Staunton, February 2 – In percentage terms, the federal subjects of Russia with the largest gains are all non-Russian, while those with the largest losses are all predominantly ethnic Russian, Rosstat says, a pattern obscured when media report that some Russian regions like Moscow are growing by far larger numbers than the much smaller non-Russian ones.
Commenting on official figures provided to Rossisskaya gazeta, Aleksey Zubets, a specialist on demography at Moscow’s Finance University, says that “in general to compare regions by the absolute numbers of mortality and fertility is incorrect” (rg.ru/2020/02/02/reg-pfo/v-rosstate-nazvali-regiony-s-samoj-bolshoj-ubyliu-naseleniia.html).
“For a correct understanding of demographic dynamics, one must look not at the absolute but relative indicators of birth and death rates and migration flows per 1,000 population.” If one does that, the leaders in fertility are the Chechen Republic, Tyva, Ingushetia, Daghestan and the Altay; and the laggards are Smolensk, Tula. Tambov, and Leningrad oblasts and Mordvinia.
In terms of mortality rates, the highest per 1,000 population in 2018 were Pskov, Tver, Novgorod, Tula and Ivanovo Oblasts, all ethnic Russian areas, while the lowest were the Khanty-Mansiisk District, Daghestan, Yamalo-Nenets District, Chechnya and Ingushetia, all non-Russian areas.
“But even these indicators do not very accurately reflect demographic processes,” Zubets says. “That is because if in a region, there are few young people, then the share of older people will be higher. As a result, mortality in such regions will be high, simply because of the dominance of elderly people.”
And at the same time in such places, fertility will be lower, something that is unfortunate but which “does not say anything about the quality of life in the region.” The converse is also true regarding regions in which there are many more younger people and consequently relatively fewer older ones.
A more comprehensive and universal “indicator of the quality of life in a region,” he suggests, is average life expectancy. But here too outside the two capitals, non-Russian areas are doing much better than predominantly ethnic Russian ones. In 2018, the top six on this measure were in order Ingushetia, Daghestan, Moscow, KBR, KChR, and St. Petersburg.
Worst of all on this measure were Amur Oblast, Transbaikal Kray, the Jewish AO, Tyva, and Chukotka, four of which have ethnic Russian majorities.
Another “very important indicator” of demographic dynamics, Zubets says, is the number of children per woman per lifetime or the overall fertility rate. There all the top five subjects, Tyva, Chechnya, Altay Republic, Nenets AO and Buryatia, are non-Russian, while all but one of the bottom five, Voronezh, Tambov, Smolensk, and Leningrad Oblasts and Mordvinia are predominantly ethnic Russian.