Was Russia In A Demographic Apocalypse In The First Place?

And just as the Guardianistas and K.F. & Co. bury their heads ever deeper in the sand, real world statistics show confirm my thesis from the beginning of this year that Russia’s demographic crisis has for all intents and purposes come to an end. As of May there was a y-y increase of 17% (!) in births, a 2% increase in deaths, and virtually zero natural decrease; accounting for the entire Jan-May period, there was a 7.6% increase in births, a 2.2% decline in deaths (including an 18% decline in deaths from alcohol poisoning), and an overall population decrease of -57,000. However since natural decrease is typically biggest in Jan-May (see graphs here) the rest of the year may well see continuous natural population growth; it is also not beyond the realm of possibility that overall natural population growth, i.e. before accounting for immigration, will be positive in 2012.

Still instead of the usual dry demographic update post I want to do something different here and delve into comparative and historical issues. For instance, now that we can pretty confidently say it has ended, how ultimately “bad” were Russia’s two lost decades?

The Russian population peaked at 148.5mn in 1992. After that it declined at an increasing rate, especially after 1998 when the supply of ethnic Russian emigrants coming back from the Near Abroad dried up; then, in the mid-2000’s, it began to slow as core demographic indicators improved, and Russia started getting substantial numbers of Gastarbeiter. In retrospect stabilization was achieved in 2008, and since then Russia’s population rose for 142.9mn in 2010 to 143.0 in 2011 and 143.1/143.2mn this year. Peak to nadir this was a decline of less than 4% (or in chronological terms, 1985), with recovery already in motion. How does this compare with other transition countries?

The Baltics. Estonia peaked at 1.57mn in 1990 and stabilized at 1.34mn in the late 2000’s according to estimates (decline of 15% and reversal to 1969); however, the 2011 Census showed that the actual Estonian population was 1.29mn (-18%; 1965). Nor was this just the effect of Russian “occupiers” leaving; native Estonians declined to 890,000 versus 963,000 in 1989 (-8%), or 970,000 in 1922 (in other words, the ethnic Estonian population hasn’t grown in a century).

The statistics for the other Baltic states are worse. Latvia declined from 2.67mn in 1989 to 2.07mn according to the 2011 census (-23%; 1958). Again just to show that this isn’t an artifact of occupiers finally leaving the numbers of ethnic Latvians fell to 1.28mn from 1.39mn (-8%), and the current ethnic Latvian population is lower than it was in 1925. However what’s worse is following the global financial crisis Latvia’s demographic situation has become the worst in Europe.

In Lithuania the population fell from a peak of 3.70mn in 1989 to an estimated 3.2mn; however, this estimate was as in Latvia’s and Estonia’s case proved to be far too optimistic by the 2011 Census, which showed a preliminary result of 3.05mn (-18%; 1967).

Ukraine. Declined from a peak of 52.7mn in 1993 to 45.8mn in 2011 (though the Census, which was postponed to 2013, might show a different figure especially if emigration was underestimated as is quite possible). This translates into a decline of 13%, or a reversal to the population level of 1967. While it has shown promising signs of recovery in the late 2000’s its natural decrease of -162,000 in 2011 is higher than Russia’s -131,000 even though Ukraine’s population is three times smaller.

Belarus. Declined from a peak of 10.24mn in 1993 to 9.47mn in 2011 (-8%; 1977). Not bad all things considered. It could have been Ukraine.

Poland. The Polish population peaked around 38.7mn in the late 1990’s (it did not undergo a Soviet-style mortality shock because it is a very alcoholized nation) and since declined to 38.1mn in the late 2000’s before recovering slightly to 38.2mn by 2011 (presumably because of many emigrants coming back). As such the Polish population today is virtually unchanged from 38.1mn in 1990. Nonetheless these results are not based on Censuses and as well saw with the Baltics domestic statistics agencies may well have underestimated Polish emigration post-Schengen. Furthermore with a TFR that is steadily at around 1.3 for over a decade an acceleration in population decline would appear likely.

Hungary. Declined from a peak of 10.7mn in 1980 to 10.4mn in 1990, 10.2mn in the 2011 Census, and an estimated 10.0mn today (maybe lower; we’ll know with the next Census). This is a decline of 4% since 1990, or 7% since 1980. It’s population was last at this level in 1961. Its TFR is currently at a “lowest low” level of 1.24, so for all of Orban’s exhortations, a quick reversal of this trend – evidence for over thirty years now – doesn’t seem probably.

Bulgaria. Declined from 8.98mn in 1988 to just 7.64mn according to the 2011 Census (unlike most countries in this sample, the Census results showed a slightly higher result than predicted). This decline of 15% translates into population levels last seen in 1957. (Counting only ethnic Bulgars you have to go before WW2 to get the same population as now). Fortunately, like Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (but unlike Poland, Latvia, Romania, and Hungary) the TFR has been recovering in recent years breaking 1.5 in 2009.

Romania. Declined from 23.2mn in 1990 to an estimated by 21.4mn by 2010, this however was far too pessimistic as the 2011 Census showed the actual population to be 19.0mn presumably due to mass emigration post-Schengen. This is a decline of 19% to levels last seen in 1965.

Czechoslovakia. As the richest and most successful of the transition economies, the Czech population has actually risen; it stagnated from 10.30mn in 1991 to 10.2mn in the early 2000’s, however since then it rose to 10.56mn presumably as a result of migration, an overall rise of 2.5% since socialism. Slovakia’s population from 5.27mn in 1991 to approximately 5.44mn by 2011, a rise of about 3%.

Below is a quick and dirty summary:

Peak pop (yr) Pop now Decline (yr) TFR (latest)
Czechia 10.3 (91) 1991 10.56 3% n/a 1.42
Slovakia 5.27 (91) 1991 5.44 3% ? n/a 1.4
Poland 38.7 1998 38.2 -1% ? 1991 1.31
Russia 148.5 1992 143 -4% 1985 1.61
Hungary 10.7 1980 10 -7% 1961 1.24
Belarus 10.24 1993 9.47 -8% 1977 1.5
Ukraine 52.7 1993 45.8 -13% ? 1967 1.46
Bulgaria 8.98 1988 7.364 -18% 1953 1.51
Estonia 1.57 1990 1.29 -18% 1965 1.52
Lithuania 3.7 1989 3.05 -18% 1967 1.55
Romania 23.2 1990 19 -19% 1965 1.3
Latvia 2.67 1989 2.07 -23% 1958 1.14

(?’s next to some of the declines above indicate that the change from peak is calculated from estimates based on the results of Censuses that have been conducted a decade ago and as such may not be accurate, especially in the cases of countries such as Poland which saw a lot of emigration post-Schengen.)

Taking a fairly comprehensive survey of transition countries, we notice that Russia had the fourth smallest decline relative to its peak at less than 4%; only Poland, with a decline of 1% (albeit may rise as its been almost a decade since the last Census; the decade in which they entered Schengen), and the Czech Republic and Slovakia which showed overall population growth since 1991, beat it. What’s more Russia’s current TFR is actually higher than that of all the other countries in the survey and on current trends will rise to 1.70-1.75 this year accentuating the gap even further.

How is it still feasible to talk of “drastic decline“? How is it still feasible to pretend that its demographics are a complete mess? It is not, of course. Not when the trends and figures most indicative of demographic potential are now better than almost all of East-Central Europe, as well as Germany, Japan, and the Mediterranean states.


  1. Another interesting post, Anatoly, and thanks for it. I’m a sucker for a good historical/comparative demographic analysis! I certainly agree that things are getting better in terms of demographics, but I don’t feel that the evidence and analysis actually support the question you pose: “how ultimately ‘bad’ were Russia’s two lost decades?” (To my mind, pretty bad: comparable to losing a major war, or enduring some sort of Spanish Flu pandemic.) But the analysis here essentially says: “other countries can claim to be worse, at least on a percentage basis.” That’s fine–I don’t dispute the numbers, but they don’t quite get the leverage on the question as posed… especially when using only percentages. Percentages are helpful in establishing a common baseline between populous and smaller countries, but they mask the magnitude of the loss when not accompanied by absolute figures, which (granted) are higher for Russia due to the much larger population, but are still pretty staggering. As you know, you’re talking about the loss of millions of people. Heck, they even tried impeaching Yeltsin on charges of genocide. (Part of the political theater to be sure, but still pretty bad.)

    But what’s even more interesting is to go back and look at population projections for the RSFSR before the collapse of communism. If you assume the rate of population growth, both Soviet and Western experts projected Russia to be in the 168-182mil range by 2050… which works-out to about 155-165mil in 2012. You’re assuming that the baseline scenario is zero population growth over time–but the baseline was actually a steadily-growing population. So saying that there are 5mil fewer Russians today than in 1992 is true–but also consider that there are some 12-22mil fewer Russian today than there SHOULD BE. So, I respectfully suggest that this is a valid consideration for the question being posed about the true impact of the “lost decades” actually are.

    • Criticism partially accepted. This however raises another issue – to what extent is the plus sign or negative sign actually important?

      I would argue that, say, over two decades, either +5% or -5% isn’t probably THAT cardinal. Surely -15% however is a lot worse than -5%, than -5% is worse than +5%, even though the gap is the same, and the + sign just “feels” better. Not sure where I’m going here so let’s move on.

      A valid point however about difference from trend being at least as if not more important than difference from maximum. (Same with economics and calculating precisely when “lost” output is finally restored after a recession). That said given the vast scope of the changes, and the universality of the demographic collapse across the transition countries, I am not sure that this is the right approach to take here. At least in terms of economics, Russia recovering the peak physical output levels of the RSFSR by around 2006/7 is all but irrelevant given the structural transformation of the economy. Surely this would also apply to demographics. After all, in 1989 it was demographic trends in the USSR that were of infinitely greater relevance than in the RSFSR per se, whereas today the demographic picture for the ex-USSR as almost as irrelevant as that for “Europe” or “Asia”.

      I also daresay that such an approach e.g. comparing it to major wars can lead to uncomfortable and questionable conclusions and tangles. For instance a little known but fascinating fact is that the percentage of young men in Germany peaked during the early 20’s, WW1 regardless; the Iranian population continued growing throughout the 1980’s at a fast clip regardless of its war with Iraq. Whereas in say modern Germany where the population has been on a plateau since the mid-1990’s (or in a looser interpretation even 1973); no wars, in fact lots of prosperity and reunification, but had Germany’s TFR remained at 2.5 (as in the 60’s) as opposed to falling below 1.5 its population today would be pushing 100mn. So does that mean then that Germany “lost” those 15mn non-borns?

      It’s an interesting philosophical topic I’ll grant you and there are no clear indicators when to stop the what-ifing. I will cautiously venture to say that it IS valid to take the peak LE during Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign (70.0 years, 1988), project it forwards (70.3 years, 2011), and calculate the “excess mortality” that occurred in the 1990’s/2000’s due to the end of the alcohol monopoly and the lack of sober (LOL) social policies on alcohol consumption and tobacco. Zhuravlev calculated this excess mortality at 6.2mn. I find it rather distasteful however to compare it to wars or plagues or collectivization. For the most part, these excess deaths were quite simply a function of middle-aged men consciously deciding to binge more on vodka. Many of these excess deaths could have no doubt been averted had Yeltsin and early Putin spent more attention on interventions such as bans on ads and propaganda against bingeing that are ultimately relatively low-cost and could have been afforded even on a depressed economy. But its not like a war or even a plague where you have little to no control over your fate. For a start, in the post-Soviet period the LE for university-educated men (i.e. the more intelligent ones, who don’t tend to binge much) actually improved.

      That’s all for now. Thanks for the thought-provoking comment.

      • This is great, Anatoly–we agree on so many things! And thanks for the link to the Zhuravlev piece–I hadn’t seen that before.

        So, inferring from your comments here and elsewhere: do you see alcohol as the primary driver of the increases in mortality during the post-communist transition? I certainly do: not just the quantity, but the type of alcohol (distilled vs. fermented) and the manner in which it is consumed… binging, as you mention. To my mind, this accounts for a great deal of the variation in the demographics of transition. Charting the decline in (say) life expectancy for each of these countries reveals some interesting patterns: the most dramatic drops were not necessarily in the most economically-ravaged (and even war-torn) post-communist countries, but those that drink the most in distilled spirits like vodka: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, etc. The primarily beer-and-wine-swilling countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc. all charted a modest drop in life expectancy for (usually) 1-2 consecutive years before continuing their upward rise. I know you’re no big fan of the wine-drinking Georgians, but even while their economy went in the toilet during the 1990s, their life-expectancy figures never went down. (Ironically, this is also true of the US throughout the Great Depression.)

        I think your point about modern Germany probably best exemplifies what slight differences we have on some of these issues: I think it is most appropriate to consider the lost potential population in instances where the loss resulted from some sort of involuntary, external trauma (war, famine, etc.), rather than the more-or-less “natural” development of the population–which I hear echoes of in your comment about Russian “middle-aged men consciously deciding to binge more on vodka.” That’s what makes this topic so fascinating to me is that Russia’s (and many transitioning countries’) patterns have all the hallmarks of some externally-produced social trauma, while much of it appears more self-inflicted. So, back to Germany: I think if you’re considering the “true” costs of, say, WWII on Germany, it’d be appropriate to consider not just the 6-7mil of Germans who perished in the war, but also what that population would have been had there been no war. I don’t think it is quite the same when considering the more “natural” reduction in the birth rates that is more akin to the ol’ standard Demographic Transition Model, which doesn’t consider the impacts of external traumas.

        Anyway… keep up the good work, and I do like the new blog background, by the way.

    • leon lentz says:

      to mls13: “12-22mil fewer Russian today than there SHOULD BE. ”
      It is like saying we have 10% less cancer than there should be. The ideal accepted by the international demographic community is zero population growth. This is what “should be” and Russia is right at that ideal. The problem is in nuances like growing in the Caucasus and declining in NW Russia. This has to be changed, not the total figures. Caucasus is the major source of crime, unemployment, low education and Muslim extremism. I don’t think the runaway growth there is desirable and this is what is happening. The death rate/ birth rate figures in West European Russia are abysmal.

  2. I’m pretty sure you’re aware of this but Ukraine’s demographic situation is so different depending on region that it almost doesn’t make sense to speak of its average (an anaology: if a medication is 100% effective for males but 0% effective for females, does it make sense to summarize it as the medication being 50% effective?). Wikipedia actually has a good summary and many nice graphs:


    • I am aware of this but there is only so much detail one can delve into. After all Russia’s regional demography is very different to: Thriving in the North Caucasus, treading water in Siberia and the Urals, and still naturally decreasing pretty fast in the metropolitan areas, esp. places like Pskov, Tver, Novgorod, etc.

      • Some of these differences within Ukraine can give us a clue about the impact of Sovietization or Stalinism on people. There was no “Island of Crimea” – a Russian area that escaped Sovitization for awhile to make a comparison. But the Ukrainian version exists. It is interesting to consider the old Tsarist Guberniya of Volhynia:


        By the Treaty of Riga it was split between Poland and the USSR: the modern oblasts of Volynia and Rivna were part of Poland while Zhytomir was part of the USSR. The population in the Polish and Soviet regions was essentially the same (Orthodox Ukrainian peasants, low level of literacy, with Jewish townfolk and a small Polish upper class). Prior to 1921 this entire region was part of the Russian Empire as long as half of Ukraine had been, up to Kiev. Look at the demographic differenceds now, however:


        Rivenska Oblast has a positive natural growth rate of 1.8/1000. Right across the border, Zhytomir has a negative natural growth rate of 5.3/1000. Rivne’s birthrate in 2012 is 15 (higher than that of any European country other than Ireland), Zhytomir’s is 11.7. In all of history, the only difference between these two regions was that one spent the 1920’s and 1930’s as part of Poland, the other as part of the USSR.

        • There’s one more difference between the two regions you mention: Zhytomir is more urbanized (58% lives in cities) than Rivne (from one third to 48% lives in cities, according to different sources). Rural populations have higher fertility everywhere.

          Similarly, Rivne region’s population seems to be much younger that in Zhytomir region – mortality was 12.3 per 1000 versus 16.0 (in 2011). Clearly, younger population have more kids. To really see if there’s a difference, one would need to compare TFR of urban and rural population in the two places, and only then say anything meaningful.

          BTW, Wikipedia claims that Ostroh (in Rivne region) has birth rate below 10. Might be that urban places there aren’t doing as great as the rest of the region.

          • Thank you. However, assuming wikipedia is accurate here, there is a dramatic difference in natural growth between the two oblasts even among the rural population. The cutoff is quite visible here, at the old 1921 border:


            For a comparison, natural growth rates among the urban populations, which show a similar cutoff at that border:


            (better numbers for urban population suggests that young fertile people are leaving the villages for the towns)

            Rokytne Raion, which sits right at the border with Zhytomir oblast, has the highest birth rate in Europe, with 24/1,000.

            The youthfulness of the oblasts’ populations is an interesting observation…I wonder why such a dramatic differences across that old border. Perhaps because Zhytomir is closer to Kiev it is easier and more convenient for its youth to get there so they leave? Or a baby-bust echo of an echo from the 1930’s famine? Or maybe a cultural difference, given the less extensive impact of Stalin’s rule in that region, which missed the brutal 30’s, which may indicate more chilren over several generations? If it’s the latter, this suggests that the Soviet rule has cost Russia, too, not only economically as AK has pointed out in another post but also demographically.

  3. Excellent post about demographics. To the Czech Republic I would like to add that current Czech population is on the level of 1928, because of about 3-3.5 millions of Germans expulsed after WWII and other victims of WWII.

    • That is something I noticed when looking through the stats, however I think this is one of those cases where such a comparison wouldn’t really be relevant. 🙂

  4. I am no demographer, but I do not need to be to tell you that between 1990 and 2030, or between 1990 and now, or between now and 2030, Russia was/is/will be a country of drastic population decline. All I have to do is to look at any given scientific study on Russia’s demographics.

    In 2011, according to Rosstat, Russian population grew 0.15%. That is one seventh of a percent. However, unlike in EU, there was no natural population growth. Current miniscule immigration driven population growth in Russia is not sustainable in the next two decades (possibly not even few years) without huge, speedy and unprecedented increase in the birthrate (which today is still way below replacement level) because the number of potential mothers (females born in the 90s) will half within the next few years. There is also need for a massive improvement in death rate which is still disastrously high, way above EU’s figure. One possibility to sustain population growth would be Völkerwanderung-like immigration. But if it was to happen, would you be Da Russophile any longer?

    So Russia’s demographical problems are not limited only to numbers per se. There are massive disparities in population growth between regions of Russia. Even more so if you take into account the Central-Asian former Soviet rebuplics, the main if not the only source of immigration to Russia. Internal migration is also hollowing out many regions. Now couple this with vast with economic disparities and cultural differences between regions. What do you get?

    I can understand why many Russophiles want to and need to make huge fuss over tiny and partially temporary improvements in disastrous demographic records. And reporting these changes in monthly basis while at the same time complitely ignoring the bigger picture. On the individual level, for example, improving health is of course fantastic, but from the Putinophilic point of view is improving demographics even desirable? Putinist Russia doesn’t really need people because natural resource extraction is not labour-intesive activity. Now think of Russia with the current GDP but just half the population. Russia could be almost as wealhty as Slovenia!

    • Current miniscule immigration driven population growth in Russia is not sustainable in the next two decades (possibly not even few years) without huge, speedy and unprecedented increase in the birthrate (which today is still way below replacement level) because the number of potential mothers (females born in the 90s) will half within the next few years.

      Wrong. It will be reduced by 40%, and will only reach its maximum effect in the late 2020’s (well, early 30’s, accounting for increasing average age at childbirth). While this will put downward pressure on BR’s, it is also reasonable to expect a concurrent fall in DR’s as Russia brings its alcohol epidemic under control (as is already happening).

      Internal migration is also hollowing out many regions.

      And Americans have long been leaving the Plains for CA and the NE. In the UK, Scots and northerners for the south. Jiangsu and Hunan for Zhejiang and Guangdong. This is different from almost all other countries how?

      One possibility to sustain population growth would be Völkerwanderung-like immigration.

      If the TFR remains at 1.75 (i.e. more or less what it will be for 2012); very modest assumptions on mortality improvement (LE hitting 72 years in 2020, even though on current trends 75 looks likelier); and 300,000 annual migrants (approximately what it is now), then the population will rise to 148mn in 2025 and 156mn in 2050.

      I have done models on this and put up their source code online. You? As you so yourself so succinctly and eloquently put it, “I am no demographer.” I suspect the full extent of your demographic work consists of leafing through some demographic reports (probably reports from a few years back, and themselves based on data from yet more years back), cherry-picking and memorizing the gist of the Low scenarios, and parading them non-stop through the interwebs as part of your weird Russia-bashing obsession that in your own atypically wise words is “indicative of a need to get a life.”

      PS. Regarding Europe

      • I could refer to the 2009 UNDP report but that being ancient history and considering the very recent huge leaps in the science of demography I shall refer to Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung’s “The Waning World Power, The demographic future of Russia and the other Soviet successor states” from 2011, which I am sure you are aware of. Forecasts on Russian regions till 2030 presented there are based on Rosstat figures. I know, empirical data always is subject of interpretation, and maybe it is just me, but somehow “Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung” sounds more credible than “Da Russophile”.

        Anyway, fixating on unreliable long-term population size forecasts based on short-term trends is purely propaganda. Focus should be on identifying the changes in population structure that we know are happening or must happen. In the end the quality of life is not determined by population size or it’s growth rate but by how well government policies deliver on the living standard expectations of population. Therefore I have much much more hope, in demographics and in general, in democratic Europe than Putinist Russia.

        “This is different from almost all other countries how?”

        Geographical size. Population density. Ethnic and cultural differences. Increase in costs per capita for maintaining depopulating areas populated.

        P.S. You could increase your credibility by fixing broken image links on one of the pages you linked.

        P.S.S. As for the “mutually respectful debate”, here we go again…

        • This is more for the benefit of readers than K.F. himself, who I do not really want to engage because he is a deeply dishonest person who cries platitudes about me not upholding “mutually respectful debate” while himself adopting an unremittingly hostile tone from the very beginning (“But if it was to happen, would you be Da Russophile any longer?”, “I can understand why many Russophiles want to…”, etc).

          The actual Rosstat projections, for interested readers, can be accessed here. Medium scenario: 140.9mn in 2025; High scenario: 146.7mn. I did not bother including the Low scenario because it assumes fertility and LE trajectories that have already become obsolete. For that matter, current developments are tracking and even exceeding the High scenario; now bearing in mind also that Rosstat’s projections are based off a population of 142mn in 2011 (when in actuality the Census put it at 143mn), a population of 148mn by 2025 is entirely feasible.

          Incidentally, the specific projection in that German study K.F. keeps parroting everywhere (seriously Keif, have you had a single original, interesting thought or argument in your life?) and slavering over which has the population declining by 15mn to 2030 is in fact identical to Rosstat’s aforementioned Low scenario which is based on the idea that improvements in LE will be negligible (reaches 70.0 years in 2031, whereas it was ALREADY 70.3 in 2011) and TFR will actually decline (to below 1.3 by 2017, when in fact it has only increased and will be around 1.7-1.75 in 2012).

          “Anyway, fixating on unreliable long-term population size forecasts based on short-term trends is purely propaganda.” – But wait K.F. You already had me thinking I was “reading tea leaves”, not that other thing. Which is it??

          “Therefore I have much much more hope, in demographics and in general, in democratic Europe than Putinist Russia.” – This is his idea of what demographic projection involves LOL. He HOPES.

          “Geographical size. Population density. Ethnic and cultural differences. Increase in costs per capita for maintaining depopulating areas populated.” – Finally he resorts to throwing around random shit in the hope that he will come off learned and profound. Whereas in fact telling us absolutely nothing and completely failing to address my initial rebuttal of how this makes Russia unique.

          PS. Yes, I’m aware that some of my image files from older posts are broken. This has been the case since I moved the blog from S/O to DR. It will be fixed sometime.

          PSS. This is also my last reply to K.F. on this post as he does not comment in good faith (as repeatedly demonstrated here).

          • Ban K.F. but tell him he’s free to rant about you in the comments section at my blog. Win-win!

          • “while himself adopting an unremittingly hostile tone from the very beginning”

            This coming from a person who mentions me in a negative context in the very first sentence of his posting 🙂

            “The actual Rosstat projections, for interested readers, can be accessed here.”

            Who do you think you are fooling? Two out of three projections estimate continuing population loss and even the most optimistic one projects increasing negative natural growth for every single year compensated only by massive immigration of average half a million per year. Also medium projection requires immigration of hundreds of thousands per annum.

            “parroting everywhere ”

            Parroting that German study does not make it invalid or obsolete.

            “seriously Keif, have you had a single original, interesting thought or argument in your life?”

            I a wrong person to answer that objectively, especially if I was Keif. But I don’t need an original thought when I have that annoying scientific German study to parrot.

            “Which is it??”

            Sorry, didn’t quite get your point here, but reading tea leaves to produce propaganda is not far from what you do.


            Ok. However, I still have hope that demographic projections that influence policy making, like that widely referenced German study I keep parroting, go through a rigorous review of scientific experts and not just a peer review by like-minded laymen.

            “random shit”

            This is not difficult to grasp: what ever infrastructure or service we are considering lower population densities invariably imply longer networks for fewer consumers and higher per capita investment, operation and maintenance costs. Therefore 25% population decline in Scotland in less costly than 25% decline in Russian Far East.

            “This is also my last reply to K.F on this post”

            Of course it is.

          • leon lentz says:

            I want to comment to Rosstat predictions. A cursory look at them shows they are made by incompetent people. First of all, the immigration levels are unrealistically high but the natural decrease/increase levels are too pessimistic. Nobody can expect a sustained 500-700k immigration which is also highly undesirable and would create tensions within Russian society, neither would one expect a constant and drastic natural decline either. The immigration is primarily due to working age people which would improve the statistics for childbearing ages and increase the birth rate. Another point here is that the deathrate in Russia, projected by interpolation to be around 12.9 by the end of the year is the sign of stabilizing population. Indeed, let us assume a steady state population where the birthrate is equal to the death rate, say 12.5 each. This is what is going to happend at around 2013. This means in the long run, that the Russian life expectancy (on the long term basis) will reach 80 and stay this way. This is one of the highest numbers in the world. Additionally, Russia has the most educated population in the world, which tends to increase the age at which children are born and the recent genetics research shows that this is another factor for increased life span which will be one of the highest in the world for Russia in about 2 decades.
            I want to emphasize that it is not at all the goal to increase the population, but to stabilize it. A small growth is desirable now in a uniform fashion, until industrial technological advances would obliterate the negative and drastic effects of regional labor shortages. Russian anti smoking and anti alcohol measures are very drastic which will create effects more pronounced than similar measures in US in the 1980s when the warning labels were introduced on cigarettes. The Russian labels “smoking kills” with planned pictures of cancer tumors will reduce smoking to below Western levels quite quickly. With all this, I expect Russian life expectancy to be around 90 by the end of 2030, the population will stabilize at about 150-155mln (the figures obtained by using interpolation techniques).
            Such stabilizing population is an ideal for high standards of living Russia will achieve at that point (2030), becoming the 3rd or 4th largest economy behind only China, India and about equal or better than the rapidly declining US and with one of the highest incomes per capita in the world.

            • I wish I could be as optimistic as you.

              Unfortunately, I’m not quite that optimistic, despite being “Da Russophile”! 😉

        • “I could refer to the 2009 UNDP report but that being ancient history and considering the very recent huge leaps in the science of demography I shall refer to Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung’s “The Waning World Power, The demographic future of Russia and the other Soviet successor states” from 2011, which I am sure you are aware of.”

          Did you actually read ‘The Waning World Power’? You should have noted two things:

          1) This is a comparative study for FSU. In several countries there, national statistical services have very poor data. Therefore, to have comparable data for all countries, the authors are using UN or Population Reference Bureau data. In particular, for population projections it’s – surprise, surprise – 2008 Revision of UNPD’s World Population Prospects. Check out text under graph on p.15.

          2) Yes, for Russian regions they are using Rosstat’s data. But know what? There’s a footnote saying the following:

          “Population projections are based on the low variant of Russian population calculations since these most closely correspond to the United Nation’s projections used for all other countries in other parts of this study”.

          So, in the end it’s all basically 2008 Revision data. Period.

          Rosstat was consistently making forecasting errors on the downside – even in its optimistic scenario, and within a single year to boot – since about 2006. Only its latest available projection managed to get the actual numbers contained somewhere between optimistic and normal scenarios. There is no reason whatsoever to use Rosstat’s pessimistic scenario, at least until they manage to keep reality somewhere in the neighborhood of their “normal” projection on average.

          In addition you might have noticed that scientific editor of your favorite report is Sergey Zakharov, who’s Deputy Director of Institute of Demography of Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He has made a name for himself by projecting exceedingly gloomy demographic picture for Russia. For example, in 2002 he saw very low probability of TFR ever going above 1.3-1.4 (and was right for about 5 years). I’m not surprised a volume under his editorial supervision finds nothing but horrific things to say about Russia demography.

          You know which two numbers regarding Russian demographics he selected to put into Overview – page 6 of the document – the only part of the document absolute majority of journalists and policymakers are going to read? LE at birth for men equal to 57 years and average number of children per woman equal to 1.2. Both numbers at least a decade old by now!

          You see, you ARE referring to obsolete data, and you ARE banging around report which are based on low scenarios. Sorry, but it’s a fact.

          • Yes, Serhei, I can read.

            What you are essentially saying is that I am wrong because I believe UNDP and BIBE studies, probably the two most exhaustive studies on Russian demographics ever, because they base their findings on outdated data. This is at least partly due to incompetence and maliciousness. Correct?

            I am repeating myself here, but as far as I know, and you are mostly welcomed to correct me if I am mistaken, only Anatoly Karlin and Mark Adomanis are arguing against the entire scientific community which agrees that the natural population growth in Russia in the next two decades is going to be drastically negative and positive overall growth can only be achieved by massive immigration. Even Rosstat’s most optimistic projection forecasts negative natural growth and immigration of more than 10 million people by 2030. The problem for Karlin and Adomanis is that their argument is never going to be taken seriously by “majority of journalists and policymakers” if they do not take their arguments out of the blogosphere to the scientific community. And frankly, I do not see that happening.

            • Well why do you think Russia absorbing a fairly high number of immigrants is impossible? It still has plenty of fallow arable land, no shortage of oil and gas and other resources to sustain a larger population, and growing grain and technology export potential.

              All of which when placed alongside the collapse of the Greek, Spanish and soon Italian economies (ah but they don’t have pretensions to great power status, do they?) means those countries are primed to pump immigrants into Russia in the next few years, particularly the Greeks with their Orthodox faith, make likely candidates for assimulation into Putin’s Borg. With them there is no obvious racial appearance difference unlike the Chinese or Indians to make them more noticeable than the natives — some of the Russian skinheads ultranationalists might even initially welcome their ‘Orthodox brothers’ ‘home’. Hell, ever since that article with lotsa thirtysomething Russian ladies bemoaning their lack of marriage prospects to decent men (read: decent men who meet their hypergamous standards) that Anatoly linked to…I’ve long suspected the ideal solution is to stick these ladies with beta Spanish, Italian and Greek males thrown out of work in their homelands so they can make last chance babies at 37-38 years old together.

              • Some Russians tend to see Greeks as similar to Armenians and wouln’t treat them very positively. Greeks would expect to get harrassed, as Armenians are. Same attitudes apply for Italians and even Frenchmen (overheard comment at some Moscow party: “I was in Paris, the people don’t look as nice as ours do. A lot of them look like small dark monkeys, like our Caucasians.”)

              • leon lentz says:

                @X. Completely ignorant, ridiculous comment. Greeks are just as different from Russians in appearance as Turks or Arabs. They will never go to Russia, it is too cold for them, neither would Russia need them. There is plenty of Russian speaking groups in the FSU which will constitute 99% of immigration.

            • “What you are essentially saying is that I am wrong because I believe UNDP and BIBE studies, probably the two most exhaustive studies on Russian demographics ever, because they base their findings on outdated data. This is at least partly due to incompetence and maliciousness. Correct?”

              Yes, you are wrong because you choose to use old data at a time of when a) a clearly identified trend is present, and b) newer data is already available. For example, 2010 Revision has updated fertility projections upwards for many European countries, not just Russia. 2008 Revision numbers for Russia proved wrong by the end of 2005-2010 period already, thus there is absolutely no reason to rely on them in the middle of 2012, other than for studying the reasons for the forecasting error.

              Even the 2010 Revision is using TFR and LE data through 2008 only. Their projections are also lagging the reality already: LE at birth (both sexes) is projected at 69.2 in 2010-2015 and 70.4 for 2015-2020 period, while it’s already about 70.3 in 2011. Similarly, TFR is assumed there to be 1.53 in 2010-2015 and 1.61 in 2015-202, and slowly increasing upwards in later years. It was already 1.61 in 2011.

              The BIBE study is not “the most exhaustive study on Russian demographics ever”, at least in regard to forecasting, as it simply used the Low variant of Rosstat’s demographic forecast. This variant has been ridiculously bad for the last couple of years. For example, natural decline in 2010 (2011) was projected to be 403 and 505 thousand, against 241 and 131 in reality – not only the size is overestimated by about 50%, but the direction is wrong, as well. For 2012, this scenario predicts 610 thousand natural decline, while a number in 40-60 thousand range is likely to happen. TFR is given there as 1.48, 1.41, and 1.34 in 2010-2012, while in reality it was 1.57, 1.61, and probably approaching 1.70 in 2012. For LE at birth (both sexes), they give 68.5, 68.6, and 68.8 for 2010-2012, while 2011 saw a number in excess of 70 years already.

              You could repeat that BIBE study is exhaustive to your heart’s content, but the fact remains that it relies on a very low scenario which is dramatically wrong already. UNPD, especially its 2010 Revision, seems to be making less errors on the downside, but the errors there are, still.

              You see, forecasters tend to change their models if systematic errors start to crop up. Everyone’s models were making systematic downward errors for Russian demography in the last 5 years at least. Some people do adjustment faster than others, that’s all. Rosstat doesn’t need to wait until the data for the whole world becomes available, and is a couple of years ahead of UNPD. Then you have exhaustive BIBE study which uses obsolete UNPD data and Rosstat’s scenario that is explicitly chosen to track the obsolete data. I’m not surprised the results are so pessimistic, given fast improvements of the recent years.

              Finally, let me point out that demographic forecasters don’t get fired if their forecasts are systematically wrong, unlike inflation forecasters or stock price pickers for whom this occasionally happens. People could make wrong predictions for their whole careers without any consequences, whatever are the reasons for the errors. Demography as a science isn’t revolving about forecasting, either. There is thus very little utility in showing to demographers that their forecasts are wrong, as all you are going to get in return is a shrug and an answer “but we always say that population forecasting is very imprecise science”.

    • leon lentz says:

      This is such a crude CIA style propaganda rubbish, making no sense mathematically, neither is it writtten in literate English. Who are you writing this for? Only an American can believe this incredible retarded mathematics. How can a potential number of mothers halve in a few years? A quick analysis will show that this is impossible, but intellectual hacks like you do not deserve a serious answer. You are just a cheap propaganda junkie, this pabulum works on Yanks but not on educated and intelligent people. Write this as an opinion for the WSJ, they will believe you, not here.

      • How can a potential number of mothers halve in a few years?

        The number of women in their mid-twenties will indeed halve over the next fifteen years.

        • Strictly speaking, it’s only true for the peak cohort which is around 27-28 years now. Taking latest demo prognosis of Rosstat (Middle variant), 1.291.077 females of 27 age old lived in Russia in 2011. In 2025, there will be just 641.330 women of that age. Yes, exactly halving in a dozen of years.

          For broader age groups, it’s not so dramatic. In a bracket of 25-29 years, the same Rosstat prognosis gives 6.179.190 women in 2011 and only 3.292.111 in 2025. Instead of 50% it’s 53%. Going to the “women of prime child-bearing age”, say 20 to 34, will give ever less significant decrease to about 63% of 2011 number.

          • For broader age groups, it’s not so dramatic…

            Yes, Cap, it’s indeed quite obvious from the picture that the broader the band, the less the decrease. You ask a different question — you get a different answer, I can’t see how a third for the bulk is any more or less “dramatic” than a half for the peak.

            Either way, thank you for acknowledging that, contrary to AK’s tireless incantations, Russia’s demographic crisis isn’t over. It’s rather just beginning.

            • I’m just pointing out that answer to the only relevant question – what can we say about the number of babies born in late 20es – depends not on size of the peak cohort, but on the total number of women in prime reproductive age. Citing the numbers for projected reduction of the peak cohort is thus misleading and less than informative. The relevant number will not “halve”, it’ll be reduced by about a third.

              I don’t think I agree with the fact that the demographic crisis in Russia is over (even though we need to define ‘crisis’ more precisely, and I think that’s exactly what AK is trying to do), but I think there’s a very good chance, much better than 3-1, that in the next couple of decades Russian population will be stable or increasing slightly. There’s next to zero probability that projections peddled by people like K.F. or the authors of “authoritative” studies will come true.

              For the numbers AK is promoting my subjective probability is in the 10-20% range currently. On the other hand, I tend to be slightly conservative in my prognoses (but less conservative than Rosstat turned out to be in the last 5 years), so perhaps the true probability is approaching 30%. That’s a chance to be taken very seriously.

              • … depends not on size of the peak cohort, but on the total number of women in prime reproductive age.

                That would be so if the age-specific fertility distribution were flat across the entire prime reproductive age — but it isn’t. This is totally trivial stuff, shame on us for wasting time on it.

              • @ peter We have reached the max number of nested comments, it seems. Yes, it isn’t flat, but is much closer to being flat than to a delta-function, so 20-34 is more relevant than a single cohort.

                And, as I said – I think AK is well on the road of defining what a demographic crisis is – in this post, from a comparative perspective. We could also think of prognoses of decade-old vintage and compare the numbers. For a country that was supposed to drop to 108 million by 2050 just a decade ago, speaking of a population actually increasing or stagnating in the next couple decades is to deny a demographic crisis by any reasonable definition.

            • There’s really only three numbers that matter.
              * TFR
              * LE
              * Migration
              (There’s a few others like average age of childbirth etc but they all ultimately have relatively marginal effects).

              Now, if we can agree that at a minimum:
              * The TFR is going to settle down at 1.5.
              * LE will continue increasing slowly, reaching 75 by 2025.
              * 300,000 net annual migrants
              Then there will be no demographic crisis. It’s not even up to dispute, it’s just a matter of plugging in numbers.

              Of course, the assumptions above are fairly minimal; IMO, they constitute the lowest realistic variant. To demonstrate that there WILL be a crisis, conversely, one has to demonstrate that the scenario above is optimistic and unlikely to be fulfilled: i.e., TFR will fall back below 1.5; or LE will stagnate; etc.

              • Then there will be no demographic crisis.

                As Sergey has just pointed out, you have yet to define quite what a “demographic crisis” is.

              • It’s a gray area.

                Would the population going to 143mn in 2023 (note that this was made when the estimated population at the time was 142mn, not 143mn, as it emerged in 2010) before gently declining to 138mn be defined as a crisis in your eyes?

                I don’t think so, and that’s exactly what you get if you plug in the numbers above.

                Of course, raise the TFR to 1.75, say – i.e., not far already from the level it will be this year – and you will get slowly, consistent population growth from now until the middle of the century.

                In any case, I think the onus is on your to make definitions. After you are making some pretty bold proclamations (“Russia’s demographic crisis isn’t over. It’s rather just beginning“) so it would be nice to hear what constitutes a crisis and why the period from 1992-2006 of rapid population decline and low life expectancy and sub-1.3 fertility rates doesn’t quite qualify.

              • It’s a gray area.

                Not according to the Russian government. This report explains in great detail what they mean by saying that Russia is in demographic crisis. As I told you already, if you want to toe the Kremlin’s official line, you should at least know where that line is.

                Would the population going to… be defined as a crisis in your eyes?

                See above. No one but you limits the notion of demographic crisis to total population decline.

                After you are making some pretty bold proclamations…

                No, I merely stated the obvious. If the population pyramid is too complicated for you, maybe you should stick to that “contrarian analysis” of yours.

                AK: I do not know the “Kremlin’s official line” and could not care less what it is. This is why engaging you in dialog is pointless. It always ends the same. Sergey is right. I’m out.

              • @peter: Thanks for the link to the UNDP Russia Report for year 2008. Contrary to what you say, it has nothing to do with the government. Its “Chief Authors” are Vishnevsky (Institute of Demography at HSE, Moscow) and Bobylev (Dept of Economics at MSU). The team writing demographic part is almost completely based on the Institute of Demography – and yes, Sergei Zakharov is listed as one of the authors.

                We can actually get a definition of demographic crisis there:

                “Russia has been grappling for some time with demographic developments,
                which must be qualified as a crisis. Short life expectancy is the main feature of
                this crisis, though by no means its only feature. The birth rate is too low, the population is shrinking and ageing, and Russia is on the threshold of rapid loss of able-bodied population, which will be accompanied by a growing demographic burden per able-bodied individual. The number of potential mothers is starting to decline and the country needs to host large flows of immigrants. The list of
                problems could be continued.”

                So, let’s check. Short LE as the main feature of crisis – still short but rapidly improving. Birth rate too low – not true any longer, at least in comparison to European peers (but yes, there’s a lot to be learned from France and Northern Europeans here). Population is shrinking – not true any longer. Population ageing – yes, but again not as fast as in some European peers. Growing demographic burden – Russia was expected to be losing about a million working-age people per year in the last couple of years, but somehow labor force doesn’t seem to be shrinking that fast due to higher participation rates and probably immigration, so the situation so far is better than expected. The number of potential mothers is starting to decline – yes, but this didn’t prevent the number of babies born to be increasing 5 years in a row since the time this report was finished. Country needs to host large flows of immigrants – yes, and the numbers are comparable to the ones actually observed in recent years.

                So, using this scorecard – perhaps more components of the crisis definition are not applying any longer or rapidly approaching the point of not applying than the number of those that are still valid. In my book that’s a picture of a demographic crisis – using the definition above – becoming less acute, with a good prognosis.

              • @Sergey,

                Peter is now speaking of the significant fall in the working age population that Russia is going to see in the next decade. Hence, why demographic crisis “is just beginning”, and the elliptic comments about population pyramids.

                But see, that’s why I dislike engaging with him. When in a tight corner he quietly shifts the goalposts, then makes snide, smugly patronizing remarks in the sure but typically mistaken knowledge that it is not going to get noticed and called on.

              • @AK

                … he quietly shifts the goalposts…

                You’re hallucinating, I’ve always maintained that longer-living pensioners and gastarbeiters are no substitute for unborn children.

                You, on the other hand, are stubbornly refusing to tell us where your goalposts are. Sergey thinks you’re “well on the road of defining what a demographic crisis is”, but I’m afraid he’s just being charitable.


                … it has nothing to do with the government.

                See page 4.

                So, using this scorecard…

                You cannot be serious.

              • @peter,

                a) I’m sorry to disappoint you but I am serious. I can’t stand discussions in the style of stand-up comedy. If you have nothing to say on substance, please refrain from one-liners – they hardly add any information to what you have said already.

                b) Ministers have to sign all kinds of expert reports, and experts are not required to make sure their views conform with the government’s. The closest thing to the official POV of Russian government on the issue is Rosstat’s Middle variant of its demographic prognosis. Vishnevsky is on the record of sarcastically questioning Rosstat’s forecasts (and being wrong so far), so taking his POV as representing official position of the government is stretching it a bit, at lest in the last 5-6 years or so.

                @Anatoly Yes, I noticed Peter’s ability to fight in the rear guard, constantly re-defining the frame of the discussion 🙂 One of the best strategies when one cannot advance substantial arguments, IMHO.

              • … please refrain from one-liners…

                Okay, I’ll expand. I’m not familiar with this scorecard method of yours, I’d appreciate it if you could rephrase your argument in a more orthodox way.

              • @peter: Number of features of demographic crisis, as defined in the quote I gave, which are improving or have improved already – I’d say 4 or 5, minus the number that are deteriorating – zero. Plus, a “main” feature – low LE – is improving very fast. (Almost) any way you create something like a a diffusion index out of this – or simply try to decide whether the overall picture is ‘improving’, ‘deteriorating’, or ‘stable’ – the result is positive.

              • Erm, I didn’t ask you to say the same thing in a fancier way — but okay, if you insist, let’s play scorecards.

                Short life expectancy…

                Politics aside, I don’t know what LE is doing here. Demographically speaking, we’re all going to die exactly once, and economically speaking, the sooner (after retiring) the better.

                The birth rate is too low…

                Check. It’s obvious from the population pyramid that free lunch is over, there’s no stopping the CBR from falling by a quarter or so over the next fifteen years.

                the population is shrinking…

                This is redundant, all the components of the total population change are covered elsewhere.

                and ageing…

                Check, see the population pyramid.

                Russia is on the threshold of rapid loss of able-bodied population, which will be accompanied by a growing demographic burden per able-bodied individual.

                Check, see the population pyramid.

                The number of potential mothers is starting to decline…

                Already covered above.

                and the country needs to host large flows of immigrants.


                The list of problems could be continued.

                No thanks, we have plenty enough already.

              • @peter: well, if you insist on playing stupid, there’s nothing I could do for you. You resort to repealing arithmetic now, moving beyond word games. Please check back when you don’t need to be persuaded that 2+2=4 any longer.

              • … if you insist on playing stupid…

                Wait, wasn’t it you who came up with that silly scorecard argument? All I did was give you back a little taste of your own stupid medicine.

                You resort to repealing arithmetic…

                That’s ironic coming from someone who promptly made an amateur fool of himself the only time he tried to say something meaningful.

                Please check back when…

                That’s ironic coming from someone who made it a habit to butt in my conversations with others with his smug pseudo-scientific casuistry. Diffusion index, my ass.


                Indeed. It’s clear as 2+2=4 that the Russian population pyramid is a picture of an upcoming demographic crisis, case closed. Better luck next time.

  5. I noticed something very interesting about this subject. You always make comparisons in order to create a perspective. Great from my point of view but somehow you didn’t make one which should be made – I think.
    American numbers are always about the global population , just like a soviet stat.
    So we always get comparisons between RF and USA.
    A more correct one would be to compare the white population of the US with RF.
    We will notice that former SU numbers are similar to the US ones.
    But the former native population of the US does not fare so well.
    Like 199,something US non hispanic whites had 2.01 mil children last year.
    And 143 million citizens of RF had 1.8 mil. Minorities staying from the norm are very small so it is not even useful to count and correct the number. Can be done easily but 2-3% corrections don’t mean anything.
    So if Russians are a dieing breed, white Americans are going out much faster.
    Interesting that all western analysts somehow manage to avoid this observation.
    An american succes story would be obtained very easily by RF. Just import some tens of millions of central asians and then some tens of millions of africans and global numbers whould be larger.
    Everyone comparing RF of today with US makes this fundamental error. Compares apples with oranges.
    Todays US is rather similar to USSR, and can be compared with the now building Eurasian Union.

    • Very good point. During the USSR era and after the birth rate of non-Russians is always pointed to as showing the inevitable demise of ethnic Russians through outbreeding. Clearly the US has a much more serious problem in this regard.

      • Yep. And Obama just decreed without Congress that 800,000 illegal aliens, mostly Mexicans, are far more equal than legal immigrants from the Phillipines, Africa, or Europe who must patiently wait their turns at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad to win the visa lottery and the lottery system that is H-1B. So tough luck, non-Mexicanos! You should have been born into La Raza and in a country that shares a border with the U.S.!

    • In 2008 white non-Hispanic Americans had a TFR of 1.84:


      This number had been stable so I assume it’s about the same today. It certainly beats that of Russia (1.65), but not by much. American whites are not “dying out” much faster – they are simply being hosts to larger number of immigrants with larger numbers of children (Hispanic TFR was 2.99).

      • I was in a hurry when I wrote.
        they are not dieing out rapidly now. The number of birth 6 decades ago was around 3.5 mil. So in 10-15 years the baby boomers are going out of the picture.
        In Russia the evolution was visible sooner due to the horrible collapse of life expectancy after the SU collapse.
        i repeat the numbers:
        200 mil non hispanic whites gaved birth to 2.0 mil babies.
        140 mil russian federation citizens managed 1.8 mil.
        US non hispanic whites have the birth rate of RF from the nadir of the crisis, at 1.3 -1.4 mil babies per year.
        I know about the fertility rate but I can’t give an analysis right now. I’ll pass it for the time being.
        If RF would lump it’s numbers with those of rural less modernized comunities like the tadjiks and uzbeks it would get US numbers.

        • leon lentz says:

          US will collapse for other reasons than its ethnic problem, although it is a great negative contributor. It is an aggressive imperialist state with no internal stability or ability to produce much of anything valuable and competitive. The wars it is waging is the sign of its last paroxysm to stay afloat of a more competitive economies overseas. Its abysmal educational system can not be self sufficient in producing scientiic cadre. I will give US until 2025 to stop being a superpower. I also think it is the high birthrate which is the world’s problem, not the low one. The high birthrate in US with decreasing education and standards of living will turn it into a third world country very quickly. It is already half way there. The world population has to decrease to about 1 bln to avoid most pressing long term poverty and ecological problems.

  6. Interesting. Poland, of course, is indisputable leader in GDP to 1989 GDP league. Czechs and Slovaks did rather well, also. However, it would be more instructive to split the data into the first decade of transition and the second one, as the ordering on economic performance has changed somewhat – for example, Hungary was doing quite well till mid-2000es, Ukraine, as well as Russia, was a basket case in 90es, etc.

    However you split the data, Russia is a curious outlier – it reached 100% of 1989 GDP only in 2006, and on this metric is probably still doing worse than Baltic states, and may be Romania as well. On the other hand, comparatively speaking Russia is doing rather OK in its neighborhood of large CIS countries, while Bulgaria and Baltics are next to the much richer EU lands. Perhaps, this means that aspiration levels are very different, and subjectively Russians feel much better off that Estonians or Latvians, say?

  7. Nice summary,
    A few corrections needed though,
    Bulgarian census for 2011 should be 7.364 million, slightly lower than estimated. But not like their neighbor Romania!
    Hungarian 2001-census was 10.2 million, preliminary result for 2011 showed 9.98 million; coincident with the estimates.

    • Russia is now the fertility leader in post-communist Europe with the sole exception of Kosovo. Russia have probably overtaken Albania as well by now. Quite a turnaround from a decade ago!

    • Thanks. Fixed!

  8. Moscow Exile says:

    New legislation kicks off at the beginning of 2013 that will result in increases in state benefits for families with three or more children. This new legislation is targetted at lower income families.

    Similar legislation came into force during Putin’s first presidency. We have three children and are classed as a “multi-children family”. We have a passport type document in which are photographs of my wife and me and details of our children’s births. With this document we can receive discounts on children’s clothing, foodstuff etc. We also received a sizeable increase in our child allowance after the birth of our third child. A nice little touch to all of this was the issuing of a medal to my wife on the birth of our latest child.

    I should also like to add that whereas only 13 years ago, when our eldest was born, Russian parents almost invariaby had only one child, Russian parents with two or three offspring is now not an uncommon sight in Moscow.

    I am talking about ethnic Russians here, not Russian citizens in general. Immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia, of course, have always had large families.

  9. Excellent post Anatoly,

    Its difficult to be completely sure when it comes to future projections, but its already undeniable that Russian government’s demographics program had been remarkably successful, not that we will see any acknowledgments of this in Western media.

    Its almost funny to remember an almost universal sentiment among “experts”, that Putin’s focus on demographics and his policies in this area were just him playing politics and he would never be successful. Forget about economic, cultural, healthcare stimulants, what Russia really needed was a healthy dose of democracy(i.e. getting rid of Putin)… well, once again we are reminded how much the opinion of these “experts” is really worth.

    Perhaps Anatoly, you would be interested in writing another post, focusing on what precisely the Russian Government did to achieve such great improvements in demographics, which long been considered one of Russia’s most troubling and difficult problems. I’m sure that not only I, but also others following your blog, would find it very interesting.

    • Perhaps but it’s not a priority. It will require research and be quite time-consuming.

      On the demographic front, my more immediate priority is updating my model from a few years back, to get new projections with the help of more recent figures, and write up a proper academic paper on it and publish it on arxiv or something.

  10. Branko Stojanovic says:

    This comparison is useless. None of countries above does not have great power pretensions like Russia. Also Russia had massive immigration from CIS. Kazakhstan was majority Slavic country in 70’s, now Slavs make about 25%. That is loss for Russia. Even in Tatarstan that is integral part of Russia, and with Tatars that are most assimilated muslims, Russians are there third rate citizens. More Russians are assimilating into Tatars, than reverse.

    • Why would a Russian want to become a Tartar? Tartars have been becoming Russian since Ivan Grozny married a Tartar princess in the 1500s.

      • Branko Stojanovic says:

        Because if you want to have any position in Tatarstan you have to be Tatar. Even when they are just 50% of population.

        • Wasn’t Russian new communication minister Nikolai Nikiforov somebody high up in Tatar government before he was snatched to Moscow? I might be wrong but it doesn’t seem that he’s a ethnic tatar. And where are ethinic tatars or any minoritie for that matter in Russian government?

          • Rashid Nurgaliev, a Tatar, was the previous Interior Minister. I believe Elvira Nabiullina was half-Tatar.

          • Fradkov is half-Jew, if memory serves we well. Gref is German. Surkov is half-Chechen. As I don’t care for peoples’ nationalities, these cases were reported in media often enough to have stuck in my memory. There must have been others.

      • yalensis says:

        One of my favorite Tatars. Beautiful!

  11. To the GDP:
    As of 1997: Poland achieved 111.8% of GDP 1989, Czech Republic 97.5% and Slovakia 96.1%.

    Development of GDP per head relative to the EU-27 average is following:
    2001: Slovenia 80%, Czech R. 73%, Hungary 58%, Slovakia 52%, Poland 47%, Estonia 46%
    2011: Slovenia 84%, Czech R. 80%, Hungary 66%, Slovakia 73%, Poland 65%, Estonia 67%

    Link: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tec00114

  12. Indeed another outstanding post Anatoly.

    It really does say a great deal about some people’s attitudes to Russia that rather than simply accept the facts they prefer apocalyptic predictions instead. For the rest there is no doubt that you are right and that the demographic problems that affected Russia in the 1990s were hardly unique to that country but also affected other countries in eastern Europe to varying degrees.

    • Alexander, See my comment about Greeks being a major potential influx for Russia over the next few years (although there’s plenty of Russians in Cyprus already, consider it a fair population exchange).

  13. … Russia’s demographic crisis has for all intents and purposes come to an end.

    Elephant? What elephant?

  14. I wrote above about a comparison with US. Mark Adomanis makes it in already.


    And that is US with large numbers of young high fertility rural emmigrants from poorer part of Mexico and Central America. Without them US BR goes closer to Germany then Russia.
    I am pretty curious to see for how long will western media keep on talking about the ” “dying bear” that is rapidly receding from the world stage and that is doomed to irrelevance, and the United States is often portrayed as enjoying demographics that are uniquely robust among developed nations.”

    • Strictly speaking, BR’s aren’t the best comparative measure. Russia benefits from having a somewhat larger percentage of women in their childbearing age than the US, but this situation will reverse to 2030.

      The better comparison is the TFR (total fertility rate). The US TFR for 2010 was 1.93, the figures for 2011 aren’t out yet. Russia’s was 1.61 in 2011 (and will be about 1.7 in 2012).

      It is true however that the white American TFR is usually about 0.2-0.3 below average, so there is convergence between white US and Russia (however in that case Russia will also have to be adjusted down by about 0.1 to only account for ethnic Russians in order to have a meaningful comparison).

    • Fertility rate is more important here than birth rate: in the US, where there are many more white people living to old age, the birth rate per 1,000 will be lower, because those tens of millions of old people are not having children. Fertility rate – children per woman – is around 1.8 for American whites, compared to 1.65 per woman in Russia (ethnic Russians, I assume, have a slightly lower figure than the all-Russian average). Fertiliy rate in Germany is 1.36 children per woman.

      In 2009, birth rate among American whites was 11/1000. While lower than that of Russia, this is in the context that average life expectancy is much higher, so there are many millions more infertile older people in the US than in Russia, which makes the birth rate lower. If Russia’s life expectancy dropped to 45, birth rate per 1,000 would skyrocket. So what? That’s why fertility rate is the most imortant number to consider.

  15. To AK and AP
    you are perfectly right. But the direction of the numbers is pretty clear. If we are discussing corrections due to median age – for females is very close, and that is what matters ,then it means both societies are in the same bracket.
    and this is a development which has yet to show up into media.
    The fertility rate is not something very precise, we know it only when the particular age group studied reaches the end of the reproduction cycle. Until then it is just an estimate.
    And the estimate for white americans is in my opinion too high. Birth rate and fertility rate don’t match each other too well. I think fertility rate is smaller in reality, but it will take some time until we will know this.

  16. leon lentz says:

    The worst thing that can happen to a country is a high birthrate, low education and falling standards of living, this is the picture of US. Russia will beneit from stagnating population which means that its rate of total GDP growth will be equal to its rate of GDP per capita growth. In US, you will have to subtract at least 1-1.5% from that if you adjust for immigration, legal and illegal. And immigrant are almost all belong to the third world, dragging the country down to economic decline.