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Russian EcoVillages

There are about 2000 ecovillages worldwide and around 250 in Russia. And about 2500  initiated projects. More and more people want to get involved in a creative movement. For many the thought of leaving grey towns and moving to the countryside to create a new alternative world is becoming more attractive.

What is the ecovillage?

Ecovillage is an intentional community of people who decided to live in the countryside and follow the principles of making the least negative impact on the environment. Ecovillages create a model of sustainable social-economic development based on the development and promotion of ecological technologies, deliberate minimalism and maximal self-suffiency. Ecovillage is a community where up to 300 people live and are united by the shared ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values. The residents of the community take active part both in the activities inside the community and in the social life outside of it.

Ecovillages around the world follow the same principles:

In ecology:
• organic farming
• permaculture
• ecological construction
• development and usage of renewable enegry systems
• practical minimalism
• waste management
In economy:
• maximal self-suffiency
• practical minimalism
In social policy:
• looking for ways to re-establish the human relations in small communities
• looking for ways of spiritual development
• paying great attention to the creative potential of each person

How did ecovillages begin?

The movement started in the 1960s in the USA and Europe and then spread all over the world. It appeared on the wave of desire for small urban communities to live harmoniously with the nature as a reaction to the depersonalization of urban life and industrialization of agriculture.Eco_Villge_1a

More and more people decide to leave cities and move to the countryside where they try to have a low-impact way of life and reduce their carbon-footprint.

In Russia the first ecovillages started to appear in the beginning of the 1990s. Some of them eventually broke up, but some exist even today. In the last decade there were hundreds of them founded through various initiatives. About 250 groups have already acquired land for villages and there are around 100 ecovillages which function during the whole year.
1996 saw the creation of Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and its three subdivisions: European, American and Asia and Pasific Islands, which unite hundreds of ecovillages from all over the world and serves as an umbrella organization for them. GEN has consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In Russia Voluntary Association "Network of Ecovillages and Eco-initiatives" has existed since 2005 and was officially registered in 2011. And since 2005 it is the member of GEN-Europe.

"Network of Ecovillages and Ecoinitiatives" is the organization which aims to help and support existing and emerging ecovillages in Russia and also to spread the positive results of these ecovillages among various groups of people for the preservation and restoration of the environment for future generations.

There are several types of ecovillages:

• ecotowns
• ecovillages
• permaculture areas
• urban rejuvenation projects
• educational centres

And in Russia there are several types of ecovillages as well, including:
• traditional ecovillages
• patrimonies
• social villages
• specific themes
• religious ecovillages
• ecological projects

What are the main activities of ecovillages in Russia:

There are nurseries of fruit trees and decorative plants, development of folk handicrafts, development of ecological tourism, organization of educational seminars and workshops, organization of folk festivals, research work, development of environmental technology in construction, bee-farming, development and usage of alternative energy, agritourism.

Many ecovillages organize short-term volunteer workcamps in summer so that anyone interested could take part in everyday activities of local residents, learn more about ecology, sustainable living and ecovillages and help the community.

One of the examples of an ecocommunity in Russia is ecovillage "Grishino" which was created in 1994 and situated in the region of Saint Petersburg in a small village Grishino at the banks of the northern river Vazhinka. It is the community of economically self-sufficient families. The main activity of the ecovillage is the preservation and restoration of the surrounding forest.

The residents of the community are involved in organic farming, cultivation of herbal collections using traditional methods. They also try to develop agritourism and host visitors who want to take a healthy holidays away from the city. Occasionally they organize eco and ethno trips to various ecovillages around the world.

There are many other interesting places which are willing to host volunteers and just visitors this summer. There is a bigger review on possible destinations in Russian here.

Roman Sablin, Russia
(translated by Natalia Luchko, YEE EVS volunteer)