Russia: Continuing demographic decline

Anatoly Karlin of Sublime Oblivion comments on Russia's continuing demographic decline and posts statistics to substantiate it.


  • Thanks for the shout-out, but I really can’t see how one can characterize my post as one about Russia’s “demographic decline.” To the contrary, I stress that decline has abated and been replaced by population stability or stagnation.

  • Dear Anatoly,

    Thanks for pointing this out! In essence, I believe this is a matter of interpretation about the difference between decline and stagnation. As for 2010, numbers indicate a decline of about 50.000, and for 2011 you believe it may be either negative or positive.

    What I feel was interesting with your piece was what I interpret as a continuing long-term population decline, not least after the population in 2009 (correct me if I don’t remember correctly) saw a slight increase. Needless to point out, this is part of a general Russian discourse on these issues linked to a number of variuous challenges Russia is facing. Also, I thought your comparison to other states of the FSU was relevant, e.g. Lithuania and Latvia.

    To sum up, I read your piece in the light of a long-term perspective, whereas you, I assume, thought of it from a short-term perspective. Anyway, the issue is very interesting and deserves good coverage and contextualization, not least in view of some alarmist views forwarded on the issue. So, decline, stagnation, or whatever, are perhaps not that far away from each other, as long as we do not use words as catastrophe and crisis.



  • You’re correct that perspective is key here, Vilhelm. In the early 2000’s, population decrease was running at 750,000 per year. By these standards, the 2008-2010 period in which the population remains more or less flat is not one of decline but of stabilization and/or stagnation (I should also point out at this point that the 50,000 decline for 2010 was almost exactly equal to the c.45,000 excess deaths from the anomalous heatwave).

    Re-longterm or shorterm, both. Part of my post dealt with the near-term; based on falling mortality and fertility, and rising immigration, as observed in the first months of this year, I’d say Russia will most likely eke out a small population growth in 2011 (barring a repeat of last year’s heatwave which will make it slightly negative; it was indeed anomalous, but perhaps it will be no longer so due to the effects of global warming).

    The long-term part touched on the changes occurring in longer-term projections by different institutions. As late as 2008, the consensus among international demographic organizations and the Western commentariat was that it was a demographic crisis, with Russia’s population falling below 130mn by 2025. Today, they have began to notice positive trends, and their projections are becoming a lot less dire and predicting small or zero falls to 2025; I merely took the opportunity to point that Rosstat (the Russian statistics agency) and – pardon the immodesty – myself have been saying the same thing since 2008.

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