 1960.

The concept of rural settlements arose with the distinction between the city and the countryside as socioeconomic categories. The types and characteristics of rural settlements reflect the level of productive forces and productive relations inherent in a given sociohistorical formation. At the same time, the character of rural settlements always reflects the occupation of the village inhabitants (for example, grain growing or viticulture), national traditions, and natural conditions; these factors often determine a settlement’s location, layout, and size. The rural settlements of the feudal period consisted chiefly of villages of serfs and state peasants, castles and manors, and settlements of traders and artisans; many of these subsequently developed into cities. The development of capitalism gave rise to more dispersed forms of rural settlement—large and small farms—which now predominate in rural areas in a number of countries, particularly the United States and Canada; in other countries, these new forms are found alongside large rural settlements whose origins date back to the feudal period.

In economically developed countries, with the growth of an urban network and nonagricultural land use, there has been an increase in the number of nonagricultural and mixed rural settlements, as well as in the number of rural “bedroom” communities, many of whose inhabitants are employed in neighboring cities.

In the USSR the principal rural agricultural settlements are the central settlements of the kolkhozes (32,500) and sovkhozes (13,200). In 1970, 42 percent of the total rural population lived in such settlements, extremely varied in size, with an average population of about 1,000. These settlements provide the basis for the further network of rural settlements and are given priority in the development of public services; an ever-increasing share of the rural population is being concentrated in these centers. Many of the central settlements of kolkhozes are old villages—including slobody (commercial and industrial villages near cities) and stanitsy (large cossack villages)—whose appearance has been greatly changed during the years of Soviet power. The central farmsteads of sovkhozes are built according to special plans. Another large group of agricultural settlements includes the 80,500 settlements of kolkhoz production brigades and kolkhoz livestock-breeding departments and the 70,000 settlements of sovkhoz divisions and sovkhoz livestock-breeding departments.

The mixed-type rural settlements of the USSR include more than 800 villages (1970) that serve as raion administrative centers. This group also includes certain kolkhoz and sovkhoz settlements, where a significant portion of the population is employed in local industrial enterprises (for example, processing agricultural products or logging), in transportation services, or in enterprises in neighboring urban settlements. The number of agroindustrial rural settlements, which represent a progressive development, is increasing along with the number of urban settlements. Each year, new cities and urban-type settlements are formed from agroindustrial rural settlements and rural raion administrative centers.

In 1970 there were 37,800 nonagricultural rural settlements in the USSR. About 15,000 of them had grown up around individual industrial enterprises and construction projects, another 10,000 were related to forestation and forest use, more than 9,000 were related to transportation services, and the remainder were located around out-of-town public-health, educational, and social-security facilities.

The number of large rural settlements in the USSR is growing; in 1970 there were more than 23,500 settlements with populations of more than 1,000. The movement of the rural population to larger and better-equipped rural settlements is increasing, and the plans for the development of each rural raion of the USSR have designated a group of promising settlements where all rural population will gradually be concentrated.

The number of rural settlements throughout the world has declined as a result of urbanization and the movement of the population from the countryside to the cities.

In the USSR, in the process of building a communist society, “in terms of cultural and everyday living conditions, the rural population is becoming equal with the urban population” (Programma KPSS, 1975, p. 85).


Lenin, V. I. Razvitiekapitalizma v Rossii. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 3.
Voprosy preobrazovaniia sel’skogo rasseleniia i sel’skikh naselennykh mest. Edited by V. P. Butuzova. Moscow, 1972.
Vydyborets, A. V., and G. N. Rogozhin. Perspektivy razvitiia sel’skikh naselennykh punktov. Moscow, 1973.
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