Currently, Russian small and medium towns are of great and clearly underestimated importance in the country’s spatial development and the formation of a balanced settlement system. The transition to market relations has had a negative impact on the development of these localities. At the same time, the reform of local self-government was supposed to help solve the accumulated problems, but, in fact, it did not change much. The high level of subsidized budgets, the low level of qualification of local management personnel, and the dependence on higher authorities are still relevant for the vast majority of small and medium towns. The fact that many small and medium towns will not be able to embark on the path of sustainable socio-economic development without federal and regional assistance is recognized not only in scientific circles, but also among state authorities.
In this context, the question of who and how should implement policies for small and medium towns’ development remains debatable. The problem of choosing promising directions for the development of urban economic sectors also comes to the fore. It is increasingly obvious that the definition of the economic specialization of municipalities on the old, formed in the Soviet era approaches will probably lead only to a useless expenditure of resources and budget funds. The concept of “smart specialization” looks quite promising in this case, but, for the full use of this approach, there are currently several limitations due to its insufficient scientific and practical elaboration.
The Authors substantiated the need to develop new approaches to managing the small and medium towns’ development taking into account a wide variety of their types. The basis for determining the future directions of the town’s development should be its position in the settlement system and economic specialization. The choice of the priority economic sectors, in turn, should be based either on the current economic structure of a town, considering innovative development, or the “smart specialization” concept.More details are in the article.