The research presented in the article is part of a large project to study the involvement of the southern periphery into the Moscow state. The authors have switched from the level of studying particular uyezds (counties) to the level of certain settlements. The authors considered it important to find out how much the initial system of the rural population in the south of Central Russia predetermined the future of the first settlements in the long term. The paper employs various quantitative methods (grouping, fractal modeling, cluster analysis). These methods made it possible to detail the processes of frontier area development, based on the materials of 1645 settlements of the Tambov section of the South Russian periphery of the 17th - mid-19th centuries; to apply it to settlements that have survived into the beginning of 21st century. It is determined in the article that the most stable and promising settlements were established at the initial stage of the 17th century frontier development with the support of the state (all of them have survived to this day). The settlements founded in the 18th and especially early 19th centuries proved to be much less stable; among them, there are now far less large settlements than among the first ones. The authors ultimately claim that the use of a variety of quantitative methods for studying the history of settlements established in the frontier area makes it possible to confirm the previous conclusions with precision and provide new insights, which are clearly "invisible" with traditional descriptive methods of historical research.
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