Russian Population Suffers Biggest Peacetime Decline, Analysis Finds | Russia

Russia’s natural population has suffered its largest peacetime decline in recorded history over the past 12 months, according to an analysis of official government statistics by a leading independent demographer, as the country struggles with a fourth deadly wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The natural population, a number calculated from registered deaths and births excluding the impact of migration, declined by 997,000 between October 2020 and September 2021, demographer Alexei Raksha calculated.

Russia has been one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, recording at least 660,000 more deaths since the start of 2020, government data shows, and the dramatic drop appears to show the devastating toll the pandemic has taken on the social fabric of the country.

Previous government reports have shown Russia’s population decline in 2020 to be 11 times greater than in pre-pandemic 2019.

Death of Covid in Russia

“It’s quite simple, deaths caused by Covid-19 are the main reason for the observed decline. Most of the other factors have remained the same, ”said Raksha, a population forecaster who left Russian state agency Rosstat last year after criticizing figures from the Coronavirus Information Center.

He pointed out that birth rates had not declined over the past year, indicating that the decline was due to the rising death rate in Russia.

Despite widely available vaccines, Russia on Wednesday recorded a new record number of coronavirus deaths, as Russians continue to be skeptical of vaccines made in Russia, with only a third of the population fully vaccinated.

“I don’t see how the situation can improve given the current trajectory of reluctance to immunize and the lack of restrictions,” Raksha added.

Births vs deaths graph

Raksha said the current population decline could be compared to the decline observed between July 1999 and June 2000, when the Russian population fell by 983,000, after a decade of economic instability, which caused birth rates and birth rates to drop. life expectancy.

Russia’s population decline was already high on the Kremlin’s agenda before the pandemic and experts say Covid-19 only exacerbates the problem.

Russia’s total population of around 145 million is smaller than it was when Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

The Russian president admitted at his 2019 annual press conference that the prospect of Russia’s depopulation “haunted” him. Reversing the demographic crisis by the end of his term in 2024 was one of the key commitments announced during his 2018 re-election campaign.

Over the years, the Kremlin has introduced a number of policies and social benefits to stimulate lower birth rates, including programs that provide generous allowances to families with more than two children.

Despite its efforts, however, a 2019 government report indicates that Russia’s population could drop by more than 12 million by 2035.

Kremlin critics say the government has also used the population crisis to justify its crackdown on the LGBT community, introducing the ban on “gay propaganda” and the adoption ban for same-sex couples with the aim of to promote so-called traditional family values.