Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Cemeteries for ‘Unknowns’ Highlights Russia’s Demographic Collapse, Nemets Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 4 – In recent years, there has been a disturbing development in Russia that few have paid much attention to: There are ever more graves and even entire cemeteries for “unknowns,” people who can’t be identified or at least won’t be by the authorities and bear only a number and date of death.

            One of the largest of these special cemeteries is near St. Petersburg, US-based Russian commentator Aleksandr Nemets says (, and has been documented in YouTube clips ( and

            Since 2015, such cemeteries have appeared in many other places in the Russian Federation, he continues. Some of them are for people who have died in Russian military campaigns in Ukraine, Syria and Africa, victims the Kremlin doesn’t want to call the attention of Russians to.

            “But the greater share of those buried in these ‘special cemeteries,’ Nemets suggests, “really are ‘unknowns,’ people without fixed residence [bomzhi] or those who have disappeared many months earlier and have been found dead without any documents.”  There is no evidence that their deaths are being included in Russian statistics.

            Consequently, while the reported natural rate of decline of the Russian population – deaths over births – is strikingly high and may approach 400,000 in 2019, the actual figure could prove to be as high as 600,000, another unprecedented number that gives credence to the suggestions of some that the Kremlin actually wants the population to decline.

            Since the beginning of the Putin era, with its reliance on the export of gas, oil and other natural resources, various commentators have suggested that the Kremlin leader actually sees no  need to maintain the current size of the Russian population but would be quite willing to have the number of Russians fall to 50 million or even less.

            Nemets cites such arguments and says that they also gain credibility because the Putin regime has adopted policies, such as cutting the availability of health care and reducing incomes as a result of which people consume less nourishing food  while continuing to promote vodka sales, that lead to more premature deaths than would otherwise be the case.

             One of the regions where these trends are most in evidence, he continues, is east of the Urals where the indigenous Russian population is declining both for these reasons and as a result of flight to cities in the western part of the country opening the way to ever more Chinese immigration both legal which is counted and illegal which isn’t.

            At present, Nemets says, Moscow says there are about 500,000 Chinese living and working in the Russian Federation, most of whom in the Far East; but the real numbers according to expert assessments are far higher, with some saying there may be as many as four million  (

            The Chinese now form a third of the residents of the Russian Far East, Nemets says; and if current trends continue, they will be a majority before 2050. This doesn’t mean the Chinese will occupy the region – Beijing is “too smart to do that,” he says – but rather there will be a formation of “’a zone of interest’ like those China was once divided into by the Western powers.

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