Staunton, July 30 – The demographic collapse of the Russian-occupied “republics” in Ukraine’s Donbass is obvious to the unaided eye, but precise data are hard to come by because of the movement of people and the absence of frequent census enumerations and because officials there regularly seek to present an upbeat picture of the situation, Yury Kovalchuk says.
In an article for the Rhythm of Eurasia portal, the analyst surveys what data are available, both from the October 2019 census and from statistical releases by the two governments since that time (ritmeurasia.org/news--2021-08-01--demografija-novorossii-skolko-ljudej-zhivet-v-l-dnr-i-chto-ozhidat-dalshe-55763).
Since 2014, the population of the two, Kovalchuk suggests, has declined by about 60 percent as people have moved out and as deaths have outnumbered births by a factor of three. But the number of people physically present on any one day means that the real population is actually lower.
On the one hand, some people living there go to Ukraine to collect their pensions; and on the other, others with homes in the DNR/LNR work in the Russian Federation, raising questions about how they should be counted.
Not surprisingly, while most official announcements are upbeat, some are apocalyptic. The DNR health minister, looking at the relationship of births and deaths alone, sees disaster ahead with the population of her republic disappearing entirely in 75 years if nothing is done to change things (vsednr.ru/demograficheskij-krizis-v-dnr-kak-ne-dopustit-vymiranie-naseleniya-video/).
But that prediction is faulty because the population is older than average and thus deaths are more likely than births and because it ignores the possibility that the economy of the region will recover once there is a settlement, the Rhythm of Eurasia commentator says.
The number of pensions in the DNR/LNR is staggering: there are 433,000 in the LNR and 670,000 in the DNR, large shares of the populations of the two. The number of births is a somewhat more useful figure, Kovalchuk continues, but even with it, there are problems in terms of what is registered and what is reality.
The demographic decline of the two places is “not too noticeable” in the major cities, but there are “many population points” which have lost all of their people and become ghost towns. That isn’t going to change anytime soon as no one can prevent the outflow of population and the deaths of the elderly.
The only positive feature of the regions’ demographic face concerns the “gradual returning flow of people from Ukraine.” No other figures provide cause for optimism; and”in the foreseeable future, the republics face an extremely sad situation, in which schools and kindergartens will have to be closed, and the number of residents in company towns and distant settlements will contract to a minimum.”