Attrition: Russians Fading Away Faster

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December 21, 2012: For centuries Russia was considered a threat to its neighbors by virtue of its larger population. But since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 (and half the population broke away to form 14 new nations) the remaining Russian population has been in decline. Twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russian population implosion is getting worse. While in the 1990s the population was shrinking at a rate of .1 percent a year, in the last decade that has increased to .2 percent a year. This is because the non-Slav Russians are having fewer children, just as the Slavs have been doing (or, rather, not doing) for decades. The Russian population has declined three percent since 1989, from 147 to 142.9 million. The proportion of the population that is ethnic Russian (Slav) has declined from 81.5 percent to 77 percent in that same period.

The rapidly aging Russian population is not only shrinking but is not fit for any major economic or military efforts. During the last decade it was discovered that some 60 percent of Russians are elderly, children, or disabled. Out of 20 million males of working age, one million are in prison, a million in the armed forces (including paramilitaries), five million are unemployed (or unemployable due to poor education, health, or attitude), four million are chronic alcoholics, and a million are drug addicts.

Thus there is something of a labor shortage, with plenty of jobs for women and immigrants. The birth rate is below replacement level and a declining population means more immigrants just to keep things going. Improving medical care and health habits (especially treating alcoholism and drug use) is a government priority, in order to raise the life span of Russian males. That has had some success, and in urban areas you see more Russians out running and going to the many newly built private gyms. But these improvements are not happening quickly enough to reverse the population decline.

If this trend is not reversed, Russia will continue to have a smaller, and less Russian, population.

 


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