Russian Demographics at a Glance

demography.jpgThis one actually belongs over at Demography.Matters but since there are so many interesting posts up and running over there at the moment I thought I would use Alpha.Sources as a venue of the tale of the sorry state of Russian demographics. I have reported before on this over at DM invoking The Demise of Russia's Far East. This time I am looking at the country as a whole and my source is an article in the recent edition of the Economist print edition which paints a telling picture of a country with serious demographic issues.

(bold parts are my emphasis

The rope is tightening in both ends, i.e both in terms of low fertility and high mortality ...

'Mr Putin's aim is to boost Russia's birth rate, which plummeted after the late Soviet period and has stabilised well below replacement level. His ultimate goal is to arrest and reverse Russia's headlong population decline. Despite a large influx of ethnic Russians from elsewhere, the population has fallen by 6m since the Soviet Union collapsed, to 143m. It is falling still, by around 700,000 a year. There may be fewer than 100m Russians left by 2050.


But the bigger reason for scepticism is that Russia's truly startling demographic problem is its amazing death rate, which has leapt as fertility has crashed, and is now more than twice western Europe's. Most of the leap is accounted for by working-age men. At less than 59, male life expectancy has collapsed in a way otherwise found only in sub-Saharan Africa. It is around five years lower than it was 40 years ago, and 13 years lower than that of Russian women—one of the biggest gaps in the world.'

The story of a Vodka drinking nation ...

'There is an obvious culprit: booze, especially the Russian taste for strong spirits, sometimes not fit for human consumption and often moonshine. Heart disease and violence, the two biggest factors in the mortality surge, are strongly alcohol-related. Alcohol poisoning itself killed 36,000 Russians last year; in America, it kills a few hundred.'

Searching for a cause for the Russian demographic horror story. And to add to the perils, AIDS is becoming an issue as well ...  

'But the obvious culprit is only part of a complicated, self-destructive syndrome. Other factors include smoking (among the highest rates in the world), pollution, including radioactivity, and a grim and corrupt health system. Alcoholism itself is a symptom. Some see the stress and inequality brought on by the Soviet Union's fall as the cause.'


Whatever its causes, and shocking though it already is, Russia's national sickness is now likely to worsen, because of AIDS. Since the disease arrived so late, the Russians ought to have been ready. Instead, out of prudishness, intolerance and Soviet-style pig-headedness, the response was criminally lackadaisical. This year the federal AIDS budget is around 3.3 billion roubles ($124m) with extra funding coming from abroad: it was a big increase, but it is piffling by international standards.'

And the far east is in fact shrinking and fast;

'In Irkutsk the big fear is the “yellow peril”. As people quit cities that should never have existed, the population of Siberia and the Russian far east has shrunk faster than the rest of the country's.'

The bottomline ...

'The immediate result of all this is a huge toll of tragic and needless early deaths. But its health and demographic malaise will also warp Russia's future. The army is struggling to find as many healthy recruits as Russian generals say they need. The population is ageing and sickening: behind the headline death rates is a secondary plague of incapacity. The workforce is shrinking. Yet, as a racist bombing at a Moscow market last month and a near-pogrom against Caucasians in a northern town this week both suggest, Russians are ill-disposed towards the new immigrants their economy increasingly needs.'

This is worrisome indeed and the problem is that Eastern Europeans are far more likely to migrate to the west than to the east if at all since fertility rates in Eastern Europe itself are plummeting seriously impeeding the so-called Lynxes to become more than puppies. On a more general note I would like to refer to an exchange in the comments section over at Demography.Matters (linked above) between regular commenter S.M. Stirling and Edward Hugh ... First off let us begin with Stirling pointing out the obvious;

(the full exchange can be found in this post)

'Countries with declining populations should face up to the fact that if their problems are to be solved, it'll have to be internally, by changing their reproductive habits.'

In the long run, sub-replacement fertility is not sustainable; simple arithmetic makes that plain. (...) Unless the human race is going to become extinct, which I think we can rule out!' (...) Genetic and cultural evolution will select for people with a high propensity to reproduce.'

Moving on to Edward ...

'I think this is extremely unrealistic Stirling [responding to the first quote by Stirling]. Ex US and Israel there is very little even prima facie evidence of this happening, and even in the US case, as you know, I don't accept your interpretation. But leaving that on one side, if the reproductive process isn't going to adapt, the economic one will have to'


I' think you and I would agree that at the moment most of the world is in denial that this is any kind of problem. At some point, somewhere, some kind of s**t is going to hit some kind of fan.'

We should not kill off the human race just yet I think which is the first lesson here but with Edward's idea of the sh't hitting the fan Russia could very well fit into that equation in the short to medium term.

Demographicsclaus vistesen