Sunday, November 20, 2016

Russian Demographic Trends Working against Putin’s Militarism, Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – Western experts such as Edward Luttwack have suggested that declining family sizes in Western countries has pushed up the average age of the population and reduced the propensity of those states to go to war because parents have invested more in their smaller number of children and are not willing to sacrifice them in a war.

            Obviously, that is at best a long term trend and doesn’t mean that these societies or others undergoing declines in fertility rates and hence family sizes are going to change direction instantly or that the governments of these countries don’t have means of overcoming any such resistance.

            But given the dramatic decline in family sizes in many countries, this is certainly a trend worth watching as a potential obstacle to the militaristic agendas of national leaderships. Now, a Russian commentator, Ekaterina Schulmann, has applied this insight to Russia. For the long term, her words merit close attention.

            Speaking to the All-Russian Civic Forum in Moscow yesterday, she argued that “already today,” this demographic transformation is reducing interest in “militaristic and military subjects” featured on pro-regime media and increasing attention to family and other issues (

            In Russia today, she said, “there are relatively few young people” relative to the number of older people and especially older women.  The latter cohort is increasing and “is not very interested in military campaigns. It is more interested in health care, education, a comfortable social milieu, and the supply of services.”

            “It is no accident,” she continued, “that Russian propaganda in the end began to treat even the campaign in the Donbass from the position of humanitarian assistance to a suffering population, orphans and the like.  These themes turned out to be closer to people than the strictly military actions.”

            Schulmann added that “many major media scandals in recent months and years have been connected precisely with the theme of children, young people, education and instruction.”  That too, she argued, is “the result of the dominance in the audience of the older generation and primarily of older women.”

            And that means, she said, that “the aging population represents a problem for the social system” if the government is forced to “raise retirement age and reduce public suort for the elderly.  However,” Schulmann concluded, “the relatively small number of young people in the country reduces the change for the development of the situation along a force-based scenario.”

            If the life of every child is becoming more important for many Russian parents, “the current Russian powers that be have frequently demonstrated in the most varied situations that for them, human life, even the lives of Russian citizens is not a priority,” Sergey Davidis, another Russian commentator, says (

            Again and again, the Kremlin has provided “tragic examples” of its willingness to sacrifice people “to the prestige of the powerful state, its image and other abstractions.”  That is why, he argues, Russians increasingly are saying “no” to Putin’s wars and today are demonstrating against them in cities across Russia.

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