According to an analysis of official government statistics by a leading independent demographer, as the country battles a deadly fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The natural population, a number calculated from registered deaths and births, excluding the impact of migration, fell by 997,000 between October 2020 and September 2021, according to demographer Alexei Raksha calculated.
Russia has been one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, registering at least 660,000 excess death since the start of 2020, according to government data, and the dramatic fall seems to show the devastating effects of the pandemic on the social fabric of the country.
Previous government reports showed Russia’s population decline in 2020 has been 11 times higher than pre-pandemic 2019.
“It’s quite simple, deaths caused by Covid-19 are the main reason for the decline seen. Most other factors have remained the same,” said Raksha, a demographic forecaster who left the agency. Russian state Rosstat last year after criticizing figures from the coronavirus information centre.
He pointed out that birth rates had not fallen over the past year, indicating that the decline was due to Russia’s rising death rate.
Despite widely available vaccines, Russia on Wednesday checked in a new record number of coronavirus deaths, as Russians continue to be skeptical of Russian-made vaccines, with only a third of the population fully vaccinated.
“I don’t see how the situation can improve given the current trajectory of vaccine hesitancy and lack of restrictions,” Raksha added.
Raksha said the current population decline can be compared to the decline seen between July 1999 and June 2000, when Russia’s population fell by 983,000, after a decade of economic instability, which caused birth rates and life expectancy.
Russia’s declining population was already high on the Kremlin’s agenda before the pandemic and experts say Covid-19 is only exacerbating the problem further.
Russia’s total population of around 145 million is lower 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 a depopulated Russia”hauntedReversing the demographic crisis by the end of his term in 2024 was one of the main promises announced during his re-election campaign in 2018.
Over the years, the Kremlin has introduced a number of social policies and benefits to spur the declining birth rate, including programs that provide generous payments to families with older that two children.
Despite its efforts, however, a 2019 government report said Russia’s population could drop by more than 12 million by 2035.
Kremlin critics say the government has also used the demographic crisis to justify its repress on the LGBT community, introducing a ban on “gay propaganda” and banning adoption for same-sex couples in an effort to promote so-called traditional family values.