The country of vanishing night lights


The collapse of Soviet system is sometimes regarded as the "most rapid and unexpected social transformation of the twentieth century". In the 1990s, when this transformation occurred, alongside with the long-desired demolition of the iron curtain and the onset of market economy, many governmental institutions have also literally collapsed or went to long-term hibernation. In many former Soviet republics, the old ill-famed issues had engulfed new bloody conflicts given the controversial nature of the borders between some republics. Consequently, most brand new countries that replaced the former republics faced severe economic degradation and the vast portion of the developed lands before-time supervised by the omniscient hand of state has turned to desolation. Many industrial facilities and factories have closed all over post-Soviet countries, more than 87 megahectares of croplands were abandoned and most importantly, many cities got depopulated and even turned abandonment. Russia, as the former backbone of Soviet economy and the political center of USSR, managed to slow down depopulation only after 2000 when the oil prices hit the long-term records. Ukraine, being the second largest industrial and arguably the main agricultural center of USSR had no opportunity for enjoying the profits of high oil prices at the same time. No surprise that even before the bloody conflict in the Eastern Ukraine, the country has suffered a great rate of deurbanization (one of the highest rates among all European countries). Remote sensing can help us to track the dynamics of deurbanization and to mark the regions that suffered from these negative dynamics at most in the period between 1992 and 2013. The map above highlights the places that experienced negative dynamics in the night-light intensity based on satellite observations. As one can see, formerly the most industrious regions (Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnepropetrovsk regions) of the country nowadays represents the area that strongly suffered from deurbanization. Even in the pre-conflict footage of the Eastern Ukraine, one can find the evidences of desolation. The footage rather reminds the scene from the post-apocalyptic movie rather the video made in the modern Europe. Other regions of Ukraine have also considerably suffered from deurbanization in these years. One thing we may expect that in the period after 2014 when the world is witnessing new cold war or more specifically "cold peace" between NATO and Russia, the patterns of urbanization and deurbanization will be shifted. Some regions are greatly suffering from hybrid conflict on the Eastern Ukraine, meanwhile other regions can experience prominent influx of the citizens who had left the houses behind in the zones of the ongoing warfare. Data: night-lights observations from DMSP/OLS satellite Source: EOS portal

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