Saturday, December 1, 2018

Without Immigration, Russia has No Prospects for Population Growth, Vishnevsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 1 – Unless it attracts and holds more immigrants, Russia in the coming decades has no prospects for population growth, a trend that will make it impossible to form new megalopolises or even guarantee the security of Russia east of the Urals, according to Anatoly Vishnevsky, the head of Institute of Demography at the Higher School of Economics.

            Indeed, he tells Pavel Gutiontov of Novaya gazeta that the country’s demographic problems are rapidly becoming national security ones, especially since its relatively small population compared to its territory is so concentrated in and around Moscow (

            The Central Federal District, he points out, occupies less than four percent of Russia’s territory but has more than a quarter of its total population, and half of those are in Moscow and Moscow oblast alone. East of the Urals, there are ever fewer people; and the prospects are that their numbers will continue to decline, Vishnevsky says.

            Russia has not been able to boost birthrates significantly. It is subject to worldwide trends that it in no way can become an exception to, the demographer suggests.  Official claims to the contrary are at best overstated; at worst, a form of self-deception that does not one any credit or favors.

            With respect to mortality, Russia’s situation is “much worse,” Vishnevsky continues.  Unlike the rest of the developed world, Russia has not passed through the second epidemiological revolution in which infectious diseases ceased to be a major cause of death. As a result, Russians are still dying from diseases others no longer do.

            In the last few years, life expectancy has risen in Russia, but it is still far behind that of Western countries, and the difference in life expectancy between men and women remains “enormous.”  Still worse, the figures for the country as a whole hide the enormous differences among the regions.

                “In Moscow and St. Petersburg, the situation with mortality is significantly better than ‘in the rest of the country,’” he says.   When people talk about “the rest” in demographic terms, they often focus on “exotic places” like Tuva. “But on the whole, many average Russian gubernias are not in a very good condition. The gap with Moscow is enormous.”

            And the situation almost certainly is worse than official statistics suggest, Vishnevsky says, because those figures are “not very reliable.”  They are a form of “deception. But whom are we deceiving? Only ourselves.”

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