Staunton, October 16 – Citing anonymous government sources, the RBC news agency says that Russia’s population decline will be 11 times greater this year than last; but demographers like Aleksey Raksha suggest that the real figure is still greater and points to a general acceleration of this trend (https://echo.msk.ru/news/2726464-echo.html).
Many officials and demographers close to the government continue to talk about this being an echo of the war or of losses in the 1990s, and there is no question that they play a role. Others argue that it reflects the impact of the pandemic, although officials who have played up Russia’s relatively low death figures from that are generally unwilling to do so.
And many demographers do suggest that the situation will improve in the coming years, with declines becoming smaller and ultimately be replaced by increases later in this decade or at the beginning of next, although just when the changeover will occur and how large it will be are matters of dispute.
Perhaps the most important consequence of this trend is that for the first time, the Russian government has added a new section to its demographic planning document to address regional differences (iz.ru/1074293/dmitrii-grinkevich-ekaterina-vinogradova/ubyl-ne-skazka-naselenie-rf-mozhet-sokratitsia-bolshe-chem-ozhidali).
In the past, that has been lacking; and its absence has meant that pro-natalist policies have often worked in a counter-productive fashion, pushing up birthrates where they are already high as in Muslim republics while doing little for that measure where they are low in major cities or in the ethnic Russian heartland.
But that innovation may have limited impact because the new planning document, Izvestiya reports, does not give demographic figures for the second half of the 2020s or later, thus limiting the development and application of policies that might make a difference. The lack of these numbers may simply mean that the figures are worse than the regime wants to admit.
Window on Eurasia — New Series