August 9, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9486

Putin Made Demography A Priority, But Russia's Population Continues Its Decline

August 9, 2021
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9486

In the 1970s and 1980s in the USSR, the demographic issue arose. Due to the rapid birthrate in the Asiatic portions of the country, the Russians would eventually be a minority within the country. These fears even prompted a willingness amongst some Russians to let the non-Russian republics go. Now in a sort of déjà vu, the demographic crisis is reasserting itself within the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin has made reversing the demographic decline one of the country's national projects. So far, the reversal has not taken place as can be seen in a lengthy article in Argomenti I Fakti titled: 'Demographers Are Sounding the Alarm. The Russian Population Is Shrinking Rapidly.'  A highlight of the article is the clash between two contrasting viewpoints. Pessimists such as Yuri Krupnov fear that the current trends endanger the actual existence of Russia. Due to the government's lassitude, migrants will displace the Russians, who built the country for a millennium. In contrast, Evgeny Varshaver echoes Western thinking on migration. Many of the new migrants will come to view themselves as Russian, and in general, as opposed to Soviet times, the national question has become marginal.

The article in its entirety follows below:[1]

The banner reads 'National Project 'Demography' (Source:

"For months in a row Rosstat [Federal State Statistics Service] has been showing discomforting statistics: from January to May of this year the natural population decline increased by 60 percent. The country lost 360,100 people, a figure equivalent to Iceland’s population. The birth rate is growing, alas not in all regions. Who, eventually, will settle in the abandoned villages and small towns? What language will be spoken in Russia in 30 years?

"'In Former Times People Didn't Have Children For The Sake Of Money'

"Who will emerge victorious in this peculiar contest for survival?

"Mothers Are In Short Supply

Tambov Oblast is one of the anti-leaders of the population decline rating. 'The birth rate in the region dropped by 4.3% in 2020, while the mortality rate has increased by 18.7%. As a result, the actual natural decline constituted 10.4 per 1,000 people (in 2019 the indicator was - 7.3 per 1,000 people). Ultimately, in 2020 the region’s population shrunk to 994,510 people although in the previous period, the region’s population exceeded 1 million,' said Sergey Simonov, professor of the Department of Public Health and Healthcare at the Derzhavin Tambov State University. According to the specialist, such a decline in the birth rate can be explained by the lack of women of fertile (reproductive) age (15-49 years old). Such women should account for 50% of the region’s total female population of the region, but at the beginning of 2020 they constituted only 21.5% of them. 90% of families in Tambov Oblast have 1-2 children.

"Why don't Tambov women want to have children? 'The salary in our countryside in the best  of circumstance is 13,000 rubles. Although just having a job, is a stroke of luck. So, youth move to Moscow looking for jobs. In order to prevent this, we need to provide people with jobs, with stable earnings, give them confidence in future. From 1968 to 1994 I worked at PMK-7 in Sampur, we were building dams and roads all over the region. Almost the entire village (several hundred people) worked in the company. Everyone get free housing; the wages were decent. There was a club, a 200 seats movie theater, soccer and hockey teams. In a word, one could live, make plans, and have children. But in the 90s the company was privatized, all the equipment was sold, the concrete road was uprooted, even the club was dismantled and sold for bricks. That is why today the majority of youth has left the village, while the older people are dying out,' said Vera Malmalayeva, a resident of the Sampur village (Tambov Oblast).

"Came And Stayed?

"For the first time in 20 years the population of the Astrakhan Oblast also decreased and constitutes less than 1 million residents. On January 1, 2021, the region’s population was 997,800 people. According to 'Astrakhanstat' [Astrakhan Statistics Service], over the past four years, the region’s residents ever more frequently leave their homelands. Furthermore, the number of deaths exceeded the number of births by 3.1 thousand this year.

"The main reason for the outflow are the meager salaries in the region. People won’t stay for great fishing, for pike roe (black caviar has long been unavailable to ordinary Astrakhan residents), or for tomatoes and watermelons, for which the region has become famous. Youth leave Astrakhan Oblast en masse, which will lead to future demographic problems for the region. It is hard to criticize them, since the quality of life in the region (which is low as it is) is decreasing. According to RIA Novosti media, in 2020 the living standards in the Astrakhan Oblast have fallen from 54th to 58th among other regions of Russia [there are 85 regions in total]. 

"The demographic situation in the neighboring Volgograd Oblast is also critical. Last year was especially onerous for obvious reasons. According to Volgogradstat [Volgograd Statistics Service], there were just 8 births and 16 deaths per 1,000 Volgograd residents. In recent years the population outflow has been growing steadily. However, in 2020 this trend has changed: for 51,000 people that left the region, almost 55,000 arrived. For instance, in 2020, 9,000 people arrived in the region from the CIS countries, but only 3,400 returned to their countries of origin.

"'We live in the town of Krasnoslobodsk near Volgograd. The way the [ethnic] composition of the residents changes is very noticeable, especially during the large services in the local Orthodox churches. Fortunately, we live more or less peacefully, there is enough space for everyone,' said local resident Mikhail Bogdanov.

"'Deferred For Later'

"Despite a relatively good [economic] situation in Belgorod oblast, the birth rate in the region is decreasing, and consequently the population decline continues, although not at a high rate. According to Belgorodstat’s data [Belgorod Statistics Service], on January 1, 2021 the region’s population totaled 1,541,300 people, having decreased by 7,900 people during 2020.

"In Belgorod families 40.6% of newborns are first-borns, while 39.3% are second-born children. Only 13.9% of families have a third child, and 6.2% have fourth and more. Despite all the social payments and other assistance from the state there is no baby boom. According to the experts, natural circumstances and changing priorities account for the decrease in the birth rate.

"'In surveys, Belgorod residents stated that having a child means a 60% reduction of the family budget, and not everyone is ready for that. Young families would like to have their own apartment, separate from the parents. Thus in order to accumulate money for it, marriage and children are postponed until the age of 30. Thus, [statistically speaking], women between 30 and 39 years are able to give birth to the second and more children,' stressed Deputy Head of the Social Security and Labor Department of the Belgorod Oblast, Elena Savina. Meanwhile, there are 15 thousand families with many children, in the region, and their number is growing.

"The former Governor of Belgorod Oblast, Yevgeny Savchenko was categorically against having migrants working at local enterprises instead of Belgorod residents. However, many well-off 'northerners' came to the region to retire. Judging by statistics, pensioners from Urengoy, Siberia, the Urals, and the Far East relocate to the region. People are attracted to Belgorod Region due to favorable climate, high-quality housing and developed infrastructure.

"You Will Be The Third!

"In turn, Yakutia is one of the regions with a strong tradition of having many children: 48.5% higher than the Russian average and 11.1% higher than in  In 2020 out of 12,900 thousand newborns in the republic, 5 thousand became the third or fourth children in their families. For the first time in six years the birth rate in Yakutia has started to grow. In last three consecutive years Yakutia recorded positive natural population growth of 14.9 thousand people. Currently, 18.3 thousand families with three or more children reside in the region.

"'We have four sons. The oldest is 14 years old, the youngest is just 1, the middle children are 6 and 3 years old. I grew up in a big family of three children. But that didn’t seem enough to me, that it would be nice to have more brothers or sisters. My husband and I wanted a big and supportive family, so our children would always have backing. Now many of our peers have large families. Parenthood is no longer perceived as some kind of hard labor,' says blogger Tuyaara Alaas.

"Republic Of Heroines

"Dagestan is one of the regions where the high birth rate. The regions birth rate is 48.5% higher than the Russian average and 11.1% higher than in the North Caucasus Federal District. For example, 46,149 children were born in the republic in 2020, which is 635 more than that in 2019. 121 women bear the title of 'Mother-Heroine.'

"'The number of women with Mother-Heroine status in Dagestan grows every year. Each receives a one-time payment for each child. A woman who gave birth to the tenth and subsequent children can count on 300,000 rubles,' said Dagestan's Minister of Labor and Social Development Izumrud Mugutdinova.

"But that is not the reason why Caucasian women become Mother-Heroines. 'We gave birth and will continue to do so. During Soviet times, did we give birth for money? We have an accepted custom: when the father and mother are gone, brothers and sisters will have support. I have seven children, and it’s not hard for me to bring them up, even if my husband leaves me. My three brothers and two sisters will always help. I do not need money from the state, I can provide for my family without it. I have a farm and keep livestock. My children receive enough care: we do everything together. My children don’t have time to sit by the computer or watch television. If the Almighty grants me more children, I won’t hesitate [to give birth]!,' claimed Aminat Salimgereyeva.

"Will Russians Become A Minority?

"In early 1990s Russia, the number of deaths per annum began exceeding the number of births. The fertility and mortality curves converged and crossed. Demographers began calling this situation the 'Russian cross.' Now the country faces the danger of a second 'cross,' this time literally a Russian one.

"How Many Of Us Will Be Left?

"Let’s compare the results of the last two All-Russian censuses of 2002 and 2010. For 8 years the number of [ethnic] Russians in the country decreased by 5 million. According to the 2002 census, there were 115.9 million of [ethnic Russians], comprising 79.8% of the total population. According to the 2010 census there were already 111 million [ethnic Russians] or 77.7% of the country’s population. It is logical to assume that the share of titular nation will decline further in the next census. In addition to the high birth rate in the national republics, in the past 10 years hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, mostly of Central Asian ethnicity came to Russia. Many of them have settled down and started families.

"Should one expect that Russians will become a minority in Russia by the end of this century, or even earlier?

"'The Russian population experiences the most rapid decrease because it, as usual, is in the forefront of demographic trends in a dying country. The decrease in the Russian population began earlier than for other peoples, which still have remnants of traditional thinking. The consumer society and life in cities destroy the basis of the traditional family, cause a decline in the birth rate and, at the same time, don’t decrease the mortality rate.

"The regions that traditionally have high ethnic Russians population (i.e. a non-Black Earth Lands, which include 30 regions of Russia situated to the north of city of Oryol, as well as the Far East and Siberia) have a poor demographic situation as well. The unforgiving math shows states that by the end of the century (if no drastic efforts will be made and given our 1.5  child family) half of the current population will remain in Russia, and ethnic Russians will constitute at most 50% of country’s residents, or less. In fact, it is most likely that  by the middle of the 21 century, Russia itself will cease to exist,' claimed Yuri Krupnov, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Institute for Demography, Migration and Regional Development."

Yuri Krupnov (Source:

"However, not all scientists give such grim, forecasts. 'I wouldn’t claim that the number of ethnic Russians is dropping faster than that of other peoples. For instance, demographers note that the number and share of Finno-Ugric peoples in the Russia’s population is also decreasing. However, the demographic processes of the Russian population are more complicated. The natural decrease is offset by integration processes, shifting indentity, and by the fact that, for instance, children of migrants are recorded as Russians.

"Regarding this issue, it’s important to keep in mind that nationalities, as we know them, were largely formed at the beginning of Soviet rule, back in the days of the early USSR. Back then the resources, budgetary funding, etc. were distributed on the basis of national factor. Then the majority of the USSR’s residents had strong national identity. However, people are less concerned about this now. I believe that in the future the factor of national identification will be relegated to the sidelines and by the middle of the 21st century, these issues will become irrelevant. Unless the question about nationality will remain in census questionnaires, and people will have to answer it,' explains Evgeny Varshaver, Senior Researcher at the RANEPA university, Head of the Migration and Ethnicity Research Group, candidate of sociological sciences."

Evgeny Varshaver (Source:

"By the way, Rosstat only acquires data on the ethnic composition of the country’s population only via censuses. The state provides no other sources for such data. In this regard, everything depends on the respondent’s answer. The latter can identify with any peoples, Russian, Chukchi, Elf or Jedi (there were in fact such answers in the 2010 census). Obviously, this makes research difficult.

"Threat Or Advantage?

"However, the research is still being conducted.

"Several years ago, the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences finished a large project on the ethno-cultural diversity of Russia. The scientists reached the conclusion that, despite the ongoing processes of migration and assimilation, the composition and ratio of the constituent nations of our country is largely preserved over an extended historical period. For instance, the share of [ethnic] Russians is always close to 80%. 'This figure won’t change in the coming few decades, unless there will be some unpredictable drastic events,' assured the Head of Research at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academician Valery Tishkov.

"The situation is bad in the Volga region, where the indigenous peoples, such as the Mordva and Mari are being assimilated by Russians and begin to identify with the titular nation. The situation in the North Caucasus region is the reverse. In 2010 the proportion of the region’s residents (and people of North Caucasus ethnicity) accounted for 10.4% of the Russia’s population. But in 2020 it increased to 13%, and by 2030, according to the estimates, the indicator will grow to 14.5%.

"But the ethnologists see no danger in this situation. The major deficiency is the growing mono-ethnicity of the titular population in the individual republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Tuva, Buryatia, Khakassia, and Altai. Russians continue to leave these regions. Scientists believe that in future such separateness can lead to the isolationism of certain peoples, outbreaks of separatism, as well as economic and cultural stagnation.

"Demographers see a further risk, in the formation of ethnic migrant suburbs generally of other nationalities in central regions, populated predominantly by Russians. This situation is laden with conflicts between groups adherent to different lifestyles. Such conflicts are already happening, their number will only increase in the future.

"Migration processes have always been happening all over the world and will continue. For example, in the US the share of Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics is increasing. What awaits Russia? And most importantly, will the immigrants be assimilated, or will they impose their culture and traditions on Russians?

"'So far, the immigrants assimilate the Russians because they are better motivated and have no complexes about the indigenous population. They are ten-fold better organized in diasporas and other networks, before which the state openly folds. The Russian state, which for more than 1000 years was formed by Russians, has practically stopped protecting them. These trends can be reversed in only one way, by restoring the status of a world power, and trendsetting leadership to Russia. The thing is that Russians can normally live and prosper only within a process of world building. Without this, they fall into depression, start drinking, and emigrate from the country.

"And first and foremost, in Russia a traditional Russian family with 3-4 children should become the norm, not the modern 'one-and-a-half-child' family. The number of such families should grow at least 7-fold. The family should be modern, but with continuity of traditional values it should be neotraditional' claimed Yury Krupnov.

"Otherwise, according to Krupnov, the immigrants’ sentiments towards Russians will become patronizingly condescending. It will be harder for ethnic Russians to find jobs in the government and security agencies, and in the future there might be persecutions of ethnic Russians (first on the basis of the Russian language and the Cyrillic alphabet) and attempts to rewrite history. For instance, the period of Russia under the Turco-Mongol yoke will be presented as a bright period of Russian history.

"However, the Russian Concept of Demographic Policy focuses on the 'replacement migration.' It is planned that by 2025 it (along with other methods) will help bring the country’s population to 145 million. The population increase due to immigration should account for no less than 300,000 people annually.

"Evgeny Varshaver, through a study titled 'Integration of Second Generation Migrants Aged 18-35 in Russia,' concluded that the children of immigrants are quite friendly towards the Russian population. This is especially true for children of Central Asian ethnicity.

"The scientist also notes that many contemporary economically successful societies were largely built by immigrants.

"'It’s an accepted opinion in the world to perceive migrants not as a threat, but as an opportunity. Why do we see them as a threat? In a sense, migrants are the new oil for us. It is important to assess new directions in immigration process by approaching them scientifically. Such research will make it possible to deal prudently with the need to attract migrants to Russia. This is the key to demographic security and the country's economic development' argued the expert.

"What Was The Pandemic’s Contribution?

"In 2020, the mortality rate in Russia skyrocketed, even though it had declined annually since 2008. Chechnya (with a 44% rise in the mortality rate Dagestan (with a 40% rise in the mortality rate), the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District and Ingushetia (with a mortality rate rise by28%) are the leaders of the grim rating. The situation is also alarming in Samara, Lipetsk, Penza oblasts and many other regions. According to various estimates, COVID-related deaths in the regions contribute to 10% of mortality increase. But the situation with the birth rate is different.

"'In Russia 2020 there was practically no decrease in the birth rate. And this is quite a unique situation, because in previous years it fell by 10% or more per annum. Last year the birth rate decrease by only 1%.

"However, a sharp spike in the mortality rate due to the pandemic (which was caused not only by COVID-19, but also by exacerbated other diseases and by difficulties in receiving  prompt medical care. – Editor.) and decreased immigration (due to closed borders) led to a decrease of Russia’s population by 700,000 people,' said Tatyana Butskaya, Chairwoman of the Mothers’ Council of Russia and expert of the All-Russia People’s Front.

"Sergey Simonov, a professor at the Department of Public Health and Healthcare at Derzhavin Tambov State University, takes a less optimistic views on the issue. 'It has already been proven that COVID-19 can cause damage to the human body at the cellular, molecular and sub-molecular levels. Consequently, this leads to the emergence of various, formally COVID-19 unrelated viral diseases and abnormalities. At the macro-level this situation will, over time, increase the pathologies burden of the population and contribute to the vicious cycle of reproduction of pathologies,' argued the expert.

"Regarding the issue of reducing the mortality rate, the priority measures, according to Butskaya, are: vaccination of adults and safety of children, including the safety of clothing and toys. Every year dozens of children die falling out of windows; thousands die in traffic accidents and due to violence.

"We Started To Love Less

"The demographic crisis has numerous causes, but they must be solved promptly.

"Yana Skryabina, Senior Researcher at the Center for the Study of Human Potential of Institute for Strategic Studies of Bashkiria stated,

"'First, the [average] birth age of a woman for her first child is increasing. It’s about 25-27 years old in the country. In the next 3-5 years, we will reach the average [birth] age of 30 years. Is this a problem? Yes, it significantly shortens the reproductive period, depriving a woman of the opportunity to have more than 1 child.

"Second, we started to love less, i.e. to have fewer children. This the reality we live in. The value of having a family and a family with children is decreasing. Children and family are being pushed into the background. Material needs prevail over the need for procreation. The modern woman doesn’t want to be on maternity leave, not only because of the decrease in income, but also because she wants to be engaged in social, political, and cultural activities. After the retirement age was extended in Russia the opportunity for grandparents to assist the young family with children care has disappeared.

"Thus, an active woman requires a developed sphere of child care services. It is important to create such services like kindergartens, and nursery schools. Society does not understand the excuses, 'there are no schools, no places [in kindergartens], because there is no money.' The authorities need to deal with these problems. The health care system must become children and parent-oriented, so that parents wouldn’t have to wait two weeks for an appointment with the pediatrician.

"Third, it is important to create a [positive] image of the family. Today, no one deals with preparing for the family creation, birth and upbringing of children. There were no such institutions before, either. However, movies, books, and ideology conveyed the idea of the family's importance. When I was a kid, all of my peers had brothers and sisters, and those who didn't - dreamed of having one. Nowadays, what do kids want? - a new iPhone, nice clothing.

"So far, the situation in Russia is still better than that in Europe. The experience of these countries shows that material measures alone cannot contribute to the birth rate increase. Demographic policy must be comprehensive. In this case, perhaps, we will climb out of this 'hole.'"


[1], July 23, 2021.

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