Staunton, October 19 – Russian government projections that the country’s total population will decline for a decade or more have sparked concerns, but data showing that the core national group, the ethnic Russians, are declining even faster than the population as a whole are alarming ever more Russians and their political leaders.
On the one hand, many fear that Russia as a result will be less “Russian” and more non-Russian and even Muslim in the future. And on the other, some are now focusing their anger on government policies that they say are exacerbating rather than limiting the problem whatever the Kremlin claims it is doing.
The Regions.Ru portal interviewed four members of the Duma about these trends and their causes. Their responses were remarkably pointed and suggest that, in part because of the pandemic and in part because of the declines, healthcare is becoming an ever more important sphere of political conflict (regions.ru/news/2628956/).
Aleksandr Sherin, an LDPR deputy who is first deputy chairman of the Duma’s defense committee, says that the government’s healthcare and pension reforms have failed because they are transferred the burdens the state should be bearing onto the shoulders of the population.
“In general,” he continues, “ethnic Russian territories are dying” as a result. Only in the Muslim North Caucasus do families have the three to six children the country as a whole needs. But in Russian areas to the north, the population is “dying out.”
This is a matter of national survival: “As soon as the ethnic Russians become less than 50 percent in Russia, the foundation of the state will begin to collapse, and when there is less cement to hold things together, the entire building will be destroyed.” The government needs to recognize this danger and make healthcare a national security priority.
Valery Rashkin, a KPRF member who is first deputy chairman of the Duma’s nationality affairs committee, says that the government is not only predicting population declines but actively promoting them by its policies. And to cover this criminal policy, he says, the Kremlin is trying to blame the coronavirus for what is a much larger set of causes.
Mikhail Yemelyanov, the Just Russia Party vice chairman of the Duma’s state construction committee, agrees. The coronavirus is only one of the reasons the population is declining; the fundamental causes are government mistakes in healthcare policy. Those must be addressed now because the coronavirus has made the situation worse.
And Valery Semenov, a United Russia deputy from Krasnoyarsk Kray on the Duma’s budget and finance committee, says that the pandemic has contributed to more losses than just deaths by infection. Hospitals are delaying critical operations for other diseases, and as a result, people who could be saved are dying as well.
The member of the ruling party says that he sees evidence that all these problems are being addressed but agrees that they are serious issues which must be given priority.