Staunton, July 25 – “Security is the religion of the new century,” Yekaterina Schulmann says, “something that will likely protect the world from mass wars but only at the cost of adding to the power of “the priests of this cult … who will restrict our freedoms under the pretext of protecting us from threats and challenges.”
The Moscow commentator offers this conclusion in an essay she prepared for a new book the Friedrich Ebert Foundation has issued in Moscow (Rossiya-2050 (NLO, 2021) in which she and others offer predictions on where Russia will be heading over the next three decades (meduza.io/feature/2021/07/25/bezopasnost-religiya-novogo-veka).
Schulmann offers reflections on demographic developments and the likelihood that Russia will remain in its current borders and suggests that predictions that China will somehow seize Siberia and the Far East are almost certainly overstated both because of developments in Russia and because of others in China itself.
Russia has passed through the second demographic transition, she says, with people marrying later and having fewer children. Increasingly, Russians live in major cities and there is no reason to think that these trends will change, although perhaps in 15 to 20 years, some Russians will take advantage of new technological possibilities and move out of urban areas.
These trends mean that the Russian population will decline even as the numbers living in the major cities increase, Schulmann says. Moscow and St. Petersburg will continue to grow, with the Russian capital likely having 30 million residents by mid-century, a further concentration of the Russian population away from rural regions.
Women and older segments of the population are likely to grow in importance too, she says. And thus in 2050, Russians will live in an aging but not disappearing Russia, one likely tied together far more closely by transportation and communication networks than those now in place.
Schulmann says those who think that the North Caucasus represents an alternative model of demographic change are wrong. Its peoples too are going through the second demographic revolution, albeit later and more slowly than Russians. But this has consequences too for the political future of the country.
In Russian areas, religion is increasingly the realm of those over 55 while in the North Caucasus it is dominated by the young who were not subjected to Soviet atheism, the Moscow analyst says. Because that is so, some predict a clash between an irreligious Russia and an Islamist North Caucasus, but there are good reasons why that is unlikely.
Not only are North Caucasians changing demographically, but they would lose their chief investor, Moscow, if they challenged the center fundamentally. The Middle Volga is far more likely to do that, but the idea of a war between the north and south in the Russian Federation is almost certainly farfetched.
Schulmann addresses two other issues: Chinese interest in Russian territory east of the Urals and the need for migrants to prevent the population from declining. With regard to the first, she says, China is undergoing its own demographic transition and at the same time can get what it wants from Siberia and the Russian Far East without the burdens of occupation.
And with regard to the second, the shift to a post-modern service economy means that the needs for a large population and immigration to support it are likely to decline over the coming decades, even if the current Russian government is still focused on industrial rather than post-industrial development.
These trends lead her to conclude that security will become even more than today the religion of the population and that rulers, serving as the priests of this “cult,” she says, will use such a faith to justify taking more rights away from the population and acquiring more power for themselves in the coming years.