RCIN and OZwRCIN projects


Title: Wsie zanikające – identyfikacja i analiza wybranych cech społeczno-ekonomicznych = Disappearing villages – identification and analysis of selected socioeconomic features


Przegląd Geograficzny T. 92 z. 2 (2020)



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24 cm

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Contemporary rural settlement in Poland is first and foremost modified by demographic processes, of which decisive ones are a migratory influx of new inhabitants into rural areas in the immediate vicinity of large cities, as well as population outflow from most rural areas that are located traditionally and above all peripherally. These two directions to migration generate mostly opposing trends where the development of rural areas is concerned. Inflows of new inhabitants into suburbs and satellite villages close to cities ensure social, economic and infrastructural development or ”progress”, and sometimes even – paradoxically – a change of status from rural to urban. On the other hand, migratory outflows from most other rural areas give rise to a process of demographic degradation whose extreme manifestation may be the actual disappearance of a rural settlement. The fundamental unit of measurement and study here was the so-called ”statistical locality”, defined by GUS as the group of places taking on the name of the leading locality and usually comprising a village plus smaller settlements adjacent to it. The research encompassed a total of 41,466 such localities existing uninterruptedly between 1950 and 2011. The analysis further encompassed six time intervals, of which each ended in a year during which a Census was carried out (i.e. 1950, 1960, 1970, 1978, 1988, 2002 and 2011). For each inter-Censal period, attention was paid to the magnitude and direction of demographic change taking place in all of the rural localities. In this work, the key focus is on the “uniformly regressing villages”, which is to say those losing more than 5% of their inhabitants in the 1950‒2011 period, but also experiencing population declines in every one of the six inter-Censal periods. This is taken to be adequate justification for use of the more-loaded term “disappearing”. Through analysis of the statistical localities in rural areas it was found that some 25,711 of all villages reported a decline in the number of inhabitants over the 1950‒2011 period. However, the steady loss of people indicated by population declines over each of the six studied time intervals was an issue for 2956 of the villages mainly located in central and eastern parts of Poland. These are areas long regarded as only poorly-developed economically, including parts of the east that are clearly categorisable as “peripheral”. To be noted among the factors behind disappearances of villages are limited attractiveness arising out of low standards of living, natural conditions unsuited to farming, limited incomes earned from agricultural activity and poor outfitting in social and technical infrastructure. Throughout the post-War period it is small villages of fewer than 100 people that have experienced the most marked demographic regress. The smallest settlements of all – with 50 people or less – have experienced the most major loss of population, at around 28% on average. The analyses reported here thus support the notion that the scale and village, the less-serious the unfavourable population processes. However, the disappearing villages are home to a number of overlapping problems with development. Inhabitants either lack opportunities to meet their daily needs, or at best have limited chances to do so. And this starts with physiological needs, though also of course ranges through the social, emotional and economic, and ends with lack of access to public goods and services. The decline of rural areas thus features a so-called triggering factor, with this then unleashing a sequence of positive-feedback processes. A most typical trigger would be lack of job opportunities, and this exerts a selective effect in relation to who leaves the countryside. A next consequence of that is a decline in the purchasing power of rural households, a further worsening of living conditions, and inefficient use of infrastructure.


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Przegląd Geograficzny





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oai:rcin.org.pl:132009 ; 2300-8466 (on-line) ; 10.7163/PrzG.2020.2.1


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Copyright-protected material. [CC BY 4.0] May be used within the scope specified in Creative Commons Attribution BY 4.0 license, full text available at: ; -

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Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization of the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Central Library of Geography and Environmental Protection. Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization PAS

Projects co-financed by:

Operational Program Digital Poland, 2014-2020, Measure 2.3: Digital accessibility and usefulness of public sector information; funds from the European Regional Development Fund and national co-financing from the state budget.





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