Staunton, June 14 – Excess deaths over births has been pushing down the population of Russia as a whole since the start of the pandemic, but this trend is far greater in many regions where this natural decline is exacerbated by significant and in some cases even growing out-migration of the population.
The figures are truly frightening for some federal subjects. In Tatarstan, the population decline in 2020 was 72 times larger than the decline a year earlier, new Rosstat data show. And even in the North Caucasus which traditionally shows growth, there were declines last year (rbc.ru/society/14/06/2021/60c5581a9a79474996bad2d5 and sibreal.org/a/31306402.html).
In North Ossetia, growth in 2019 was replaced by a decline in 2020. In Stavropol Kray and most of the republics, the declines simply accelerated by as much as six times over the year before. This pattern held in most of the country, although there were exceptions, where growth continued, albeit at a lower level (Tyumen and Karachayevo-Cherkessia).
Many regional governments hope that the declines they now face will be minimized as a result of distance work and the Internet, both of which make it possible for Russians to remain where they have been living rather than moving to major cities and thus depopulating the countryside (profile.ru/society/udalenka-i-cifrovizaciya-chto-ostanovilo-rost-vnutrennej-migracii-v-rossii-878361/).
But it is unclear whether digitalization will continue at the same rate if and when the pandemic eases or whether instead Russians will continue to flee to the megalopolises and especially Moscow for better jobs and higher salaries. For the next few years, distance work may slow the decline of the regions; but it shows little sign of reversing their decline.
That is especially likely in places where the current outflow of younger professionals leaves little chance for economic development. Instead, the declines in the regions seen now are likely to become reinforcing with each new wave of decline triggering an even larger one in the future.