Counterurbanization in the Czech Republic: migration to the countryside, life style and changing residental preferences

Research Team Leader: 
Martin Šimon
Funded by: 
Science Foundation of Charles University in Prague
migration into rural areas
amenity migration


The changing relations between urban and rural areas or between ‘Gemeinschaft’ and ‘Gesellschaft’ have been always fascinating for many researchers. The dichotomy of urban and rural seems blurred from today’s point of view. Nevertheless we argue that there still exist essential differences between urban and rural lifestyle and between the everyday life activities in both types of environments.
The aim of our project is to analyze counter urbanization phenomena in the Czech Republic and to develop the typology of counterurban migrants. What are the motivations behind the escape out of the city? What are the pull factors on the rural side? Do counterurban migrants retain their urban lifestyle after moving to the countryside? Or do they conform to the rural one? Could we conceive counterurbanization as a threat for traditional local culture? Those are the key questions which we do answer in proposed research.
We use both quantitative and qualitative methods, utilizing strong sides of the methods from both different perspectives – geographical and sociological.

Counterurbanization research is complementary to suburbanization research and allows us to transfer knowledge and experiences for mutual learning. The proposed research will enrich our understanding of contemporary residential decentralization in the Czech Republic.


Mgr. Martin Šimon
Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Science
Department of Social Geography and Regional Development
Albertov 6, Praha 2, 128 43
Czech Republic

Tel: +420221951391
e-mail: ;
Personal website:



 ŠIMON, M. (2012): Exploring Counterurbanisation in a Post-Socialist Context: Case of the Czech Republic. Sociologia ruralis. ŠIMON, M. (2012): Exploring Counterurbanisation in a Post-Socialist Context: Case of the Czech Republic. Sociologia ruralis. Article first published online: 11 OCT 2012, DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9523.2012.00576.x

Article available at

Abstract: Urban-rural research in post-socialist countries has focused on urban transformation, the impact of international migration and the spread of suburbanisation; little attention has been paid to counterurban migration. The aim of this article is to propose a typology of counterurban migration strategies based on quantitative research in rural areas in the Czech Republic. Firstly, the article discusses the differences and similarities of counterurbanisation in western and post-socialist countries by bringing together counterurbanisation and post-socialist research literature. Secondly, detailed information about the counterurbanisation migration stream is provided on the basis of extensive field research. Thirdly, the article presents four basic types of counterurbanisation migration strategies, two lifestyle-oriented types and two economic-oriented types, based on household motivation, preferences and household employment location. The research demonstrates both general and specific features of counterurbanisation stream in the Czech Republic.

A core theoretical and empirical results of Counterurbanization project were presented at specialised session 'New and Emerging Rural Researchers' at RGS - IBG Annual International Conference (3-5 July, Edinburgh, Great Britain) in paper: 'Exploring counterurbanization in a post-socialist context: case of Czech Republic'.

A book chapter presenting values, perception and motivation of counterurban migrants was published. It shows perceived differences between lifestyle in urban and in rural envirnonment mediated by different time-space mobilities and lifestyle rhythms. Although counterurbanites primarily seeks rural environment they also positively contribute to local community development.

ŠIMON, M. (2011): Kontraurbanizace: chaotický koncept? Geografie, 116, č. 3, s. 231–255.ŠUSTROVÁ, K., ŠIMON, M. (2012): The abandonment of an urban way of life? An analysis of selected aspects of rural migration. In: Temelová, J., Pospíšilová, L., Ouředníček, M. (eds.): New socio-spatial inequalities, local development and quality of life. Plzeň, Aleš Čeněk, pp. 99-121.

Abstract: Changing life-style patterns in urban and rural environment has been a perennial topic in social science research. The differences between urban and rural gained different meaning and different significance today then they has have during industrial urbanization characterized with strong outmigration from rural to urban areas. This article is focused on counterurbanization defined as a migration from urban areas to remote rural areas. The overall aim is explore values, perceptions and motivation which have effect on counterurban migration; and thus contribute to our understanding of counterurbanization in the Czech Republic as a post-socialist country. Firstly, perceptions of positives and negatives of urban as well as rural environments as they are reflected in counterurban migrant’s narratives are explored in detail. Secondly, differences between life-styles in urban and rural environments are discussed with special attention to discrepancies between expectation the migrants had and the reality they have faced. It is argued that counterurban migrant´s seek better environment for life rather than revival of rural community. The research is based on own qualitative survey conducted in selected rural regions from 2010 to 2011.

Keywords: counterurbanisation, life-style, migration into rural areas, perception of environment

Selected results of Counterurbanisation project were presented at 'Third City' conference in Brno (Faculty of Social Studies, 4-5 November, 2011) in paper: 'Analysing family-related and work-related strategies of migrants to remote rural areas' (K. Šustrová, M. Šimon). 

Empirical results of Counterurbanization project were presented at "Cities after Transition: Space, Culture and Transition, 4th Workshop" conference (University of Bucharest, 14-17 September, 2011). Presentation: "Šimon, M., Šustrová, K.: Towards a typology of counter-urban migration: the case of Czech Republic (methods, findings, life-strategies)". 

Abstract: The urban-rural research in post-socialist countries has been focused on urban transformation, impact of international migration, and spread of suburbanization; counter-urban migration has been rather neglected. The aim of this paper is to present a typology of counter-urban migration based on qualitative survey in rural areas in the Czech Republic. The paper presents six main types of counter-urban migrants according to their life strategies. The paper discussed the importance of life-cycle in the decision process and stress out the main pull factors of rural areas that attract the incomers. The research demonstrates highly uneven impact of counter-urbanization in different rural areas as well as highly variable impact of different types of counter-urban migrants in rural localities. The future prospect of comparative counter-urbanization research in post-socialist countries is being discussed in the final part.

Keywords: Counter-urbanization, life strategy, typology, rural, Czech Republic

ŠIMON, M. (2011): Counterurbanization: condemned to be a chaotic conception? / Kontraurbanizace: chaotický koncept? Geografie, 116, No. 3, pp. 231–255. ŠIMON, M. (2011): Counterurbanization: condemned to be a chaotic conception? / Kontraurbanizace: chaotický koncept? Geografie, 116, No. 3, pp. 231–255. (IF 2010 = 0.787)

Abstract: This paper presents an overview of past and current debates over the conceptualization of migration into rural areas – counterurbanization. It begins with the history of the term itself, leading us from its original use to the contemporary plurality of its meanings. Key issues in the process of defining counterurbanization are examined, in light of the term’s historical development. The article illustrates a shift in counterurbanization research from the study of the settlement system to the study of local dimensions of counterurbanization and finally to the discursive production of counterurbanization. Secondly, contemporary residential decentralization in Czechia and the theoretical framing of counterurbanization are linked together in order to discuss the relevance of the counterurbanization research agenda in Czechia. The article concludes by stating the need for new ways to approach migration into rural areas.

Keywords: counterurbanization – suburbanization – migration into rural areas – amenity migration – post-productivist transition – neo-ruralism.

ŠIMON, M. (2011): Successful integration of Romanian community from Bílá Voda / Úspěšná integrace rumunské komunity z Bílé Vody. Český lid : Ethnological journal 98, No. 2, pp. 155 - 172. ŠIMON, M. (2011): Successful integration of Romanian community from Bílá Voda / Úspěšná integrace rumunské komunity z Bílé Vody. Český lid : Ethnological journal 98, No. 2, pp. 155 - 172. (IF 2010 = 0.343)

Abstract: In this paper I seek to contribute to our understanding of Romanian immigration in the Czech Republic that has been neglected so far in the scholarly literature. This article presents evidence on a selected Romanian community in peripheral village in the Jeseníkregion based upon biographic interviews. The emergence and function of the community are reflected in the migration history of Romanian families, their gradual integration in society and in place of residence (marginalized village). Special emphasis is placed upon crucial moments like emergence of the distinction between Romanians and Roma in the eyes of majority of the society. Positive as well as negative influences upon the integration are discussed. The paper shows empirical evidence which is in some aspects contradictory to findings about integration of foreingers in the Czechia as presented by Tollarová (2006). The paper concludes with some consideration about future development of the community.

Keywords: Immigrant integration, migration to rural areas, Romanian, Roma, Pentecostalism.

Abstract: This article presents a short introduction to the topic of migration into rural areas. Its first section discusses differences and similarities in terms of lifestyles in urban and rural areas. The second part presents the findings of a research project concerning migration into rural areas. Five groups of migrants are distinguished according to their migration strategy and reasons for migrating. 

ŠIMON, M., OUŘEDNÍČEK, M. (2010) Migrace na venkov a kontraurbanizace-- Přehled konceptů a diskuze jejich relevance pro výzkum v Česku..pdf ŠIMON, M., OUŘEDNÍČEK, M. (2010): Migration into rural areas and counterurbanization: An overview of theoretical concepts and discussion of their relevance for research in Czechia. / Migrace na venkov a kontraurbanizace-- Přehled konceptů a diskuze jejich relevance pro výzkum v Česku.pdf In: Geografie pro život ve 21. století: Sborník příspěvků z XXII. sjezdu České geografické společnosti pořádaného Ostravskou univerzitou v Ostravě 31. srpna – 3. září 2010. Ostrava: Ostravská univerzita v Ostravě, s. 738-743. ISBN 978-80-7368-903-2

Abstract: Population deconcentration is the main feature of the Czech settlement system during the last two decades. It has been studied mainly as suburbanization or metropolization. The experiences from western countries and preliminary analysis of migration data suggest that the population deconcentration occurs also in rural areas. We can talk about counter-urbanization. The aim of the article is to discuss various conceptualizations of counter-urbanization phenomena, from its origin to contemporary plurality of its meanings as it is reflected in academic discourses. The specific attention is devoted to so called post-socialist counter-urbanization. Various ways towards the definition of counter-urbanization will be discussed especially in relation to urbanization processes. We argue that our research efforts should focus on local dimension of counterurbanization in order to understand the impact of population de-concentration on everyday life in localities.