Thursday, December 26, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Chechen Birthrate Five Times Chechen Death Rate in 2013

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – Chechnya now has a population greater than it did before the two pro-Soviet wars, a reflection of a birthrate that is five times higher than the death rate there, and one likely to grow even more in the future because the median age is now 24 which means that a significant percentage of women are in the prime child-bearing age cohort.

            This trend represents a challenge to the Russian Federation as a whole where in most of the country births only slightly outnumber deaths -- or even are outnumbered by them -- because it means that Chechnya, even if birthrates fall over the next generation as they are likely to, will form an ever larger share of the Russian population and of immigrant workers in Russian cities.

            But even more it represents a challenge to Chechnya itself, overhelming its capacity to provide the new jobs its people need, generating turmoil when such positions are not available, and prompting many young Chechens to flee the republic or respond positively to the calls of radical leaders and go into the forest to fight the pro-Moscow regime.

            These striking figures if not these even more striking consequences are provided by Chechnya’s state statistical agency as reported and commented upon by Alikhan Dinayev this week (

            Other statistics about Chechnya that Dinayev provides point to the demographic train wreck that is beginning to happen in that North Caucasus republic.  Chechnya’s leading economic sector before the wars was oil, but production in that sector has fallen from 2.5 million tons a year in 1990 to only 0.5 million tons this year.

            Given this decline, Dinayev says, “ten years from now, one can forget” oil as a source of income and jobs.

            There are sectors where the economy has grown.  Food and food-processing have expanded by 200 to 300 percent with sausage production up 650 percent and macaroni output up 83500 percent. As a result, Chechnya is self-sufficient in food products that it earlier had to import.

            Chechens are taking out more loans to buy property, with mortgage debt going up by a factor of four during the first half of 2013 but still forming only 325 million rubles (10.5 million US dollars).  That figure, as small as it is, is nonetheless larger than in any other region in the area, the Chechens say.

            Moreover, the statistics agency continues, tax collections are going up: regional and local collections rose 167 percent in the past year, and property taxes were up “more than four time.”  As a result, a number of districts were able to form a budget without subventions from the central government in Grozny.

            But despite these positive developments, there are several others certain to worry both Grozny and Moscow.  Salaries are very low: Chechnya ranks 80th out of the 83 federal subjects as far as the incomes of doctors and other medical personnel are concerned. That may overstate the problem given that many are paid “on the side” by patients, but it is still a problem.

            And what is true in that sector is true in many others: salaries are lower than elsewhere driving many young Chechens to flee either to Russian cities and Western Europe in the search for jobs or to go into the mountains and join militant groups to fight the regime.  Given the demographic situation, both flows are likely to intensify in the coming months and years.

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