Staunton, June 3 – According to the preliminary results of Russia’s latest census, the populations of Russia’s northernmost federal subjects have declined by more than ten percent and in some places by almost twice that share, far below the figures Moscow has been using for planning purposes and far below the number needed for Putin’s ambitious plans there.
A major reason why censuses are so important is that they correct the estimates that Russian officials make every year about the number of people who live in this or that region. Often to get more resources, regional officials boost their numbers; and often to show they are promoting Kremlin goals, Moscow agencies do as well.
But censuses despite their limitations help correct these figures and thus lead to shifts in the amount of money flowing to this or that region and to the evaluation of the possibilities that there are enough people in any particular place to support the goals that the center has outlined for the country as a whole.
The latest census shows the Russian North has had the largest population declines in the country (rg.ru/2022/05/30/rg-publikuet-predvaritelnye-itogi-vserossijskoj-perepisi-naseleniia.html and thebarentsobserver.com/ru/obshchestvennost/2022/06/rezultaty-perepisi-naseleniya-govoryat-ob-uskorenii-ottoka-naseleniya-s).
Murmansk, Arkhanelsk, Komi and Karelia have had the largest percentage declines in population in the Russian Federation as a whole with fall-offs of 16 percent, 17.5 percent, 18.1 percent and 17.2 percent respectively, largely the consequence of out-migration exceeding in-migration but also likely declines in birthrates as well.
Even the oil and gas-rich region of Yamalo-Nenets, has seen its population fall as have northern regions further to the east. If these figures stand up in the final adjusted accounting, Moscow will not have enough people in the North to carry out its current plans and will be forced either to spend more money or use coercion to get people to move north once again.