Russia’s Demography Continues To Improve Rapidly In First 3 Months Of 2012

In my previous demography post, I argued that for all intents and purposes, Russia’s “demographic crisis” can be reasonably argued to have ended. Population growth is now consistently positive since 2009, and as of last year, the country’s natural decrease was a mere 131,000. This is a massive improvement over the 500,000-1,000,000 annual natural decrease seen in 1993-2006.

The latest figures continue to beat all expectations (even my relatively optimistic ones) in the first three months of this year. The crude birth rate has risen by 6.5% over the same period last year, implying a c.8% rise in the total fertility rate (slightly higher since the ratio of women of childbearing age is now falling). Projecting it for the rest of the year – a risky assumption, granted, but this is back of the envelope stuff anyway – would give a TFR of about 1.73 for 2012 (from c.1.60 in 2011). This would make it broadly comparable to the Netherlands (1.79), Iran (1.70), Canada (1.67), and Estonia (1.62); below the US, France, the UK, and Scandinavia (1.8-2.0); and above Germany, the Med, Japan, South Korea, Poland, China, and the Christian ex-USSR (1.2-1.5). It is time to stop thinking of Russia as a low-fertility country; it is firmly in the middle of the pack among industrialized countries. It is particularly noteworthy that whereas Russia is frequently described as the sick man of the BRIC’s (in demographic terms), it is now probably closer to Brazil (1.86) than it is to China (c.1.4-1.5).

The numbers of deaths fell by 3.3%, and this is a trend that is likely to persist as excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco are raised at  a more rapid pace now that the elections are done with. As a result, the natural population loss in the first quarter this year is now only 35,000 relative to 79,000 last year. There is now a distinct chance that natural population growth will actually be positive this year – linearly extrapolating from this quarter (which is of course an unreliable method, but whatever) would give 1,793,828*1.065 births and 1,925,036*0.967 deaths = 1,920,426 – 1,861,509 = c.60k increase – although I’d still give it less than even odds. As graphs are worth many words…

January and February were both record-breaking months for post-Soviet births, continuing on from record birth numbers in August-September and November-December in 2011.

Monthly deaths have also set new records this year for both January and March, following on from remarkable improvements throughout 2011 as a whole – when new records were the rule rather than the exception.

As you can see above, Russia’s natural population growth was essentially stable for the second half of 2011. If current trends continue, there may be significant natural population increase in the second half of 2012.

For more of these graphs stretching to 2002, see the old post by Sergey Slobodyan on this blog: Russia’s Demographic Resilience II.

Needless to say, overall population growth is absolutely certain, because of immigration (which increased to 320,000 last year).

Above is a long time graph of births and deaths by months from 2006 to today. A linear extrapolation (very crude) will see the two cross sometime in mid-2012.

Here is a graph of population natural increase. The pattern again is clear; it has virtually edged up to zero.

The structure of deaths is also moving in a highly encouraging direction, with improvements in “deaths from vices” (suicide, homicide, alcohol poisoning) being the most notable. That is good because these deaths accrue to younger people, so the positive impact on life expectancy (not to mention their especially tragic nature) is particularly strong. In the first three months, deaths from alcohol poisoning fell by 23% (so they are now as low as during the height of Gorbachev’s anti-alcoholism campaign), homicides fell by 10%, and suicides fell by 5% (and are now lower than they’ve ever been since at least 1970). The only downside was a 3% increase in deaths from transport accidents, but this is presumably a function of more vehicle ownership given the improvements in other areas.

A potentially serious development, but one that isn’t, is an increase in the infant mortality rate from 7.1/1000 to 8.4/1000 in the first three months of this year relative to the same period last year. That is because this year Russia switched to the WHO definition of infant mortality as the share of life births, as opposed to the old system that excluded very premature babies for the first 7 days of their lives from the statistics. The old system underestimated the infant mortality rate by 22%-25%, so an 18% increase now is actually a modest improvement in real terms.

Some conclusions and predictions to round off the post.

  • Russia should no longer be considered a low-fertility country (by industrialized world standards), though it is still a high-mortality one.
  • This year, 2012, will see further improvements, with life expectancy rising to about 71.0-71.5 (barring a repeat of 2010’s monster heatwave or other environmental cataclysm); TFR rising to around 1.70; close to zero natural population growth (though probably still slightly negative, maybe -50,000); and substantial overall population growth once immigration is accounted for.
  • The Western media will continue shrieking about the Dying Bear and variations thereof.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Thanks for hard work.

  2. Great News. Hope the trend continues. Given the smaller female cohort coming of childbearing age, even more work will need to be done to keep births up.

  3. Since the liberasts and their western patrons want Russians to believe that the 1990s were a flowering of democracy in Russia and that nothing has improved under Putler’s corrupt and repressive regime they will systematically ignore this data. Instead they will keep citing their own previous articles based on broken information (like the exodus of millions that is allegedly in progress).

    I think the drop in alcoholism to levels that were only achieved by Gorbie by draconian methods but achieve today without serious coercion (the excise taxes are not that onerous) is a first rate metric for the health of Russia’s economy and society. If Russians were feeling hopeless about their political system and economic chances then they would revert to their previous behaviour. But why should they, they have a popular government which they elected and their actual standard of living has been going up rapidly since 2000. So for sure this information will be buried under a sea of excrement in the west which needs its narratives and tropes more than it needs reality.

    • Isn’t liberalism an mental disorder?
      ‘You complain, complain about everything until everything breaks down and then you declare victory’.


  4. This is all very good news.

    The way Russian demographic facts are reported in the west tells you a great deal about what some people in the west really think about Russia.

    When Russia was in demographic crisis the right response was to report the fact with sorrow and concern. In fairness to a large extent it was. Now that Russia appears to be experiencing a demographic recovery that fact should be reported to at least the same extent with pleasure and hope. That with a very few honourable exceptions (eg. Adomanis and a new blog in the FT) this is not happening shows that the earlier expressions of sorrow and concern were insincere.

    This is very disturbing when you think about it. Russia’s demographic recovery ought to be a matter completely unconnected to feelings about Putin or about the political situation in Russia. It is something that affects Russian people in the most direct way. That the western media does not rush to report it as good news (think by contrast of the exaggerated reporting of even the smallest uptick of US or European unemployment figures) goes to show how utterly callous and fundamentally hostile to Russia most of the western media are. Apparently for some people it is fewer Russians which is the good news and more Russians which is the bad news.

    • “That with a very few honourable exceptions (eg. Adomanis and a new blog in the FT) this is not happening shows that the earlier expressions of sorrow and concern were insincere”

      The Anglosphere is far more upset by the methods of Russia’s recovery from her 1990s death spiral than they ever were about the death spiral itself.

      “Apparently for some people it is fewer Russians which is the good news and more Russians which is the bad news.”

      Precisely, though it might not be just about Russians. In 1992, Latvia had a growing population of almost 2.7 million and zero foreign debt.

      In 2012, there are now 2 million people in Latvia, yearly deaths exceed births there by 1.55 to 1, one tenth of one percent of the Latvian population emigrates *per month*, and Latvia pays about 1/3 of the Latvian GDP to service her foreign debt.

      And Latvia is praised in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post for responding to the 2008 global financial collapse by firing 15% of public sector workers and cutting the pay of those remaining by 20%.

      The Latvian government is praised in the Anglosphere for squeezing their population to pay banksters, while Putin is vituperated for getting the Russian people out from under their thumb.

      • Latvia’s demography has worsened even further though it is scarcely possibly to imagine why by now seeing how horrendous it already is. I should make another post about it sometime.

        In short, births fell even further in Q1 2012 (Latvia already has Europe’s lowest TFR), and deaths rose.

        • yalensis says

          Latvians better do something fast, if they want to survive as a people. Austerity measures = quiet Genocide.

          • They are. The Latvian government bailed out Latvian Banks so that banksters could get bonuses instead of haircuts.

            And now the Latvian government are squeezing the money out of the Latvian people.

            Western governments, especially in the Anglosphere, care far more about enriching their bankers than they do about the well-being of their people.

    • I would also note that the apocalyptic-tinged coverage of Russian demography began only around 1998/99, when it finally began to move out of the Western orbit.

      I don’t really care what emotions motivate Western journalists when reporting on Russia demography, though in too many cases they are clear enough, but I do care about facts (and getting them right).

      What is even more bizarre is how people who do brings facts to the table (such as myself, or Adomanis – who is very far from a pro-Putin person) are smeared on Twitter by various trolls for being Putinist pilot fish.

      • It’s school yard level criticism. As if it is self-evident that all hysterical critics of Russia are right and anyone who calls them out on their BS is a Putin lackey. They can’t shoot down your arguments so they resort to name calling. They can spew ad hominems till the cows come home but that is all they can do. Keep up the good work of injecting facts into the wasteland of wishful thinking and lies that is the public information space.

      • That is exactly right Anatoly!

        C.P.Scott, the greatest editor the Guardian ever had who died in 1932, said that the guiding philosophy of a journalist should be that “comment is free but facts are sacred”. Sadly there is little sign of that in the Guardian today

        • Well the Guardian kind of implicitly admits that, after all they have a “Comment is Free” section (though the sentiment doesn’t extend to the actual comments) but no “Facts are Sacred” section. 🙂

  5. Remember 2012 is a leap year, so birth/deaths should be adjusted slightly downward when comparing with the previous year. It is somewhat significant when the period of comparison is only three months (1.1%).

    • Adjustment gives you about 5% more births and 4.5% less deaths, still remarkable.

  6. Jennifer Hor says

    Hello Anatoly,

    An 8.4/1,000 infant mortality rate for Russia doesn’t look so bad to me. The most recent figure for Australia is 4.61/1,000 IMR (late 2011) and most other Western developed countries will have similar figures as Australia does or even lower.

    If you go to this website address:

    you’ll see IMR comparisons for Armenia, Australia, Belarus, China, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, the UK and the US over the last 50 years. Russia’s figures are converging close to those of the Anglophone countries and the Baltic states. Interestingly there was an upward hiccup for Latvia in the mid-1990s which might be an indirect indicator that the transition to capitalism was more traumatic for that country than it will admit. The trend for the US seems to be flattening out and with what I see online about living conditions for most Americans and their general state of health, I won’t be surprised if IMRs in the US start to climb over the next several years.

    Note also that China and Armenia are doing much better than Georgia. Readers can play with the chart and select whichever countries they’re interested in to do more comparisons on the website – it’s

    Is it possible to get a further breakdown of the IMR figures for Russia by region? I am guessing that the figures for the cities and the western parts of Russia compare well with western Europe whereas figures in the Caucasus and remote areas in Siberia populated mainly by ethnic minorities will be higher.

    Thanks for a very informative post.

    • You are broadly correct.

      The statistics for Russia in 2010 (feel free to increase by 20%-25% to account for the different methodology then):

      Russia: 7.5 (–> 7.1 in 2011, by old method; 8.4 in Q1 2012, by new method).
      Central: 6.6 (of which lowest is Tambov: 4.2; and Moscow is 6.1)
      North-West: 5.6 (of which St.-Petersburg is 4.7)
      South: 7.1
      North Caucasus: 12.0 (of which highest are Dagestan 14.3; Chechnya 15.1)
      Volga: 6.8 (of which Tatarstan is 5.6)
      Urals: 6.7
      Siberia: 8.4 (of which highest is Tyva 13.0)
      Far East: 9.6 (of which highest are Chukotka 21.8; Koryak okrug 35.3; but Sakha Republic does well with 7.2)

      • Jennifer Hor says

        Wow, thanks for the information AK!

        The figures for the Far East are most interesting. I wonder why Chukotka and Koryak okrug’s IMRs are so high? Might it be due to the way the data are collected? According to Wikipedia, in 2010 there were 746 live births in Chukotka and 233 live births in Koryak okrug so if there was one death of a baby less than 12 months old in each region during 2010, those deaths as percentages of all babies born in those areas will be much greater than for Sakha where 16,109 live births were registered in 2010. I would have thought the collection of stats would take into account the ratio of deaths to live births to account for differences in sample sizes.

        Chukotka and Koryak okrug being close to Alaska, the Land of the Palin Drone, couldn’t make a difference, could it? (Sorry, that was a cheap excuse to make a joke.)

        • I assume because Sakha Rep. is now a primarily urban society whereas a big share of the (very small) Chukotka and Koryak populations remain hunger-gatherers.

        • I used to live in (rural) Kamchatka some years ago (Koryak okrug being the least populated part of it). My father was actually an Ob-Gyn specialist in a small fishing settlement there. Some of the stories about conditions in which he had to assist deliveries were hair raising – doing this without lights, or in a place 20 km across a road-less tundra from closest human abode, were the least of the problems. From what I hear and read now, not much has improved.

          If you have a rural area with dilapidated medical services and very often no way of medical evacuation (weather is often not conductive to air flights even in summer, ships taking too long to get to the civilization – and running only in summer, and next to no roads to speak about), it’s not a big surprise the place looks bad on infant mortality maps.

          • Jennifer Hor says

            Anatoly, Sergei,

            I can understand the figure for Koryak okrug but I thought Chukotka was more developed because Roman Abramovich had been governor for eight years there (2000 – 2008) and had spent huge amounts of his own money upgrading the region’s infrastructure. Maybe since his resignation, social and health services have been allowed to run down and salary levels for health care professionals in Chukotka aren’t competitive with their equivalents elsewhere in Russia. The article in the link suggests his expenditure might have been for show and didn’t amount to much:

  7. Nice work, as always, Anatoly. You’ll make me a believer yet!

  8. A quick peak at the regional break down of the demographic data seem to suggest that those regions that are predominantly Russian by ethnicity have by far the lowest number of children per woman, around 1.3 to 1.4. Also life expectancy has fallen most in those very same regions since the end of the Cold War. So despite temporary increase in the total population Russia is becoming increasinly ethnicly non-Russian. Also immigration to Russia decreases the relative number of ethnic Russians. There has been a lot talk about rapid change of ethinc composition in the USA, but it seems that Russia this change is significantly faster.

    • Intresting to note that in the Ukraine those regions that are ethnicly Russian have a very low TFR, where as those regions in the west that are almost entirely Ukrainian (or rather non-Russian), like Rivne, Volhyn and Zakarpattia oblasts, have a relatively high TFR around 1.9.

      It seems that ethnic Russians through out the former Soviet Union have responded to the break down of the Empire by having less children than other ethicities.

      • Jfreegman says

        The regions in Ukraine that have the highest fertility rates also happen to be the poorest, least urbanized regions. Some Russian dominated regions like the Crimea and Odessa have respectable fertility rates, while others such as those in the East aren’t faring so well. While I don’t deny the cultural difference between the eastern and western parts of Ukraine, this phenomenon has much more to do with the different levels and types of urbanization/industrialization.

    • So despite temporary increase in the total population Russia is becoming increasinly ethnicly non-Russian.

      No, it’s not.
      Share of Russians as percentage of RF (RSFSR) population:
      1989 – 81.5%
      2002 – 80.6%
      2010 – 80.8%

      Please refer to statistics as opposed to conjectures.

      Second, 1.3-1.4 TFR’s are typical of European Russia. The TFR in Siberia, or more heavily rural ethnic Russians regions, tends to be higher.

      A few ethnicities are markedly higher than the average (Chechens, Ingush, Dagestanis, Yakuts, Buryats, Tyvans) but these constitute a very small fraction of the Russian population. The two biggest non-Slavic, non-Orthodox minorities, Tatars and Bashkirs, have TFR’s that are well within the range of ethnic Russians.

  9. Leon Lentz says

    What is Med.? Mediterranean?

    I generally agree with the article, but should say we need to have a more nuanced approach. The Caucasus region has a high birth rate which compensates for the low birth rate in some regions, especially Northwest and some Central regions, excluding Moscow which is full of Caucasus migrants. There is still a need to improve the situation, otherwise it would be like taking the proverbial mean temperature in the hospital to be normal, including the dead and the ones who have high fever.

  10. Leon Lentz says

    I want to make a point regarding remarks that the Western media is insincere about their concern for Russia’s demographics: this is correct but too quaint.

    Just remember their gloating over Beslan terrorist event, they enjoyed it! Romney said it well: Russia is US’ geopolitical enemy number one. Is it just a Cold War dinasaur’s thinking? Do not kid yourselves.

    The West is bent on destruction of Russia, of subjugating its people, on robbing them of it’s natural resources. It is not old thinking at all. Every country with a modicum of independence, with resources needed by the West, is subject to vicious deliberate attacks in every area. Look at CIA statistics of Russia in the “World Book of Facts”: according to them, Russia has 138 mln population which is 5 mln below the actual count and the levels of birthrate and deathrates ascribed to Russia now are taken from the 1990s. Does CIA conduct its own Census? No, they just lie.

    Look at the ratings of Russia, from Universities to the “Freedom of Commerce”: they are ridiculously low. MGU is probably still the best in the world, but, according to US ratings, some American Universities, which are below Russian High Schools, are rated above MGU. Russia is a being surrounded by anti missile defense systems, its NGO’s are directed by the US Ambassador Michael McFaul to conduct sham rallies in Moscow, the media propaganda and the US support for Chechen terrorists are relentless.


  11. Leon Lentz says

    Will US eventually win their Cold War style campaign against Russia and will it ever be an unconditional ruler of the world? No way, it is declining, it is losing this battle and primarily reasons for the future “Dominion of Arrogance” decline are:

    1.Other countries are gradually getting comparable productivity rates with higher population. This will make US weaker than China in the near future and comparable to India
    in the next 20 years. (Russia is expected to be comparable as well).
    2. US educational system is inferior to just about every developed country, especially to that of Russia. This fact will lead to even greater rates of US companies which are moving design and research overseas..
    3. US prosperity is based partly on foreign investments which are in turn dependent on the public confidence in US stability. Once this highly volatile confidence is significantly shaken, its economy will collapse.
    4. The wolrd trade transactions are gradually getting away from dollar and that will limit US ability to prop up their economy with dollar emissions.
    5. The cut-throat Capitalism in US is self-destructing, e.g.the medical care and education are is prohibitively expensive and the right wing propaganda prevents US public from seeing this a great impediment to improving economy. US military adventures, typical of decaying imperial empires, will eventually lead to a defeat and decline

  12. RusFed-o-phile says

    Here the offiicial results of the 2010 census by one-year age:

    Any suggestions regarding the difference of the population statistics and the census results?
    The difference for 2009 births for example is 85.500 (or 6.6% less) which can’t be explained by child mortality and emigration losses combined (both negligible). For the whole 0-4 yo cohort the difference is around 350.000 which is rather disturbing.
    One the good side the horriblly weak years around 1999 (and those before) are somewhat migitated by migration gains which will continue.

    • Most probable answer, in my opinion – it was mentioned many times that certain portion of the population wasn’t counted personally, but the registration documents were used instead. Errors related to this are probably larger for kids who are less likely to be entered into the books during their first year of life. Probably, significant portion of spring and summer kids born in 2010 weren’t yet registereda at residence and thus not counted if their families didn’t speak to Census workers.

      • RusFed-o-phile says

        There’s also a difference for those born 2009 and the years before…
        And yes there were almost 6 million people who didn’t state their ethnic group or weren’t counted directly…that would explain most of the difference.


    The above is an interesting statistical record. It shows abortion rates and these have been falling dramatically since 1999 when Putin showed up. From 179.6 to 74.0 per unit I that is not clear from the graph. This is contributing to the demographic improvement in Russia.