Thursday, June 6, 2024

Even Assimilating Non-Russians Won’t End Demographic Decline of Ethnic Russians, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 1 – Some Russians believe that if their nation were to assimilate all the non-Russians in their country that such a move by itself would end the demographic decline of ethnic Russians, but they are wrong because those they would be assimilating in most cases have demographic prognoses as bad or worse than the ethnic Russians do, Kharun Sidorov says.

            It is certainly true that forcing non-Russians to learn and use the Russian language will ease the Kremlin’s task of using them as canon fodder in its wars and for other tasks, the Prague-based specialist on nationality and religious issues suggests; but complete assimilation isn’t the panacea some believe.

            Sidorov’s comments come in the course of an article on the demographic decline of the Udmurts, a Finno-Ugric nation in the Middle Volga that is projected to lose ten percent of its population by 2045 as a result of lower birthrates than death rates, outmigration, and excessive deaths from poverty and military actions like in Ukraine (

            Assimilating the Udmurts into the Russian nation would not improve the demographic prospects of the ethnic Russians. Indeed, the dimensions of the factors pushing down the size of the Udmurt nation are so great that were they to become part of the Russian nation, they would push down the prospects of that people ever further than where they are now.

            Sidorov’s conclusions are based on a collection of new data offered by the Udmurt statistical agency concerning the population of that republic (

            In this article, the Prague-based expert does not speculate on what his conclusions could mean for Kremlin policy in the future. But there is one obvious possible: Putin may continue to push for expanded Russian language knowledge among the non-Russians at the cost of their knowledge of their native languages without taking the next step and insisting on assimilation.

            If so, that could give some non-Russians more opportunities to survive, albeit as Russian-speaking communities, than might otherwise be the case; and it could also please Russian nationalists who are increasingly exercised about the possibility that assimilation will dilute what they see as the essential Russianness of Russians. 

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