Russia’s Population Is Now Growing

The preliminary results of the 2010 Census are out, showing that the population has fallen to 142.9 million. This compares to 145.2 million counted in the previous 2002 Census.

Most headlines have emphasized the falling population aspect of “Putin’s decade”. But the more interesting stuff is in the derivatives. According to state statistics agency Rosstat, the population in 2010 should have been at 141.9 million (after a period of rapid decline until 2007; a small fall in 2008; and stagnation in 2009-10).

However, the Census results indicate that Rosstat may have placed the population 1.0 million people lower than reality, probably by underestimating immigration.

Furthermore, adding in the tendency towards increasing life expectancy and higher fertility rates previously covered on this blog, I can confidently predict that the 2020 Census will show a population bigger than this year’s. Perhaps 145-147 million, as predicted in both Rosstat’s and my own higher scenarios.

Back to the results of this Census. The male-female ratio dropped slightly, due to the aging of the Russian population and the increasing sex disparity in 40 year old cohorts and older.

Regionally, the Central Federal District (+1.6%, mainly by dint of Moscow) and the South Caucasus (+6.3%) registered a rise in the population. The greatest population declines were seen in the Volga (-4.0%), Siberia (-4.0%) and the Fast East (-6.0%).

That is not because there are fewer births or more deaths in the eastern parts of the country – to the contrary, it has a younger population with higher fertility rates – but because of internal migration to the west.


  1. Anatoly are you sure you mean 2002 and not 2010 or 2011?

  2. Anatoly,

    I suspect that Rosstat will allocate this extra 1 million to all 8 years between 2002 and 2010, the way they did in after the 2002 Census. For example, Moscow was supposed to have one year of population decline around 1994, I think, but after the Census correction that decline has disapeared.

    The largest outcome of the correction will be adjustment of rates of decline in early 2000s towards less dramatic figures, IMHO.

  3. I’m not sure how long the rebound will last. The small cohorts of the 90’s are now growing up which means the number of fertile women will decline. Meanwhile the large post-war cohorts will start dying off. I expect continued slow decline over the next ten years and the decline should accelerate quite a bit.

    • That is going to be the case if current fertility, LE, and immigration trends remain fixed in place. But in reality, LE will almost certainly rise, and I suspect that so will fertility and net immigration (if not as quickly).

      I’m well aware of the implications of the smaller cohort of the 1990’s-2000’s, but its full effect will only be felt in the 2030’s. If Russia’s population starts falling again, I’d argue it would be after 2020 at the least.

  4. I remember the 1989 Soviet Census very well because I was the only one in the apartment when the Census lady rang the bell – both of my parents were at work. It took something like an hour to answer all of her questions. Square footage (well, meters), number of rooms, how many appliances, what kind, ethnicity, parents’ occupations, does anyone know any foreign languages, and on and on and on. I don’t remember anymore if she asked about the pets, but she might have. And as far as I know, all of that Census’s info was gathered in person.

    In 2010 here in New York I simply got a little form in the mail. Race, gender, maybe age. Even without looking this up I know that most people didn’t mail back their forms. I only mailed back mine because I’m a nerd who likes statistics. Only a small percentage of homes get long forms or are visited by Census workers, so the government is probably getting a lot of its info from utility company records and the like. And absolutely everyone knows people who live somewhere where they pretend not to live. For example, in my co-op building it’s against the rules to rent out apartments, but lots of people rent them out anyway. New York’s rent control laws also give people incentives to keep quiet about who lives where. Plus there’s the issue of illegals.

    So when I read in the Wikipedia that the population of Moscow was 8,769,117 in 1989, I have a high degree of confidence that it actually was somewhere between 8.7 and 8.8 million. When I read that NYC’s population was 8.175 million in 2010, I just smile. It could be 10 million, it could even be 11. No one knows.

    I’m going to guess that the accuracy of this latest Russian Census was closer to that of the last US Census than to that of the last Soviet Census. Just the issue of illegals by itself would make that likely.

    Even less on-topic, but it’s fun: I once saw a documentary where they showed Nicholas II’s questionnaire from the 1897 Census of the Russian Empire. In response to a question about his occupation he wrote in “хозяин земли русской” (“the owner of the land of Russia”). It turns out that was a stock phrase, one of his official descriptions.

  5. What do you think about this article:

    It claims that wealthy Russians are emigrating from Russia with an escalating rate.

    • What do I think of it? For the first time since, like, forever, I’m encountering Russian “talented specialists” in the West who are thinking of going back at an “escalating rate”.

      Perhaps the article is right that the number of bureaucrat wanna-be emigrants increasing. Considering the reasons why a Russian bureaucrat would want to emigrate, then if so, good riddance.

  6. @Pete,

    if you go to 23rd paragraph of the article, you’d see the sample size: “Katz expects to serve about 20 to 30 clients this year. Aginsky estimates 16.” Some wave!

    Many rich individuals across the globe have several passports. Yes, 2012 is nearer, and anti-corruption drive has started to bite. I’m wondering whether the Bank of Moscow president, who has just fled to UK due to imminent legal troubles, was one of the observations in that sample.