Staunton, April 22 – Demography, it is often said, is destiny only over the long term; but for Russia’s regions, it may matter more immediately because of the enormous difference between those federal subjects population and thus their clout in Moscow and those gaining it making greater demands on the center and sparking conflicts with their neighbors.
The Novosti news agency commissioned a report on demographic developments in Russia over the last three years. For the country as a whole, the report found, the natural decline in the indigenous population had not been compensated for by immigration, both because births declined and immigration slowed (ria.ru/20190422/1552915389.html).
But that overall picture concealed radical differences among the regions, differences that in many cases have had significant economic and even political consequences. The regions that lost the most population were those in Siberia, the Far East and central Russia, all predominantly ethnic Russian areas and all suffering relative decline in influence at the center..
The regions that gained the most, excluding Sevastopol in occupied Crimea which led the list, were Ingushetia which saw its population grow 5.2 percent and Chechnya which saw its increase by 4.5 percent. Such population growth goes a long way to explain the pressure on land behind the explosive issue of border changes.
The other regions with large percentage increases were either oil and gas centers or the megalopolises of St. Petersburg and Moscow, all of whom gained more population largely because of immigration rather than higher than average birthrates, although the two capitals were among the leaders of natural growth because their mortality rates were lower.
Fifty-nine regions saw the outflow of population exceed the inflow, including Daghestan in the North Caucasus which is suffering from both economic problems and rural overpopulation, Omsk and Orenburg in Siberia, the Komi Republic and Altay Kray.