Demographic Collapse of Ethnic Russian Nation Seen Accelerating
(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, January 25, 2017)
Russian demographers predict that the total population of the Russian Federation will be relatively stable over the next two decades but only because of massive immigration from Central Asia and the Caucasus and still high birthrates and relatively low death rates among the traditionally Muslim nationalities of Russia itself.
But such predictions conceal something that an increasing number of Russians fear: the share of ethnic Russians in the population, as a result of falling birthrates and still high death rates among working age males, will continue to fall, changing the country’s ethnic mix significantly, especially in some important regions.
The number of births among all groups but especially among ethnic Russians is falling not only because of the increasing shift from rural to urban ways of life but also because of a decline in the size of the prime child-bearing cohort of the population, commentator Aleksandr Shustov says (stoletie.ru/obschestvo/demografija_v_ozhidanii_provala_438.htm).
Not surprisingly, he says, “federal officials responsible for the conduct of demographic policy, are openly sounding the alarm,” echoing the conclusions of scholars like Moscow State University population expert Anatoly Antonov who says that the number of births in Russia is going to drop precipitously over the next dozen years
There simply aren’t going to be enough women entering prime child-bearing age groups to keep the number of births rising, even if the secular decline in the number of children per woman should in fact slow further. As a result, he and others say, Moscow must start to focus on cutting super-high mortality rates.
As far as fertility rates are concerned, Labor Miniser Maksim Topilin said recently, Russia “has caught up and surpassed many countries of Europe. But on standard indicators of mortality,” Russia still lags far behind and must devote more efforts in order to cut deaths among working age males.
Shustov then surveys the demographic figures for the federal districts between January and November 2016, showing that there were small natural increases only in the Urals, Siberian, and Far Eastern, significant declines elsewhere, especially in predominantly ethnic Russian regions, and a big increase only in the North Caucasus.
Indeed, he points out, without the 73,400 increase in the population of the latter district, the Russian Federation as a whole would have seen a decline in the natural rate of increase. Other increases reflected immigration, of course. And because these regions are ethnically distinct, it shows that ethnic Russians are in increasing decline.
The greatest demographic declines last year were in the two most ethnically Russian core parts of the Russian state, the Central Federal District and the North-West Federal District. In these two areas, population declined in almost all places except the two capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg; and it increased in them largely due to immigration — which also changed the ethnic mix.
A similar pattern obtained in the Volga Federal District, Shustov says. There six of the seven federal subjects showing increases were non-Russian republics, while six of the seven showing decreases were predominantly ethnic Russian regions. The two exceptions were respectively Perm Kray and Mordvinia.
Also sharing this pattern were the Urals and Siberian federal districts, although there the differences were not as pronounced. And “given the situation in the European part of Russia, the demographic situation in the Far East in general looks to be relatively good,” the Stoletiye commentator says.
The federal district that stands out in contrast is the North Caucasus. There, all the non-Russian republics showed growth, with the two displaying the highest rate of natural increase, Daghestan and Chechnya, simultaneously being the most non-Russian and the most conflict-filled.
Summing up, Shustov says that “in the majority of ethnic Russian regions, the demographic situation on the whole is worse than in the [non-Russian] national republics” and that the only hope for improving the size of the Slavic component of the population of Russia is to actively promote immigration from Ukraine.
[featured image is file photo, not directly related to article subject matter]