Staunton, April 19 – There are two common errors Western observers made about the Soviet Union and now make about the post-Soviet space. Some of them treat that region as if it was far more homogeneous than it ever was, while others do make a distinction but only between Russia on the one hand and all the others, on the other.
In fact, the USSR was and the post-Soviet states are vastly more diverse. They now are o very different and increasingly diverse trajectories and ever less affected by the increasingly distant Soviet past. That can’t be said too often lest people in the West accept Vladimir Putiin’s neo-imperialism as justified by a commonality that doesn’t exist.
Thus, one can only welcome reports like the one Russian demographers Vladimir Kozlov and Konstantin Kazenin prepared on demographic divergence among the post-Soviet states for a recent international conference at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (iq.hse.ru/news/264222525.html).
They point out in particular that in these countries, “reproductive behavior is modernizing at varying speeds. In Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, the process is going faster” with an increase in the age of first childbirths rising into those aged over 30, while in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, women continue to give birth far earlier.
In the middle of the current decade, Kozlov and Kazenin say, women aged 15 to 24 in Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine contributed fewer children to the coefficient of summary fertility than did these same age groups only two decades earlier. In Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, there was no significant change.
In Kazakshtan, there was a slight decline in the share of firstborns from women under 24, but in Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan, the share produced by mothers aged 15 to 19 “even increased,” exactly the opposite of what has occurred in Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, the demographers say.
They argue that this pattern reflects the impact of Islam both as a matter of personal belief and as a social regulator, and they point to data from the North Caucasus republics in the Russian Federation as confirmation. There too younger women are still responsible for a large share of firstborns. Indeed, in Daghestan and Ingushetia, their share is even increasing.