Social Security, Care and the 'Withdrawing State' in Rural Russia: a case study from Altai Krai

This project explores the ways in which local people deal with everyday forms of insecurity brought about, for example, by economic crisis, demographic change, family dislocation, aging, disability, lifecycle stages and day-to-day issues. The project focuses on the ways in which people produce securities (social, economic, personal and cultural) by creatively drawing on public and private resources and relationships, formal and informal networks and practices, and state and non-state institutions and structures. Anthropological theorisations of social security as well as feminist analyses of care provide a theoretical framework for the study, which also explores the ways in which caring relationships, integral to the production of physical and emotional securities, are shaped by gender, generation, ethnicity and class.

The project aims to contribute to more nuanced understandings of:

  1. local experiences of and responses to neoliberal reforms and reconfigurations of welfare and care;
  2. the complex and multi-layered nature of the Russian state;
  3. the agency of state and non-state actors in defining need, providing care and producing social security in a rural Russian context.

As well as contributing to academic debate, the project aims to generate practical insight into ways to improve access to locally appropriate forms of care and support.

Two 4-week periods of ethnographic fieldwork have been conducted in Burla village, Altai krai in April 2009 and January-February 2010.


Professor Rebecca Kay


January 2009 - June 2010


British Academy
Ref 50447/1

Key Findings

Key findings from the project show the importance of ‘emotional’, as well as material forms of security, but also query idealistic understandings of ‘care’ and ‘community’, showing how uneven access to power and resource, locally inflected understandings of ‘deservingness’ as well as class, gender, age and ethnicity can produce inequalities and forms of exclusion, as well as offering opportunities for inclusion and mutual support.


The following presentation were made to a number of international conferences and workshops. Please note these documents represent as yet unpublished work in progress, and they should not be cited without prior permission from the author

Social Security, Care and the 'Withdrawing State' in Rural Russia, Aleksanteri Conference, 'Welfare, Gender and Agency in Russia and Eastern Europe', University of Helsinki, 10-12 December 2008

'(Un)caring communities: moral economies of care, (un)deservingness and the reproduction of centres and peripheries in a 'marginal' place', presented to CEELBAS 'Situating Culture' Worshops, Workshop One: 'Cultures of the Margins', University of Warwick, 12-13 December 2009

'We are the light of their lives. Care-work, gender and the production of emotional securities: a view from rural Russia', presented to BASEES Annual Conference, University of Cambridge, 26-28 March 2010

'Caring for the elderly in rural Altai: emotional support, symbolic security and communities of care', presented to International Congress of Central and East European Studies, Stockholm, 26-31 July 2010


Kay, R. (2014) Relationships, practices, and images of the local state in rural Russia. Social Analysis, 58(3), pp. 56-72. (doi:10.3167/sa.2014.580305)

Kay, R. (2012) Managing everyday (in)securities: normative values, emotional security and symbolic recognition in the lives of Russian rural elders. Journal of Rural Studies, 28(2), pp. 63-71.(doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2012.01.018)

Kay, R., Shubin, S. and Thelen, T. (2012) Rural realities in the post-socialist space. Journal of Rural Studies, 28(2), pp. 55-62.(doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2012.03.001)

Kay, R. (2011) (Un)caring communities: processes of marginalisation and access to formal and informal care and assistance in rural Russia. Journal of Rural Studies, 27(1), pp. 45-53.(doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2010.11.002)

Kay, R. (2011) Social security, care and the "withdrawing state" in rural Russia. In: Jäppinen, M., Kulmala, M. and Saarinen, A. (eds.) Gazing at Welfare, Gender and Agency in Post-socialist Countries. Cambridge Scholars: Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 145-169. ISBN 9781443825818