A Handful of Thoughts About the Demography of Russia: Minus Another Half a Million

NEW – February 3, 2023

If I remember correctly, since the beginning of Russia’s “independence”, natural population growth was observed only in one short period, from 2013 to 2015. All the rest of the time, Russia was dying out, with death rates exceeding the birth rate. The most optimistic forecasts are as follows: if things continue to go at the same pace, by the end of the 21st century, the country’s population will halve, the state’s legal capacity and its sovereignty will be questioned. Or it will be a completely different Russia…

Readers asked a difficult question by palming off yesterday’s data from Rosstat: In 2022, the Russian population continued to decline for the fifth consecutive year and decreased by another 566,000 people. The data was published without taking into account new regions. Dynamics: in 2018, we were reduced by 100,000, in 2019 – by the same amount, in 2020 – a pandemic surge in deaths and minus half a million, in 2021, 600,000 Russian citizens joined the sad statistics. The birth rate has fallen by one and a half times, which gives another negative value – a shortage of half a million children.

Reasons

From the first ones, experts will immediately name abortions; for medical reasons, they account for only 2.5% of the total number of operations. The statistics here are crafty and opaque, but since 1991 they assume that almost 50 million artificial abortions of pregnancy have been made. It seems logical to ban them, but this occupation is meaningless in the pace of modern life and the rights that women have. With your permission, I will remove from the analysis such a protective measure for demography. The topic of abortion will be criminalised, which is even more evil.

The second greatest evil that I personally encountered when I worked with many regional authorities is the administration and management model. When in words, officials of the largest calibre tear their shirts on their chest, taking care of demography, but in reality they deeply do not care what the birth rate is, what the morbidity and mortality rates are. This is how the System works, where funding is the main idol.

And there is an opportunity “in the pursuit of high-quality indicators” to underestimate the death rate from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, poor environmental conditions and other external factors with impunity. No one from Moscow checks them, believe me. That is exactly why there was a “miracle” of demographic growth in the above-mentioned period 2013-2015, in some places it even reached a bad joke – according to the reports, almost no one died, only hundreds of babies were born.

(illustration from open sources)

First prescription In order to deal with the problem, it is necessary to measure and weigh it in absolute terms in a decent administrative logic, and work only with proven and understandable data in causal models. For each column of population loss for all possible reasons (and there are dozens of them), gather specialists by asking simple questions: “Why did this happen, how to deal with the disaster?” The output will be pictures very unpleasant for the eyes of the authorities (government and business), not to say even worse… But this approach makes you understand and tell the truth.

We go further: the average-median demography must grow not only due to a slower population decline, but also based on the birth rate. Maybe the state national project “Demography” and a dozen other programs that our superiors had great hopes for are working poorly (or not as planned)? Why don’t women seek maternity capital, which is carefully indexed from year to year, and why aren’t they attracted by numerous social benefits and benefits?

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There are also many objective and subjective reasons, and much depends on the specific region. In one subject, the “package of services for mums” is very weighty, if the governors and mayors really work responsibly. But, in most territories and regions, the authorities simply serve the number, although most often they do not have the financial resources to even adequately support large families, let alone single mothers. In other words, one half-measure is long overdue: material support for motherhood and childhood should become a comprehensive, unified and huge federal program.

(illustration from open sources)

Second prescription. It is necessary to combine a lot of things in one department, having collected all the necessary tools from the municipal level to the Federation. Maternity capital, changing the status of “large family”, including child care in the length of service, subsidies for pregnant and young mothers, making “children’s” not a shameful mockery, but significant, reviewing all benefits, allowances, compensations, lump-sum payments. A lot of useful things can be applied, which works great in some rich regions and even in Moscow.

The discussion of “instilling traditional values”, again with your permission, should remain outside the scope of this short essay. But it’s necessary to remember: there is no direct linear relationship between the birth rate and quality of life. Communities in Latin America, Central Asia, India, Africa, Indonesia, and several national republics of Russia have higher birth rates due to their own carefully preserved national-historical values and traditional way of life.

(illustration from open sources)

While the cult of “education-career-prosperity-live for yourself” and only then children prevails in Russia … things will not get better. The trend is global, the more temptations, the stronger the desire to try everything, to remain an eternal infantile teenager without any sense of responsibility. And when there is a real threat of unemployment, economic crisis, deadly pandemics, war, social unrest, carefully dispersed fears and anxieties in a toxic environment of information chaos – traditional values do not fade only into the background, but much deeper.

Third prescription. Without a sovereign information and educational environment that at least partially cuts off external and internal destructive phenomena, propaganda of perversions and dehumanisation, pseudo–historicity, crude and vulgar models of social behaviour, assessments of the present, past and future in all spheres of human existence, it is useless to fight for “traditional values”. The practical mechanisms of such protection are extremely difficult, requiring decades of thoughtful work and huge expenditures.

I don’t see any willingness to start such a discussion, the reason is old – the authorities are afraid to highlight their own intellectual impotence, they are afraid of the word “state ideology” to liquid diarrhoea (the embodiment of certain ideas, in fact, this means), they are used to “mastering budgets”, divide up and withdraw [i.e. embezzlement – SZ], and not invest and multiply. Being a pragmatist, I will be careful not to bet on such miracles with “traditional values”.

(illustration from open sources)

Calling a spade a spade…

If to say very unpleasant things, and there will be more of them in comment to this article … the population of Russia needs (it is not known how) to re-believe in the prosperous future of their own country. Visually and at the everyday level to represent his image. I am not speaking from the standpoint of an idealistic speaker, there are concrete examples, the most eloquent – the besieged Leningrad and the belligerent London during the Second World War.

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Dispassionate statistics recorded: a surge in the birth rate begins in a completely besieged city on the Neva River in the autumn of 1943, there was no objective evidence for this, the city is in a tight ring, shelling and bombing, the daily struggle for survival, exhausting work. As it turned out, Leningrad residents after the Battle of Stalingrad, and then the Battle of Kursk – renewed their spirits, unconditionally believed in the coming victory over the enemy.

Dry figures show that at the end of 1943 and throughout 1944, the birth rate in Leningrad was higher than in 1940, the year before the Great Patriotic War began. London responded to the victory at El Alamein in exactly the same way, and after our victory at Stalingrad and the landing of the Americans in North Africa, the birth rate in the year before the end of the war exceeded twenty-year indicators. This is called hope for the future, when people see a winner in their country and feel personally involved. The image is formed and immediately starts working.

(illustration from open sources)

I don’t know how the “image of the future” can appear in this social depression, hysterical perception and presentation of information, the madness of social networks and the media, when the population lives in a state of disaster or global catastrophe. Drinking water from the water pipe and eating food from the supermarket is slow death, sugar and salt, alcohol and meat, climate and the Gulf Stream, military conflicts and the death of people on the airwaves, conspiracy theories and the corona virus, biological laboratories and chipping, electronic education and LGBT madness…

It’s possible to go on for a very long time, but the conscious and subconscious mind (if there is one) fixes the score on the scoreboard, creates a simple image of the future -“we will all die”. And our children – and even more so if the world is going crazy at this rate. What kind of procreation can we talk about in such a toxic atmosphere, only extremely balanced or reckless young people are capable of exploits for the glory of demography. But these are subjective factors, and there are inexorable objective ones.

They start with a correctly formulated task. And the right words. One close friend, who spent half a century in scientific and applied paediatrics, has made a bad habit of rebuking his superiors even on a ministerial flight as soon as he hears the term “demography”. But the syllables are pronounced differently: “saving the people”. And he deciphered “paediatrics” to subordinates and local city officials as “protection and defence of motherhood and childhood”.

(illustration from open sources)

Interpreting the concepts broadly, from the impact of specialists in women’s consultations on expectant mothers (and especially those who want to have an abortion), to mandatory medical examinations of the population up to retirement. And dozens of other practical actions, small and large, but leading precisely to “saving the people”, each individual person living and not yet born. If the sovereign’s logic works through the correct applied word, and “demography” is no longer treated as if it is a tooth-crushing economic term, then things will get better.

Conclusions

Only then will it suddenly turn out: “saving the people” and the growth of the Russian population is a balanced migration legislation with priority in inviting retired compatriots of the titular nation to permanent residence. That depopulation is directly affected not so much by natural decline, but by the structural crisis of the Russian economy, governance mechanisms, and the lack of political will to make sometimes unpleasant but necessary decisions.

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“Saving the people” means social elevators that people can understand for their children, guaranteed safety, education, and affordable healthcare. When the entire state apparatus of social protection and support begins to run happily around a pregnant young girl, public initiatives and aid funds are funded, and the “image of the future” in material terms is indicated by simple and understandable figures and actions. Not until the child is three years old, but much further.

Yes, the well-being of people, the level of wages and the quality of life in a particular locality play a huge role for “demography”. But no less important is a healthy public mood, and not the current swamp that reeks of the 90s with social injustice, platitudes and vulgarity of the notorious elites, corruption, social stratification and total indifference. And stupid bosses who “master budgets”. Not even to even write and implement the “Compatriots” program properly.

(illustration from open sources)

Mikhail Lomonosov informed the sovereign’s people centuries ago: population is the majesty, power and wealth of the state. Not inflation targeting, revenue from state corporations or some particularly clever characters, or even an army dressed to the nines and armed to the teeth. Without a native population, it will turn into legions of mercenaries from all over the world. Population and saving the people. Until the logic of reproduction and protection is subordinated to the activities of the state mechanism, we will continue to die out.

How much fuss around the Pension Fund, which sounded the alarm at the beginning of the “noughties”, reported a “demographic pit” and the state had to patch giant holes in the budget of this God-pleasing institution, deductions from the salaries of employees were not enough to support pensioners. What was chosen for stabilisation?

Raising the retirement age. This is a useless and ineffective action, and it was much more useful to adopt a state program to support the employment of people of pre-retirement and retirement age, who are currently the most socially unprotected categories of citizens from the arbitrariness of employers.

It’s necessary to say the right words, call a spade a spade. In order to not get interstitial results. When will there be a “holy people’s war” against Nazism and a coalition of 50 states instead of an incomprehensible Special Military Operation with mysterious goals and objectives? Not “import substitution” – but complete reindustrialisation. Not “digitalisation and modernisation” – but a two-circuit economic model with state planning and market pricing mechanisms for the sale of natural resources for their own national currency and a ban on the export of capital.

Not the national “Demography” project, but special federal programs “Population conservation” and “Protection of motherhood and childhood” are needed. With direct reporting to the Prime Minister, rather than effective managers with glass eyes. So that the entire Cabinet works in the logic of two fundamental Programs, and not the figures of financial flows with the Russian list of “Forbes” coordinated. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to get it out without the right goal setting.


Historical Thimbles

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