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A few times every day, the high-speed train between St. Petersburg and Moscow barrels through the threadbare town of Lyuban. When word gets out that the head of Russia’s state railway company — a close friend of President Vladimir V. Putin — is aboard, the station’s employees line up on the platform standing at attention, saluting Russia’s modernization for the seconds it takes the train to fly through. Whoosh.

But Vladimir G. Naperkovsky is not one of them. He watched with a cold, blue-eyed stare as the train passed the town where he was born, with its pitted roads and crumbling buildings. At 52, having shut down his small computer repair business, Mr. Naperkovsky is leaving for another region in Russia, hoping it is not too late to start a new life in a more prosperous place. The reasons are many, but his view boils down to this: “Gradually,” he said, explaining his view of Lyuban, “everything is rotting.”

At the edges of Russia’s two great cities, another Russia begins.

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