Populations of Former Soviet Republics Have Fallen or Increased Less than Projected in 1990

Map of Former Soviet Union

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, November 10, 2013 – Chart here: http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/11/window-on-eurasia-populations-of-former.html)

The former Soviet space had 48 million fewer people living on it in 2010 than Soviet demographers in 1990 had predicted for that year, with all 15 of the states having smaller populations than were was projected for them and 10 of the 15 having fewer residents than they did two decades earlier.

In a blog post last week, Andrey Illarionov compares the figures offered by the USSR State Statistics Committee in its “Collection of Statistical Materials. 1990” (in Russian; Moscow: 1991) with the actual populations reported by the 15 post-Soviet countries in 2010 (aillarionov.livejournal.com/567935.html).The figures are presented in the following table.

Illarionov suggests that this comparison between projections and realities highlights the consequences of the events that Soviet demographers could not foresee and the intensification of others that they were able to project across the entire region and not just one country as is usually the case.

Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Tajikistan suffered the most from various “social, economic, political, and military cataclysms.” Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Kazakhstan suffered from the intensification of migration flows, with the greatest deviation between projected and actual populations was in Ukraine and Latvia.

As far as the Russian Federation is concerned, Illarionov notes, it had almost 20 million fewer residents in 2010 than Soviet demographers had projected, but in percentage terms, its decline was not as “catastrophic” as those in Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia and Kazakhstan.

As for the region as a whole, the population in 2010 was almost 48 million fewer than projected in 1991 and remains “approximately one million fewer than the population of the same space at the end of 1990.

Some Russian commentators have pointed out that this overall decline is twice the size of Soviet population losses during World War II and have sought to place the blame on the social and political changes that the post-Soviet governments have introduced, with the more liberalized countries having the greatest losses (forum-msk.org/material/news/10106433.html).

But in fact, the trends to which Illarionov calls attention to reflect two underlying realities: a worldwide trend of declining fertility rates, and the differences between predominantly Muslim countries which have continued to grow rapidly and non-Muslim ones which have seen their populations grow more slowly or fall.