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Russia is dying out Putin is terrified by his nation's demographic crisis

Putin's demographic time bomb. Credit: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty


March 28, 2022   6 mins

“One hundred and forty-six million [people] for such a vast territory is insufficient,” said Vladimir Putin at the end of last year. Russians haven’t been having enough children to replace themselves since the early Sixties. Birth rates are also stagnant in the West, but in Russia the problem is compounded by excess deaths: Russians die almost a decade earlier than Brits. Their President is clearly worried that he’s running out of subjects.

It’s a humiliating state of affairs because Russian power has always been built on the foundation of demography. Back in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw that Russia would become a world power, because “Russia is of all the nations of the Old World the one whose population is increasing most rapidly”. The only other country with its population potential was the United States. De Tocqueville prophesised that, “Each one of them seems called by a secret design of Providence to hold in its hands one day the destinies of half the world.” A century later, they were the world’s two uncontested superpowers.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Russia’s population was 136 million, and was still booming, just as those of other European powers started to slow. Germany’s population was 56 million, excluding its colonies, and the threat of ever-larger cohorts of Russian recruits into the Tsar’s ranks haunted Germany’s leadership; historian and public intellectual Friedrich Meinecke fretted over the “almost inexhaustible fertility” of the Slavs while Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg complained that “Russia grows and grows and lies on us like an ever-heavier nightmare”. This pressure was probably the decisive factor in Germany’s 1914 leap in the dark. German Secretary of State Gottlieb von Jagow wrote to the German ambassador in London as the storm was gathering that “in a few years, Russia will be ready … Then she will crush us on land by weight of numbers.”

In the First World War, it turned out, numbers were not enough to compensate for Russian industrial and organisational inferiority. But by the Second World War, Russia’s numeric superiority had exploded. Despite the horrors of Civil War and Bolshevism, the nation’s population grew at about three times the speed of Germany’s in the opening decades of the century. The army had an endless supply of soldiers, the military infrastructure an endless supply of workers, giving the country a decisive edge in the Forties. Vast spaces and appalling weather helped, but ultimately it was the endlessness of Russian manpower which ground down the Wehrmacht in what was perhaps the most epic military struggle of all time. Field Marshall Erich von Manstein complained as he faced Russia’s armies: “We confronted a hydra: for every head cut off, two new ones appeared to grow.”

But if demographic prowess buttressed Russian power then, population decline has undermined it in the years since. Most nations have developed out of the high birth and death rates seen throughout most of human history: as mortality and then fertility falls, first the population expands, then it flattens; eventually, it may contract. But in Russia this process has taken place with a vengeance.

At the time of its dissolution, the Soviet Union was the home of 290 million people, 50 million more than the USA. Today, the Russian Federation has less than half that number — and less than half of the USA’s current total. In large part, this is the result of the loss of non-Russian republics, including Ukraine (which at the outbreak of the current conflict had a population of 43 million). But in the late Soviet and early post-Soviet period, the country also collapsed into an orgy of suicide and alcoholism, particularly affecting the country’s men.

One journalist in Russia at the time wrote about how “the deaths kept piling up. People … were falling or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartment with jammed front door locks … drowning as a result of driving drunk into a lake … poisoning themselves with too much alcohol … dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes”. By the early years of this century, life expectancy for Russian men was on par with countries such as Madagascar and Sudan.

Meanwhile, Russian women were having fewer and fewer children. In the later decades of the Soviet Union, the average woman in the Slavic heartland had an estimated six or seven abortions in the course of her life. The populations in the Caucasus and Central Asia were booming, though, undermining Russians as the USSR’s majority ethnicity.

This proved especially corrosive in the military. Year after year, the share of recruits from the peripheral republics went up, while the share from Russia went down; in the late Eighties, three-quarters of recruits from Central Asia could not speak Russian. (The problems of having a polyglot military had been rehearsed earlier in the century by the Austro-Hungarian Empire — which had, of course, fallen apart.)

It’s also worth recognising that the Russian men who fell fighting the Germans in the Forties were from families of six or seven siblings; those who fell fighting the Afghans in the Eighties were from families of two or three. Those falling now, fighting in Ukraine, are likely to be only-children or one of two siblings. The preparedness of a society to sustain military losses falls as family size falls; the only conflicts in today’s world that go on and on for years — from Libya to Syria to Yemen to Congo — are in places where the men who die have many brothers.

Once the Soviet Union was abolished, Russia maintained its population size only by inward migration. Ethnic Russians returned from the now-independent periphery to the Soviet heartland. Increasingly, people of other ethnicities followed them to the North-West, where prospects were better. At least a million and a half Muscovites are ethnically non-Russian, some from places such as Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, others from Muslim regions of Russia like Tatarstan. In 2013, the mayor of Moscow swore that there would be no more mosques built in the city, hoping to discourage more Islamic migration.

Putin has never publicly expressed concern about the ethnic mix of contemporary Russia, but this demographic nightmare haunts him, and informs his worldview. In 2006, he launched policies to encourage larger families. And last year he lamented: “We have a little more than 81 million people of able-bodied age. We are obliged to increase the number by 2024 and 2030. This is one of the factors for economic growth. Not to mention the geopolitical component of this major issue.” At around 1.5 children per woman, Russia is still dwindling. In the next decade, Russia’s population is forecast to decline by around 300,000 a year, though some suggest the decline will be much faster — perhaps 12 million in the next 15 years.

This steady depopulation is more than a nuisance; it is a strategic headache. Russia’s immense size was supported by the preparedness of its people to settle in some of the most inhospitable habitats in the world. As it reduces, it retreats back towards the big cities of the west and centre, and will leave vast regions uninhabited. “In Siberia it becomes harder and harder to find people to maintain big infrastructure. Things are starting to collapse. And that is making the place less and less liveable which reinforces the problem,” one expert told me. Thousands of villages have been abandoned, particularly in remote areas.

What is Putin to do? “Ensuring sustainable natural population growth” was at the top of the executive order of National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation signed by the President in 2018. Payments were given to those with two or more children, who are eligible for increasingly generous welfare benefits. Now, payments are given to those with one child. But the best evidence so far suggests that, after a modest bounce-back, fertility is in decline again. At this stage it is not clear that these policies have had any material impact at all.

Of course, one way of growing the population is to annex neighbouring countries and try to persuade its people and the world that they are really Russians. After all, definitions of ethnicity and national identity can be easily manipulated. Turkey, for instance, has tried to redefine Kurds as “mountain Turks”. There were even suggestions in the 18th century that Scots be considered “North Britons”.

But if an incorporation of Ukrainian identity into a wider Russian one was Putin’s plan, it has backfired. The invasion has undoubtedly solidified a sense among Ukrainians that their identity is distinct and that they are in no way Russian. Vitaly Chernetsky, an expert in Slavic languages, commented that, “this crisis galvanized, consolidated, accelerated the development of this new civic identity, where folks who never in their lives spoke Ukrainian all of a sudden made a conscious choice to make an effort to start speaking Ukrainian in public”.

Meanwhile, the war could undermine Putin’s plans to boost the birth rate in Russia’s heartlands. With sanctions starting to bite, the funds for generous payments to parents will simply not be available. On the contrary, the economic hardship which the Russian population must now endure is likely to further depress childbearing.

And to compound the problem, many Russians will look to emigrate. It was said in Soviet days that dissidents were trying to change the unleavable, refuseniks to leave the unchangeable. Putin’s Russia seems unchangeable but, for now, it remains leavable. It is estimated that 200,000 people left the country in the first ten days of the conflict alone; millions more are likely to follow, whatever the outcome — partly to reject the regime, partly to escape the impending, sanctions-driven economic crisis which the country faces.

Meanwhile Russia is losing thousands of young men in the war in Ukraine. Many in their early twenties, they are unlikely to have had any children, which doesn’t bode well for Russia. Already ageing and shrinking, the nation simply cannot sustain the kind of campaign it has fought in the past. Its days of vastly superior manpower are over. A long, grinding war followed by a bloody occupation would cripple it.


Dr. Paul Morland is a business consultant and senior member at St Antony’s College, Oxford. His latest book is Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers.


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Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago

Thanks for that interesting perspective – one I hadn’t seen in the MSM.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

For more like this you should read Peter Zeihan’s books or watch his prolific YouTube channel. He looks at world events through demographics (births, deaths, immigration) and geography (access to sea routes, natural resources, proximity to aggressive neighbours etc).
His forecast for the next 50 years: Russia, China, Germany, EU, most of Africa and Middle East – decline (often rapid and bloody); France, CANZUK, India – stable; USA, Mexico, a few countries in S America and Africa – growth.
His conclusions are sometimes a bit too neat for my taste but it is food for thought and he did forecast the Ukraine invasion quite accurately.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I don’t understand how Africa and ME will decline.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago

Unless education improves exponentially in Africa an indigenous economy cannot be sustained and there will be mass immigration.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

Emigration? Africa’s land mass is huge. Much bigger than it looks on many world maps. The issue for Africa is massive destruction of wild habitat. The UK has no truly wild habitat left.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Yes, emigration! But my point might explain the supposed decline in population. Not sure about the ME though. If they could sort out the warring I don’t see why they should decline.

Kevin Godwin
Kevin Godwin
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Indeed, the last refuges of wilderness in the UK is now largely restricted to mountains. And even some of these are busy with skiers and hillwalkers.

Richard Burgess
Richard Burgess
2 years ago

Emigration?

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago

Yes!

Giles Toman
Giles Toman
2 years ago

Massive increase in people, no work, not enough food, not enough smart people to make things work? Western Europe gets tough in stopping them all coming in.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

Sorry Brendan – I wasn’t clear that the decline Zeihan was talking about in those regions – Middle East and Africa – was in prosperity, not population.
His idea is that, partly because of population growth differences between countries, we will see Globalisation go into reverse over the next few years. The US with a large millennial population will have less need for exports and will instead prize supply-chain resilience and blue-collar employment from increasing domestic production and consumption. Energy independence adds to that story with the US having no need or appetite to involve itself in the politics of the Middle East.
Consequently net exporters like China and Germany will struggle to maintain their export economies and not have enough domestic consumers to absorb their own manufactures. This will lead to shrinking economies and increase population decline through migration.
The Middle East will suffer because the US will have no interest in holding the ring and Zeihan forecasts a major Iranian/Saudi war.
Africa will suffer on all fronts – shut out of world markets as everyone moves to protect their home markets, no US security aid to keep down uprisings and jihadis, rapidly increasing population with few options to improve their lot. A recipe for disaster!

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I don’t believe that Joe Biden and other Democrats want energy independence for the US if it means fossil fuels. That’s a large part of the reason they shut down the pipeline from Canada. But the alternative sources of energy just can’t fill our present energy demand. And that’s why I believe that just about everyone may be in economic decline over the next few decades. Our modern lifestyle is made possible by abundant energy, which are squeezed by both environmental concerns and the likelihood of Peak Oil, Peak Natural Gas, and Peak Coal. I don’t envy the younger generations.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Krehbiel

Peak hydrocarbons will not happen in the next few decades. Centuries, maybe.

(The reason I prefer “hydrocarbons” is that they provide a lot more than just fuel)

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thanks Matt. I had inferred population, from the context of your post.

However, you’ve set me another puzzle. I’m not aware of a US millennials demographic boom.

Kerry Davie
KD
Kerry Davie
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

For the USA the current disaster is the present Biden Administration’s policy on reversing their nation’s energy independnce; folly in the extreme.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago

UN predictions are still supporting huge population growth in many African countries.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

The US has a TFR of 1.7. Admittedly that’s a fairly recent reduction compared to Russia but it’s a significant decline. It might be countered by immigration but the EU is probably taking in as many immigrants as the US right now, and anyway expect Chinese emigration to fall off during the coming Cold War.

Is immigration a solution? Continuous immigration to fill exponential drops in population isn’t a long term solution.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

With AI just around the corner why worry about numbers?
It’s quality not quantity that counts.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

AI isn’t the panacea you think it is. In fact it means fewer people working and less consumer demand, added to the older and declining population, it’s a hindrance.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Oh dear, I thought it would provide a new slave class. How very disappointing.

Deborah B
Deborah B
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Remember Terminator. AI won’t require humans and will have no need for them. Except perhaps as pets.

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Continuous non-mass immigration is fine by me. We should always welcome sensible numbers of people with the skills needed for British communities to prosper.
On the other hand, an excellent example of moral lunacy is tolerating or encouraging continuous mass immigration into an archipelago nation of 69m people in 100,000 square miles, which is already experiencing horrendously high house prices, overwhelmed public services, and squeezed C2DE wages.

Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Well, it’s mass immigration or population decline. Pick one.

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
2 years ago

Uk is an overpopulated country in an overpopulated world. The demographic problems associated with a decreasing population are easier to cope with than the environmental problems associated with overpopulation.

Victoria Cooper
VC
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago

This country is like the NHS. We are chucking people in like we chuck money at the NHS. We need to manage better what we already have. Close the borders and pump more money into education.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

It’s too late. Fifty years of Comprehensive Education have done their worst. Tony Crosland must be rolling in his grave with laughter.

Alan Osband
AO
Alan Osband
2 years ago

You’re sure mass immigration isn’t one of the factors causing indigenous people to have fewer children ? Housing costs could be one factor , maybe with ‘white flight’ to the more expensive areas .

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

It would be surprising if it were not one of the factors. Dominic Raab, when housing minister a few jobs ago, announced that immigration had added 21% to the cost of housing.
Yet Raab is now Deputy Prime Minister in a government whose open borders immigration policy (er..”points based policy”) is the most liberal this country has had since the first controls on Commonwealth immigration came in in 1962.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Don’t you think there might be a happy medium between population decline and adding 400,000 people to the population annually for two decades?

Victoria Cooper
VC
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

They are expecting another 3 or 4 million by the forties.

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Indeed. I too have read the ONS projections.

Sazzle London
Sazzle London
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Mass migration made me think – equally can’t help but think we desperately need people who can support our public services and Brexit has cut our supply chain.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sazzle London
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Sazzle London

You’re proposing eternal and inexorable population increase, and Brexit hasn’t cut our supply chain.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

I think the idea is that the US has a large millennial cohort unlike say, Germany. This means that there is at least one generation more of mass consumption and production left in the US. I think it is Gen Z where the US decline is really starting to show up.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Yeah in the U.K. we really need to exploit the growth more by being closer to Canada and Oz for immigration purposes as it’s getting crowded here. And we still have the Hong Kongers to come, who I welcome.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Feels a bit facilely pro American to me

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

It is certainly a pro-American analysis in that it forecasts relatively good times ahead for the US.

If you want to judge whether or not it is facile, I suggest you read his stuff as I am probably over-simplifying massively.

As I say, I thought it was interesting if maybe a bit too neat.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

Unherd is certainly earning my sub today! (Second excellent and informative article about Russia.)

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Yes indeed. V good article.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

This is the main reason why I’ve been arguing on Unherd, before the invasion when many were praising the cleverness of Putin, that Russia is in a long term decline. The war has merely accelerated the decline, and helpfully highlighted the shambolic nature of their military.
Right now, seeing the weakness of Russia, I’d be tempted in Moldova to take over Transnistria; and maybe for Georgia to take back their lost provinces. Neither of them are NATO, so no risk of escalation with us, and we could supply them with the necessary military kit too.

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Yes, the circumstances are ripe for those to challenge the center. But as Putin becomes more desperate the chances of his escalating to tactical nukes increases. What would we do then? It might earn him more hate around the world, but does he care? Maybe he would be worried about how the Chinese would look at this, but not much else.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago

A very important article.
Russia will also continue to suffer a increasing brain drain as a result of Putin’s Ukraine blunder. Bright young people will not want to remain in a Russia where free thought and expression is criminalised and they are liable to conscription and coercion into potential war crimes.
Remember also that well over 1 million Russian Jews left for Israel after 1991. Israeli high tech and military have advanced sicne that time. Not at all clear that Russian capabilities have.
In summary, Russia will not only suffer a loss of “quantity” in the population, but also “quality” due to emigration of skilled people. Unless they close their borders as during the Cold War.
For these reasons (and many others), Russia is no longer a world power. Like Britain and France, it needs to accept its reduced place in the world. Perhaps Ukaine is Russia’s Suez, where its illusions of greatness – or destiny – are finally dispelled.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

In 1867 The US bought Alaska from Russia. Perhaps the US might buy a vast tract of Siberia from Russia and relieve Putin over worries that there are not enough Russians for his vast territory. It might enable the US to revive its can do pioneer spirit by resettling Siberia and exploiting its abundant resources. Or perhaps riot in Seattle and you are banished to Siberia to try to build a life rather than destroy property.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

What a splendid idea!

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Ha ha, reminds me of my Russian teacher banishing me to Siberia (the school courtyard) for having untidy hair.

Kerry Davie
KD
Kerry Davie
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Putin would insist on payment in rubles (or is that ‘roubles’?).
The Chinese would no doubt object and they are the more likely buyers; lots of people (for now, they have the same demographic issue) and they might be anticipating just rolling and taking a large chunk anyway. Who is really going to stop them? Russia?

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Bright young people will not want to remain in a Russia where free thought and expression is criminalised and they are liable to conscription and coercion into potential war crimes.

Are you sure that’s Russia you’re describing? I haven’t heard of Russia drafting young people for the war yet, unlike Ukraine. Plus, the woke nonsense hasn’t spread there as it has here. Seeing how Russia actually sits on resources that the EU needs, and not the other way around, I’m 80% certain that they will handle the collapse of the global supply chain better than we do.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Yes, quite sure thanks.
You are seriously denying that Russian conscripts are currently dying in Ukraine ?
I’m also quite certain that we can survive without begging for resources from Russia. But they cannot survive without selling them.
The EU can look after themselves. I don’t care about them.

Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

You are wrong. Europe can’t survive without Russian resources. And we don’t beg for them, they are paid for.

David Nebeský
DN
David Nebeský
2 years ago

As far as I remember, Europe “survived” without Soviet resourced quite well, thank you very much. It can survive without much less Russian resources now.

Paul Smithson
PO
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

Times have changed David. Insane ESG policies have made our access to affordable energy resources far less than they were even just a decade ago. Also, there is a much bigger world population all after the same resources. Serious food shortages are pretty much guaranteed and then demand and supply will kick in and make it’s mark on prices.

Paul Smithson
PO
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes, people with money will probably survive the horrific increases in cost of living.. But for those less affluent folk it may well mean bankruptcy, going hungry, food banks, etc. It might be okay for you Peter, but spare a thought for those who can’t afford £2 a litre fuel and a weekly shopping spend that is twice what it is now. Also throw in real food shortages and you have a scenario where some people (maybe not you) are genuinely struggling to survive.

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Most of those Russians killed in Ukraine are young conscripts. I thought that was fairly common knowledge?

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Free thought and expression is criminalized in so-called Democracies here in this hemisphere. “Bright young” people on college campuses are largely responsible for it.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago

Students do not make the criminal law. The nonsense going on in universities is not criminalising people, though it is criminally stupid. The the reality check of Ukraine really ought to bring some of these time-wasters to their senses. But, sadly, I doubt it will.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

They do after they graduate and go into law and government. Who is populating the halls of power right now, leading us into domestic and foreign disasters? Class of Klaus Schwab.

Warren T
WT
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

If we look at Russia from a Western perspective, then I believe you are correct. But there seems to be quite a large segment of the population that agrees with Russian history and culture?

Elizabeth dSJ
Elizabeth dSJ
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

“free thought and expression is criminalised”
You mean like everywhere in the West, except the United States, the only nation with no substantive content-based criminalization of speech?
If your country has ‘hate apeech’ laws, you are no better than Russia. If your country enforces restrictions on free expression by harming people’s ability to gain employment, bank, or use social media, then you are no better than Russia.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
2 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth dSJ

I think there’s a difference between what happens in Russia re hate speech laws and free expression, and my country. 15 years in jail?

Last edited 2 years ago by Terry Davies
Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

Comes over as a large chink of wishful thinking. Isn’t it lucky that the rest of us are doing so well?
If there was a war in the UK, the remaining men would declare that they thought of themselves as women.
If the EU went to war, Brussels would control things very well and Ursula would make a speech every day to spur on their soldiers.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

This article is about demographic change in Russia and nothing to do with the UK. How is your comment relevant at all ?
Let’s hear a comment actually related to the article.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

The article was all positives (from the point of view of the west). I didn’t see a negative. Therefore, a load of wishful thinking – as I said.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So you dispute the facts of Russia’s demographic decline then ? Or is that merely “wishful thinking” ? Or do you have some alternative facts to offer ?

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

The west also has demographic decline and low fertility. As i posted above.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago

Most of the West, yes. But not the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These are all still growing. The rate of population growth in the US has declined – but the population is still growing strongly and is forecast to rise from 335M today to 415M in 2080. At which point it may be 4x larger than Russia’s. Now remember that the US population was lower than the Soviet Union’s in 1989. Then factor in high per capita GDP and productivity in the US. Pretty much game over for Russia.

Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

The way to gauge future population trends is the TFR. That’s the total fertility per woman (per couple really). For a steady population you need a tfr of 2.1 in industrialised countries. 210 children per 200 couples. The US has a tfr of 1.7 and falling, and Russia has a tfr of between 1.5 and 1.86. That’s an increase over the last decade. For the US to add 80M people by 2080 it means that it needs about 100M immigrants. As i said above i think that Chinese emigration will die off, and in terms of educated immigrants that leaves India. As india gets richer that too will probably die off. In fact even net Mexican immigration is tiny right now, most of the immigration on the border is from very poor places like Haiti and Guatemala.

New Zealand, Oz and Canada are growing but also don’t have a steady tfr. That said their immigration policies are points based. U.K. immigration post Brexit – with the exception of Ukrainians- will mostly be outside Europe.

Gunner Myrtle
PJ
Gunner Myrtle
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Canada is growing through immigration. I think the US is the only western democracy that has a replacement birthrate higher than 2.0

Peter B
PB
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Gunner Myrtle

It doesn’t matter that much whether it’s through birthrate or immigration.

Dominic Campbell
DC
Dominic Campbell
2 years ago

The difference is that people from the developing world are risking their lives to get into western countries, thus supplementing the latter’s demographics. Who in their right mind would migrate to Russia, or to China for that matter?

Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Why is that important? Is the idea that all immigration is beneficial. There’s no benefit economically from poorer immigrants, even working poor immigrants. The cost of a person in a welfare state, over a lifetime, including pension and healthcare costs often exceeds what even the middle income earner pays in in taxes.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

I thought the comment was humorous, especially the part about the UK men declaring themselves women and Madam Ursula making speeches.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

But still totally irrelevant to this article.

Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You don’t need to be macho to operate a drone or a stand off missile. The macho Russians are now taking to destroying cities from a distance. Very manly.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago

The Russians used to need no encouragement to produce children galore. There was that remarkable lady cited in the Guinness Book of Records who was introduced to the Czar after reportedly delivering 69 children. It was just about medically possible – lots of multiple births were allegedly involved. And it was long before Russia had the highest abortion rate on earth.

More credibly and more recently, David Dimbleby met Maria who is the proud mother of ten. She and Putin are mutual fans. And she is the recipient of a motherhood award, which I guess is the descendant of the old Mother Heroine of the Soviet Union gong. All comrades were equal of course, but some female comrades were much more equal when it came to replacing the WW2 casualties.

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/jun/13/putins-russia-with-david-dimbleby-review-things-are-different-there

Which reminds me of certain groups with a more aggressive approach to fertility. If you are allowed up to four wives, the most appalling slaughter can be replaced in one generation.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Murphy
Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

“If you are allowed up to four wives, the most appalling slaughter can be replaced in one generation”
Do you understand that each woman can have only one child per year? It’s not the number of wives, it’s the number of women of child-bearing age who are bearing children that limit population growth.
Maybe Putin will outlaw abortion for those with fewer than 3 kids?

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

Your last sentence would be a very sensible, and humane, policy – and not only in Russia.

William Murphy
WM
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

George Orwell, who was concerned about the British birth rate, pointed out that human beings are not cattle where one pedigree bull can inseminate loads of females. If there has been terrible loss of life, as in WW1, many women in a Christian society will remain unmarried and childless. Unless your religion has a more flexible attitude….

It is strange to look at the anxieties of some people in the 1930s, when the population projectors suggested that the British population might be down to 11 million by now. During WW2, Orwell commented favourably that the refugee Poles had already done their bit to solve our population problem.

Kerry Davie
Kerry Davie
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

Or compulsory insemination; there might be a few prepared to stand for the challenge!

Jesse Porter
Jesse Porter
2 years ago

This anti-human trend has not only led to the suicide of Russia, it has equally self-poisoned Great Britain, members of the EU, and the United States, causing a reliance on immigration for national survival. And it has forced all of the West to encourage immigration from the more fecund Catholic and Muslim populations. They have done so with little thought to the much slower integration of massive numbers of non-Western cultures that are inevitably changing Western cultures, whose historic strength has stemmed from their own cultures.
The fear of being thought xenophobic by others has influence the West to abandon their former role of being melting pots, and to, instead, willingly abandonment of Christianity and liberal philosophies, and to tolerate those who embrace narrower and more subservient cultures. Even their languages are in decline, languages the have been heavily influenced by enlightenment and Christion authors and education. English and American lawmaking has come under assault from Sharia and Vatican law which are heavy handed dominance of the few over the many, the few not only having the ultimate authority, but ownership and control over wealth, almost to the exclusion of the many. The divine rights of the few have been practically restored to ancient levels. The vast middle classes are dying rapidly, and are nearly extinct.

Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Jesse Porter

If only women would do their job and have more children? Really?

Frederick B
FD
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Jesse Porter

Well said.

Kat Kazak
KK
Kat Kazak
2 years ago

This article pretty much describes everything that’s happening in Russia, for those of you who don’t know, this has been happening the last 10 odd years:
a huge shift to natural births (all done by the state medical authorities and a lot of times against the expressed wished of the mother to be), a lot of new “stuff” you have to do before you can have an abortion (in many cases that “stuff” drags on for too long and you’re past 12 weeks and it’s illegal to have an abortion after 12 weeks), no sex-ed in schools (on purpose, so people would be en masse uneducated about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies), etc etc. It’s basically “all is fair in war and demography”, but it has horrible consequences – a lot of people raise children they do not love, a lot of STIs going around, including an HIV pandemic (1 mil+ by most realiable accounts), a lot of infanticide, a lot of abandoned babies, all of this hits the most vulnerable strata of society – the poorest and the least educated, basically a petri dish for soldiers for Putin (educated and well off people always manage to avoid sending their kids to the army even though legally they’re subject to the draft)

Last edited 2 years ago by Kat Kazak
Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

Oh, who needs people, anyway? We’ve been told for as long as I can remember that we’re a destructive blight burdening the delicate planet with our pollution and over-population. Our tech betters are helpfully supplanting us with their efficient, clean machinery. Of course, before the Great Replacement is fully implemented, those humans who still remain will be punished for existing; right now is just the first phase. Remember! In 2030, you will own nothing. And you will be happy.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
2 years ago

And in 2040 you will not be -)

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Croitoru

I plan to be dead. Good luck to the rest of you.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

This must be encouraging news for the Chinese. In the 1860’s Czarist Russia grabbed a sizeable chunk of Chinese Manchuria*and founded the port of Vladivostok. The Chinese want it back, particularly now that it is ‘warming up’.

(* About 350,000 square miles, or the size of Nigeria.)

Last edited 2 years ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

The Chinese are also in rapid population decline. Estimated to have declined by 1/3rd by the end of the century. Japan (the other neighbour of Russia capable of taking a chunk of territory) is also in steep decline, forecast to be a half the size of now in 2100.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thanks.
That still leaves about 900,000 Chines and they are unlikely to forget ‘The Unequal Treaties’ are they not?

Do the Japanese really want Sakhalin Island back? I would have thought not.

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Well, it does have huge oil and gas reserves.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Enough to rekindle the Samurai spirit?
Having experienced disgraceful western treachery started by the 1921 revocation of the Anglo-Japanese Naval Treaty of 1904, I think they have learnt their lesson.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

The Green lobby must be delighted by this. Not only is population growth the fundamental driver of global warming (in their theories) and also of pollution, China and Russia are the dirtiest nations, environmentally.

Fintan Power
FP
Fintan Power
2 years ago

If the world did not despatch 50 million unborn babies via abortion every year then there would be far less concern about birth demographics.

Last edited 2 years ago by Fintan Power
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Fintan Power

But surely it is a fundamental human right that a woman can abort where, and whenever she wants? The days of “every sperm is sacred”*are long gone.
Or have I missed something?

(* Monty Pythons ‘The Meaning of Life’.)

Last edited 2 years ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
Michael K
MK
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

It’s not a fundamental human right. I don’t know how you would even package something like this into some kind of “right”. Since nowadays even leaving your house, meeting with friends or rejecting a non-vital medical procedure isn’t a human right anymore, good luck with the abortion thing…

Warren T
WT
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

I believe it was said in jest.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

Incorrect target acquisition, my apologies.

Last edited 2 years ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
Tom Blanton
Tom Blanton
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Yes, you are missing something. It’s not sperm that are being aborted. It’s a human individual with its own distinct DNA.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Blanton

Aren’t we splitting sperms a bit here?

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

“One hundred and forty-six million [people] for such a vast territory is insufficient.” Pah! So what!
Signed
Insufficient, the Antipodes

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

“The Antipodes “, no wonder the Chinese covet such an underpopulated paradise?

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

The Chinese have no designs on Russia.

Dustshoe Richinrut
DR
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The symbolic decline of Russia may be seen in the concentration of wealth into mini floating palaces that cruise the Med and the lovely Western seas. So much money, billions, spirited to foreign manufacturers, has gone into creating these, the ultimate In chic, fantastically-glamorous lovemaking facilities. Obviously the bigger the facility, the better. Just juxtapose that carry-on with the reality of life in Russia. No doubt some of Russia’s most successful individuals grew up from very humble beginnings. But so did Charlie Chaplin. Have those in the highest echelons, however, wanted to become some of the most INfamous persons in the world? I am sure that they have not. But they’re very much not as bright as they no doubt think they are.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
2 years ago

A very honest article about Russia.
Russia might have found its niche as a somewhat larger version of Canada. But Putin decided to adopt a 17th Century European model of absolutist rule. It didn’t really work for Peter the Great or any of his descendants, and cannot work now. Demographic damage dating back to WW1 make any Russian pretensions to great power status as simply ludicrous.
Managing the breakup of Putin’s Russia will be far more difficult than managing the Soviet breakup in 1991.

Earl King
Earl King
2 years ago

I am a bit mystified by all those that want more humans on a planet that is being stressed by humans. Less humans less cow in feed lots, less humans driving, less humans using energy. Can’t say exactly why humans only have 1 to 2 kids these days but here may be one reason. In New Jersey they estimate it costs $500,000 to raise a child to 18.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

Fewer!

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Amen to that

Warren T
WT
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

Perhaps it’s that little passage in Genesis (1:28) that says, “…go forth and multiply….”

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

Or in more detail at Genesis 28:14.
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

..that was in the days agricultural and animal husbandry as a skill, tending not to poison lands and seas relied upon for sustenance; where money wasn’t so much the root of all evil – barter was commonplace; populations grew exponentially rather than explosively; families/communities had vested interests in looking after/out for each other..and were blessed.
Now, if we could see our way clear..(Rev22:1 etc)
wwwlowimpact.org

Alan Tonkyn
AT
Alan Tonkyn
2 years ago
Reply to  Earl King

Yes, this thought (your mystification) has often occurred to me me, too. Population decline in developed economies may cause only relatively short-term problems as we baby boomers need care in our old age from a smaller group of younger people. For good or ill, we are currently ‘solving’ the problem by importing immigrants willing to do care work. When the boomers have passed through the system, I imagine populations will be more balanced, and support for pensioners will be less burdensome, especially if people in the developed economies retire later, and A.I. technologies take on many jobs for which workers are unavailable. And fewer humans on the planet, as long as we don’t give up on having children altogether, could make for a healthier environment and happier societies.

David Woolley
DW
David Woolley
2 years ago

 Russia’s immense size was supported by the preparedness of its people to settle in some of the most inhospitable habitats in the world.”
What an interesting explanation for deportation and the GULag.
It’s not Putin’s war for people, it’s Putin’s war for oil.
Every good intelligence operation has a cover story, and then another. Putin’s first story was that he was disconcerted by the possibility of NATO weapons on his border with a corrupt neighbor who doesn’t need to exist: so he’s going to invade in order to get NATO weapons on his new border with Poland?  His back-up cover story is that he’s a little bit mad, and at the end of his life. So he wants to punish the breakaway brand-new Ukrainian Orthodox Church and reunite Holy Mother Russia, with its headquarters at Kiev, and the aura of his namesake Saint Vladimir under the Christian banner of the Russian Orthodox Church, establishing himself yet again as the champion of Christianity: so he uses Muslim Chechens and Syrians and Libyans to do so?
No, it’s a war for oil. Russia’s got lots of oil and gas, as the almost NordStream II pipeline demonstrates. But south of Crimea in the Black Sea are well-established huge deposits of gas, condensate and oil, but so long as Crimea’s status is in dispute, drilling and sale is contentious. And then, just before Covid hit, equally huge deposits of oil and gas were discovered in the Donbass, the corner of genuine Ukraine where Putin tried and failed to set up independent republics. His original plot this year was to attack and decapitate the Ukrainian government, install puppets and sign a peace treaty alienating these lands to Russia instanter. That failed disastrously. So now he’s planning to exhaust Ukraine and the West with a pointless, nasty, bloody war on civilians, graciously offering to withdraw if a simple treaty is signed alienating those lands – and again win.
He would have almost a monopoly of all fuel supplies to Europe.  Putin is greedy, avaricious and vicious, we know that, and his war on Ukraine is just more of the same.  It’s his War for Oil, not people, whom he’s intent on killing or deporting.

dave fookes
DW
dave fookes
2 years ago

One hundred and forty-six million [people] for such a vast territory is insufficient,” said Vladimir Putin at the end of last year.”
Here’s a question for you Vlad – what is the maximum number of humans planet Earth can comfortably support? You say the Russian people have dropped off in their procreational activities, yeah? Maybe you’re unaware of what happens in the animal world during droughts, or any other adverse ecological event that disturbs them – they stop breeding. It also occurs in the human world when they experience sudden, or even gradual but continual declines in their quality of life – they stop having babies. Have you ever noticed what migrants fleeing from adverse circumstances in their countries do almost immediately upon arrival in stable countries? They have babies.
Planet Earth’s greatest issue is not declining population, wars or climate change. It’s the systems used to elect and make accountable government leadership.

Tony Taylor
TT
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

I was staggered to learn that the economies of Russia and Australia are about the same size. It would have never occurred to me that Russia’s economy wasn’t way bigger.

Peter B
PB
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Indeed, it is interesting to compare Russia against both Canada and Australia. All three are very farming (all are huge wheat exporters) and natural resource (all have mining, oil and natural gas) intensive economies with huge land area and small populations. So why is it that Russia does so badly. It’s not just the climate – otherwise Canada wouldn’t be so much richer per capita.
For me, it comes down to rule of law, respect for property rights, better wealth distribution (not just a few rich oligarchs), a free press, competent management and low corruption (the last two being strongly correlated).
Why doesn’t Russia take a good look round and learn these lessons rather than blaming others ?

Kat Kazak
KK
Kat Kazak
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Russia as a nation knows this well enough, but Russia the government likes to consolidate income sources, they don’t like to be dependent on small and medium sized business because they are aplenty and they all have an opinion, and if you start listening to opinions you might never get to have full blown warfare on your neighbor’s lands for example. Doing business in Russia is burdened by a lot of red tape and bureaucracy so that most people would be discouraged from even attempting to start a business. The world has benefitted from the best and the brightest moving out of Russia and setting up shop elsewhere, so I don’t really see any strategic point in trying to tell Russia to stop the brain drain and let people run their businesses in peace. It’s not exactly in the interests of anyone outside of Russia.

Martin Logan
ML
Martin Logan
2 years ago
Reply to  Kat Kazak

Sadly, this exactly mirrors the flight of Russia’s brightest after the Revolution. Some of the greatest ornaments of western culture and industry–Stravinsky, Nabokov, Sikorsky–came form Russia.

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Warren T
WT
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

It’s called free market capitalism.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

History is the answer. For the Russians the curse of the Mongol conquest has never been forgotten.
For Canada and Australia no such threat existed as they had effectively exterminated the original population, and thus could afford to relax.

Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter B

They remember everything and learn nothing. Never had a smidgeon of democracy. Ever.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
AA
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Rather like the Chinese?

Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Exactly. Chinese exploration ship 5 times size of Columbus’ ship. Found America etc. Returned home. Emperor decided Middle Kingdom only civilised area. Why explore? Ever since then they truly think we’re barbarians, though they’ve also only seen the common Chinese as ‘the black headed people’ as worthy as worms. Dangerous. National stories are incredibly persistent.

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Yes, Russia’s GDP is roughly equivalent to Italy’s.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Once again a western intellectual preaches the demographic crisis somewhere else. A quick google tells me the Russian TFR is 1.86. The US is lower.

Benjamin Dyke
Benjamin Dyke
2 years ago

Once again a judgemental article reader preaches his criticism. A quick Google tells me you have never written an article anytime, ever. Are only Russian citizens allowed to analyse Russia?

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin Dyke

Plus an odd ‘nom de plume’ for a rather blatant Chinese bot.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 years ago

People are queuing up to enter the USA.
People are queuing up to leave Russia.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Shaw
Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago

A quick Google tells me that Russia is 1.50 and the US 1.70. Add in high net immigration to the US and emigration from Russia.
Your alternative facts are amusing. But wrong.

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

As I often point out to people, Russia (140m*) has fewer people than Bangladesh (160m).
*146m according to the author, but this doesn’t damage my point.

Last edited 2 years ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Isn’t it actually crazy how so few people in the US, EU and Russia are responsible for so many happenings around the globe? Meanwhile the billions of Indian and Chinese people just live and work in relative silence.

Warren T
WT
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

Those “happenings” around the globe are what the MSM decide is newsworthy.

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

Do you suggest that India also had their very own “war in Syria”?

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

I know. I guess it’s just because we had our industrial revolution first.

Ernesto Garza
Ernesto Garza
2 years ago

So the Oligarchs monopolize kleptocracy, Putin restores murder and corruption as a political tool, there are no real property rights or rule of law and Putin complains about a lack of “animal spirits?” (on different levels)
Russia has nothing to offer abroad or at home. That is tragic, but the results are predictable: war abroad and decline at home.

Peter Shaw
PS
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

The fewer Russians there are, the more likely Putin is to go nuclear.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago

Well, that’s good news.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago

Anything that stops the inhuman concept of breeding young men as cannon fodder has to be welcome. And just imagine what global warming will do to Siberia.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

I think it is incorrect to say that the Soviet Union was abolished. It collapsed under its own weight.

David Fawcett
David Fawcett
2 years ago

So Putin is the Borg Queen. maintaining his empire by forced assimilation of neighbouring countries. Both population and technologies. He would get on well with Bill Gates.

Sazzle London
SW
Sazzle London
2 years ago

Russia’s population is diminishing, as is Putin’s stature – we should be very wary. He’s a mad man, and capable of anything. So hard for all of us standing by and feeling guilty that we’re not playing a meaningful part, especially when we know people in Ukraine. I don’t pretend what we’re facing but fear supine action may annihilate us all. Please prove me wrong.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sazzle London