POPULATION OF RUSSIA
Population: 142,423,773 (July 2015 est.); country comparison to the world: 10. The population of Russia is shrinking. It was 149.9 million in 1996. Russia has 11.2 percent of the world’s territory but only 2.3 of the population. Whereas Russians had accounted for only about 50 percent of the Soviet Union's population, in Russia they are a clear majority of 82 percent of the population in what remains a distinctively multicultural, multinational state .
A) Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.68 percent (male 12,204,992/female 11,556,764); 15-24 years: 10.15 percent (male 7,393,188/female 7,064,060); 25-54 years: 45.54 percent (male 31,779,688/female 33,086,346); 55-64 years: 14.01 percent (male 8,545,371/female 11,409,076); 65 years and over: 13.61 percent (male 5,978,578/female 13,405,710) (2015 est.); B) Dependency ratios: total dependency ratio: 41.3 percent; youth dependency ratio: 22.8 percent; elderly dependency ratio: 18.5 percent; potential support ratio: 5.4 percent (2014 est.); C) Median age: total: 38.9 years; male: 36 years; female: 41.9 years (2014 est.) [Source: CIA World Factbook =]
Population growth rate: -0.04 percent (2015 est.); country comparison to the world: 200; Birth rate: 11.6 births/1,000 population (2015 est.); country comparison to the world: 168; Death rate: 13.69 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.); country comparison to the world: 10; Net migration rate: 1.69 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.). =
In 1995 Russia's population density was 8.7 persons per square kilometer, but distribution varies from more than 200 persons per square kilometer in parts of European Russia, to 0.03 person per square kilometer in the Evenk Autonomous Region of Siberia.[Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
In the Soviet era—and maybe to some extent today—there was a shortage of statistics and the statistics that exist are of dubious quality because the government wasn’t very forthcoming with information; it was worried about embarrassing information leaking out; and it wasn’t very accommodating to local people or outsiders snooping around asking questions and gathering information.
Information from the 1990s on Russia’s demographic crisis is provided by Valentina Bodrova's "Reproductive Behaviour of Russia's Population in the Transition Period" and Penny Morvant's "Alarm over Falling Life Expectancy."
Population Decline in Russia
Russia is the first industrial country to experience a major population decline for reasons not explained by war, famine or major outbreak of disease. Even during the Vietnam War the population of Vietnam continued to increase. The population of Russia was declining at a rate of about 3,000 people everyday in the early 2000s. In 2000, deaths exceeded births by around 800,000 compared to 400,000 in 1998 and 220,000 in 1990. By 2004, 173 people were dying for every 100 babies being born and the population was 5 million less than it was in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. A long-term population decline of 600,000 per year is forecast, reducing the population to as little as 112 million by 2050.
Russia has had a slow or declining growth rates for a while. The population now is not that much higher than pre-World-War II levels. According to most sources, the population of the present Russian Federation peaked in 1991 at 148,689,000. Even with significant increases in immigration in the early 1990s, the Russian population has been shrinking since 1992; according to projections by the Center for Economic Analysis of the Russian Federation, immigration will make a very small dent in a continued negative natural increase. The annual rate of population change, which dropped from 0.7 percent in 1985 to its first negative figure of -0.3 percent in 1992. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
The population in what is now the Russian Federation has undergone several major shocks in the twentieth century, including large-scale rural famines in the 1920s and 1930s and the loss of millions of citizens in World War II. According to demographic experts, the early 1990s may be the start of a more gradual but potentially powerful new shift. Beginning in 1992, the population has suffered a net loss that is projected to continue at least through the first decade of the next century. This phenomenon is caused by a combination of economic, political, and ethnographic factors. *
In the 1990s, demographers and policy makers are concerned about alarming trends such as a plummeting birthrate, increasing mortality among able-bodied males, and declining life expectancy. Another demographic concern is the millions of Russians remaining in the other newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union, called by policy makers the "near abroad." These Russians or their forebears resettled under a variety of conditions. Russian authorities fear that social and ethnic upheaval in those states could trigger the mass migration of Russians into the federation, which is ill equipped to integrate such numbers into its economy and society. By the early 1990s, Russia had already become the destination of greatly increased numbers of immigrants. *
Many think the problem will get worse before its get better. If the trend continues, Russia will have as many as 30 million less people 50 year from now. The population is expected to drop to 135 million in 2025 to 112 million in 2050, making Russia the 17th most populous nation instead of the sixth it once was.
History of Population Growth and Decline in Russia
In the old days, Russians had lots of children. According to the Guinness Book of Records, a Russian woman gave birth to 69 children between 1725 and 1765. She had four sets of quadruplets, seven sets of triplets and 16 pairs of twins.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, World War I and the Great Famine in the 1930s the population of Russia was only a few percentage lower than projected if these upheavals had not occurred. It took ten years to overcome the loses and for the population curve to resume to where it was.
During the Soviet period, natural and geopolitical phenomena shaped the characteristics of Russia's population. In that period, wars, epidemics, famines, and state-sanctioned mass killings claimed millions of victims. Before the 1950s, each decade brought to the population of the former Russian Republic some form of cataclysmic demographic event. Demographers have calculated that a total of 33.6 million people died from a brutal collectivization process and the famine that ensued in the 1920s and 1930s, the Great Terror of Joseph V. Stalin. Although those events ended more than fifty years ago, such disasters have had significant long-term effects. In age-groups above forty-five, women greatly outnumber men. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996]
As a result of World War II, when around 20 million Russians are believed to have died, most of them men, working-age women outnumbered men by 20 million. In the 1950s, the ratio of women to men was about 7:6. In 1959, there were 114.8 million females in the Soviet Union but only 94 million males. Unlike the West, the Soviet Union did not experience a baby boom after World War II.
Reason’s for Russia’s Population Decline
Several reasons are given for the decline in Russia's population. First, the postwar baby boom, which began echoing in a secondary population rise in many Western countries in the early 1990s, had much less demographic impact in Russia. Second, a long history of Soviet ecological abuse has planted still unquantifiable seeds of demographic decline throughout the population, especially in areas of concentrated industry, military installations, and intensive agriculture. Third, post-Soviet Russia has experienced a general decline in health conditions and health care . [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
The population decline is mostly explained by a declining fertility (birth) rate and increasing death rate. Birth rates fell from 2.2 children per woman in 1989 to 1.4 in 1994. A fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is necessary to keep the population from starting to shrink. The death rate increased 20 percent from 1992 to 1993 to 14.6 per 1,000 people. Low fertility rates are blamed on a sick population, the high rate of abortions, high infant mortality rate, and sexual diseases which affects a woman's ability to have children. There are concerns that the Russian population could decline by as much as a third if AIDS and alcoholism get worse.
In addition, the prolonged economic downturn of the early and mid-1990s, in which an estimated 31 percent of the population (46.5 million people) had incomes below the poverty level, has increased the incidence of malnutrition, which in turn lowers resistance to common ailments. Only individuals who have their own gardens are assured a regular supply of fruits and vegetables. Even under the Soviet system, the average Russian's diet was classified as deficient, so the population now shows the cumulative effects of earlier living conditions as well as current limitations. Poor economic prospects, together with low confidence in the state's family benefits programs, discourage Russians from planning families; the least positive "reproductive attitudes" have been found in the Urals and in northeastern Siberia. *
see Health, Declining Health
Consequences of Population Decline
One consequence of a low birth rate is an increasingly older population and a declining labor force expected to take care of them. In 1940, working age people accounted for 40 percent of the population and the elderly 8 percent. Now working age make up 20 of the populations and the elderly 24 percent.
In 1990, about 17 percent of the population was over 60 years old. That rate is expected to increase to 25 percent in 2030. Some 89 million people (61 percent of the population) were of working age in 2002, but the working-age population is expected to decrease by as much as 15 percent during the ensuing 20 years.
A declining birthrate and an older population means that as time goes on there will more retired people and relatively less working people, which means that working people are increasingly called upon to support the retirees with their labor. Over time there will also be too few people to care for the elderly, fill the manufacturing jobs that drive the economy and even grow food to feed people.
A shrinking, graying population is likely to cause the economy will shrink. There will be fewer skilled people entering the job market. There will be less savings. This means there will be less money for loans and investment and this will make it harder for companies to grow and create new jobs for young people.
But contrary to the trend in Western countries of a shrinking working population supporting an expanding community of retired individuals, in Russia a declining life expectancy and a declining birthrate will increase marginally the proportion of active workers in the population. The actual number of such people is not likely to rise appreciably, however, and some analyses project a decline in this figure as well. In 1992, for every 1,000 people of working age, 771 people were outside working age; the Center for Economic Analysis estimated that in 2005 the proportion dropped to 560 per 1,000. The declining birthrate caused the ratio of younger-than-working-age individuals in the population to decrease dramatically from the 1992 figure of 421 per 1,000 in the working-age group to only 241 per 1,000 in 2005. Under this trend, the overall percentage of the population in the working-age group would increased from 56.5 to 64.1. [Source: Library of Congress, 1996]
The population problem is seen as "a threat to Russia's national security." With the population shrinking especially fast in Siberia, Russians worry that China might invade.
Sex Ratio in Russia
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female;0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female;15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female;25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female;55-64 years: 0.75 male(s)/female;65 years and over: 0.45 male(s)/female;total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (2015 est.). [Source: CIA World Factbook =]
Most of the demographic disasters that have beset Russia in the twentieth century have affected primarily males. In 1992 the sex ratio was 884 males per 1,000 females; in the years between 1994 and 2005, the imbalance is projected to increase slightly to a ratio of 875 males per 1,000 females. [Source: Library of Congress]
Gender disparity has increased because of a sharp drop in life expectancy for Russian males, from sixty-five years in 1987 to fifty-seven in 1994. (Life expectancy for females reached a peak of 74.5 years in 1989, then dropped to 71.1 by 1994.) Projected changes in life expectancy are negative for both sexes, however. Mortality figures that the Ministry of Labor released in mid-1995 showed that if the current conditions persist, nearly 50 percent of today's Russian youth will not reach the retirement ages of fifty-five for women and sixty for men. *
Low Fertility in Russia
Total fertility rate:1.61 children born/woman (2015 est.); country comparison to the world: 179; Contraceptive prevalence rate: 68 percent( percent of women aged 15-44 (2011). [Source: CIA World Factbook =]
Russia’s population decline is mostly explained by a declining fertility (birth) rate and increasing death rate. The birth rate be per woman declined from 7.5 children per women in 1920 to 3 in 1940 to 1.3 children per women in 1997. The birthrate declined 38 percent between 1989 and 1993. In the same period the death rate increased 30 percent to 14.6 per 1,000 people. A fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is necessary to keep the population from starting to shrink.
With the exception of a few ethnic groups in the North Caucasus, birthrates for all nationalities in Russia have generally declined in the postwar period. The birthrate of Russians already was falling dramatically in the 1960s, moving from 23.2 per 1,000 population at the beginning of the decade to 14.1 in 1968. By 1983 the rate had recovered to 17.3 per 1,000, stimulated by a state program that provided incentives for larger families, including increased maternity benefits. Another decline in the birthrate began in 1987, and by 1993 the rate was only 9.4 per 1,000. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
In the turnaround year of 1992, the number of births in Russia dropped by 207,000 (13 percent) compared with 1991, and the number of deaths increased by 116,000 (7 percent). The fertility rate has dropped in both urban and rural areas. In the early 1990s, the lowest rates were in the northwest, especially St. Petersburg and in central European Russia. The disparity between birth and death rates was especially pronounced in the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg and in the European oblasts of Pskov, Tula, Tver', Belgorod, Leningrad, Novgorod, Yaroslavl', Moscow, Tambov, and Ivanovo. In 1992 natural population growth occurred only in the republics of Kalmykia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Gorno-Altay, Sakha, and Tyva, and in Tyumen' and Chita oblasts of western and eastern Siberia, respectively. However, although fertility rates in the predominantly Muslim republics of the North Caucasus and the Volga region continued to exceed those of the Slavic population, by 1995 the rate was declining even in Dagestan, the republic with the highest birthrate in Russia. *
Reasons for Low Fertility in Russia
Low fertility rates are blamed on a sick population, the high rate of abortions, high infant mortality rate, and sexual diseases which affects a woman's ability to have children. There are concerns that the Russian population could decline by as much as a third if AIDS and alcoholism get worse.
Throughout the Soviet period, urbanization was rapid, and urban families generally had fewer children than rural ones. The urbanization process ended in 1992, when for the first time in the postwar period a smaller percentage of the Russian population lived in cities than the year before. By that time, however, substantial reasons existed for Russians to limit the size of their families. The population decline of the Russians has been especially pronounced in comparison with other ethnic groups. In many of the twenty-one republics, the titular nationalities have registered higher birthrates and larger average family sizes than the Russian populations. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
The sharp decline in the fertility rate in the 1990s was linked to the social and economic troubles triggered by the rapid transition to a market economy and resulting unemployment. Families have been destabilized, and living standards for many have fallen from even the modest levels of the Soviet era. Under such circumstances, decisions on marriage and childbearing often are postponed. Particularly in the cities, housing has been extremely hard to acquire, and the percentage of working wives has increased significantly in the post-Soviet era (see Women). The number of common-law marriages, which produce fewer children than traditional marriages, has increased since the 1960s, as has the percentage of babies born to unattached women.
History also has affected the absolute number of births. The birthrate during World War II was very low, accounting for part of the low birthrate of females in the 1960s, which in turn lowered the rate in the 1990s. Between 1989 and 1993, the number of women in the prime childbearing age-group decreased by 1.3 million, or 12 percent, making a major contribution to the 27 percent decline in births during that period. Between 1990 and 1994, the government's official estimate of the infant mortality rate rose from 17.4 per 1,000 live births to 19.9, reflecting deterioration of Russia's child care and nutrition standards. But Russia has not used international viability standards for newborns, and one Western estimate placed the 1995 rate at 26.3. Between 1992 and 1995, the official maternal mortality rate also rose from forty-seven to fifty-two deaths per 100,000 births.
Demographics Trends in Russia
In 2004 the average age was 37.7 years, an increase of three years since 1989, indicating a steadily aging population. In 2006 only 14 percent of the population was younger than 15 years of age, and 14 percent was older than 64.Life expectancy was 60.5 years for men, 74.1 for women—one of the largest life expectancy differentials by sex in the world. Some 53.7 percent of the population was female. The birthrate was 9.9 per 1,000 population; the death rate was 14.7 per 1,000 population. Infant mortality was 15.1 per 1,000 live births, and the average number of children born per woman of childbearing age was 1.3. About 1 million residents of Russia are citizens of other countries. In 2006 the estimated rate of net migration was 1.03 persons per 1,000 population, compared with a rate of 0.9 in 2004. Between 2002 and 2004, the rate had decreased by 55 percent. In 2005 net migration was 107,000, an increase of 7.5 percent over 2004. [Source: Library of Congress, October 2006 **]
The range of estimates for Russia's 1995 population is between 147.5 and 149.9 million. Roughly 78 percent of Russia's population lives in the European part of Russia; most of the industrial cities with over 1 million inhabitants are located in the European part. In order of size, the largest Russian cities are Moscow (8.7 million people in 1992), St. Petersburg (4.4 million), Novosibirsk (1.4 million), Nizhniy Novgorod (1.4 million), Yekaterinburg (1.4 million), Samara (1.2 million), Omsk (1.2 million), Chelyabinsk (1.1 million), and Kazan' (1.1 million). Of those cities, only Novosibirsk and Omsk are located east of the Urals.[Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
The process of urbanization of the Russian population, ongoing since the 1930s, began a gradual reversal in 1991, when a peak of 74 percent of the population was classified as urban. This marked a significant increase from the 1970 figure of 62 percent. In 1995 the urban share fell below 73 percent. Meanwhile, rural areas continued to lose significant portions of their population. Between 1960 and 1995, about two-thirds of Russia's small villages (those with fewer than 1,000 residents) disappeared; of the 24,000 that remained in the mid-1990s, more than half the population was older than sixty-five and only 20 percent was younger than thirty-five .
Migration has exacerbated the negative population trend of lower marriage and birthrates in many rural settlements. As the young have left rural Russia, large rural sections of the country's central region have been deserted. As their aged inhabitants die, thousands more Russian villages are disappearing. Proposals have been put forth for resettling some of the Russian immigrants from the "near abroad" in rural areas in order to revive local economies, but in the mid-1990s migration authorities had little authority and few resources with which to organize such a program. *
A particular demographic concern of the Russian government, as well as governments of the other states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), is the loss of highly skilled personnel. This problem had existed in the last decade of the Soviet Union; in 1989 some 2,653 employees of the Soviet Union's Academy of Sciences left the country, five times more than in 1988. A 1990 sociological forecast predicted that 1.5 million specialists would leave the country in the 1990s if conditions did not improve. *
Migration Patterns in the Soviet Union
For most of the postwar period, the state tightly controlled migration into and emigration from the Soviet Union and movement within the nation. Nevertheless, in each year of the 1980s, about 15 million citizens changed their place of residence within the Soviet Union, and large numbers of some ethnic groups, most notably Jews, Germans, and Armenians, were successful in emigrating. An estimated 2 million Jews left the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1991 (see Jews Under Minorities). Overall, external migration played a relatively minor role in the structure of the Russian Republic's population. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
With the introduction of the policies of glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980s, migration policy began to change. In 1985 just 2,943 persons received official permission to emigrate. By 1990 the figure had risen to more than 100,000. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, legislative and administrative changes brought about new policies with respect to migration. First, the traditional internal passport (propiska ) that conferred permission to work and live in a specific place was nominally abolished, enhancing freedom of movement within Russia. Second, the general right to emigrate was written into law in the 1993 constitution. *
Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, major historical internal migration paths were from the western parts of Russia and the Soviet Union to the northern and eastern regions. In contrast to the American experience, Russia has had difficulty in stabilizing the population in newly settled eastern and northern areas of the federation, where the climate and living conditions are harsh. Despite pay and benefit incentives, turnover has continued to hamper the operations of the giant territorial production complexes, especially in the key energy sector. *
Migration Patterns In the Post-Soviet Era
About 1 million residents of Russia are citizens of other countries. In 2006 the estimated rate of net migration was 1.03 persons per 1,000 population, compared with a rate of 0.9 in 2004. Between 2002 and 2004, the rate had decreased by 55 percent. In 2005 net migration was 107,000, an increase of 7.5 percent over 2004. [Source: Library of Congress, October 2006 **]
The increased numbers of Russians arriving from other CIS nations create both logistical and political problems. As in the case of non-Russian refugees, statistical estimates of intra-CIS migration vary widely, partly because Russia has not differentiated that category clearly from the refugee category and partly because actual numbers are assumed to be much higher than official registrations indicate. Many newly arrived Russians (like non-Russians) simply settle with friends or relatives without official registration. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
During Russia's problematic economic transition period, the movement of comparatively large numbers of migrants has created substantial social friction, especially over the distribution of scarce urban housing. Nationalist extremist political groups have inflamed local resentment toward refugees of all types. Friction is exacerbated by the state's meager efforts to support migrant populations. Skilled immigrants show particular resentment against a state that fails to provide opportunities and even enough resources to survive, and these people often have drifted into progressively more serious types of criminal activity. Local populations uniformly resent resources provided to migrants in their midst, and they attribute their own economic difficulties to the "strangers" among them, especially if those people are not of the same nationality. Particular tension has been evident in North Ossetia, whose 17 percent immigration statistic is by far the highest in the Russian Federation, in Stavropol' and Krasnodar territories, and in Orenburg, Kaluga, Voronezh, and Saratov oblasts, all of which have numbers of migrants exceeding 1 percent of their populations. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
By 1992 the International Red Cross had estimated that about 150,000 ethnic Russians had migrated from CIS states, and at the end of 1993 the head of the FMS estimated that 2 million Russians and non-Russians had arrived from the near abroad in the first two post-Soviet years. As many as 300,000 of the 375,000 Russians in Tajikistan left that country in the first years of the civil war that began in 1992, and in 1994 more than half the Russian arrivals came from Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan. However, the structure of this group changes according to security and political conditions in the CIS states; by the end of 1994, almost 60 percent of Russian arrivals came from Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, driven not by armed conflict but by local discrimination, and the share of arrivals from the conflict states had declined to one-third. The official FMS estimate for 1995 was 963,000 people arriving in Russia from other CIS states, slightly lower than the 1994 total. The number offorced migrants rose by 300,000 in 1995, however. The states of origin showing the largest increases in 1995 were Kazakstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, and the Central Asian republics continued to account for more than half the total CIS migrants. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
Refugees and migrants from outside the federation have settled in most of the territory of Russia except for parts of the Far North and ethnic republics such as Sakha, Chechnya, and Adygea. The largest numbers of settlers are in the North Caucasus, the southern part of the chernozem agricultural zone of European Russia, the Volga region, and the industrial cities of the adjacent Ural Mountains. Forced migrants show a decided preference for cities. In the north and the east, almost 100 percent of all migrants settle in urban regions, but more than half of migrants to south-central European Russia, the North Caucasus, and the Urals settle in rural areas. Because there has been no state program for distributing forced migrants, they have chosen destinations according to accessibility from their starting point and the location of relatives. Russian refugees seldom settle in an ethnic republic or a region with a high proportion of non-Russians, such as Orenburg Oblast; for that reason, their share of total refugees in the republics is less than 10 percent. Armenian refugees, mainly from the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave of Azerbaijan, are concentrated in the North Caucasus and Saratov Oblast, as well as the large cities and Kaliningrad Oblast on the Baltic Sea. Islamic refugees, mainly Tatar, Bashkir, Tajik, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz, prefer the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and adjacent regions with large numbers of Tatars. National groups also have varying long-term intentions. Russians and Tatars tend to remain permanently in their new locations; Chechens mostly plan to return to their homeland once conditions improve; and Armenians and Germans are predominantly transit migrants en route to another country. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
In the Soviet period, immigration was not a problem because the Soviet Union was not a destination of preference for any class of refugee. For that reason, in the early 1990s Russia was not equipped with agencies or laws for dealing with a large-scale influx of asylum seekers and returning Russians. In light of new demographic movements in the 1990s, however, respected academician Dmitriy Likhachev has warned that in the next decade immigration may become a national concern of the same magnitude as national defense. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated May 2016