Staunton, June 6 -- Ukraine experienced sharp demographic decline even before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion earlier this year: The Ukrainian population fell from 52 million in 1993 to just over 41 million by the start of 2022. And it likely this decline would have continued even if no war had occurred.
But Putin’s expanded invasion this year has not only killed thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians and led to the emigration of several million more, but it has suppressed the birthrate while increasing the death rate among those remaining and casting a shadow on the future by reducing the number of Ukrainians in the prime child-bearing cohort.
As a result, Ukrainian, Russian and other experts predict Ukraine will soon face a demographic collapse, with its population projected to fall as low as 30 million by the end of this decade, and perhaps 22 million by the end of this century. Worse still, some Ukrainian specialists do not see any way for the Ukrainian authorities to prevent this.
Such a freefall will severely limit Ukraine’s ability to recover from the devastation of Putin’s war, let alone raise an army to defend itself in the future. Ella Libanova, head of the Institute of Demography and Social Research at Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, has taken the lead in delivering such warnings (life.nv.ua/socium/voyna-v-ukraine-i-evakuaciya-zhiteley-sokratit-naselenie-do-30-mln-novosti-ukrainy-50247390.html).
According to Libanova, “the war has inflicted a crushing blow on Ukrainian demography. In addition to military losses, the total number of which is still unknown, no fewer than 4,000 civilians have died and approximately 5 million have fled abroad. Some of the last have already rooted themselves in other countries and will not return home.”
Together with pre-war trends such as falling fertility rates, an aging population, rising death rates and outmigration by young specialists, Putin’s war will leave Ukraine in an ever deeper “hole,” the Kyiv demographer says, out of which it is unlikely to be able to climb anytime in this century without massive outside assistance.
(This Window on Eurasia is an excerpted version of this author’s “Putin’s War Accelerating Ukraine’s Demographic Collapse, Experts Say,” which appeared, with additional information and citations, in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasian Daily Monitor (jamestown.org/program/putins-war-accelerating-ukraines-demographic-collapse-experts-say/).