Foreign Affairs, November/December 2011
December marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the Soviet dictatorship and the beginning of
Indeed, the troubles caused by
TOO MUCH MORTALITY
Even in the Soviet years,
Post-Soviet Russia has become a net mortality society, steadily registering more deaths than births. Since 1992, according to Rosstat,
As a result of this imbalance,
The overall magnitude of
By various measures,
IN SICKNESS AND IN POOR HEALTH
Understanding why such death rates are so high in an urbanized and literate society during peacetime, however, is another question altogether.
Another cause of Russians' ill health may lie in education, and
Family formation trends are a further cause for concern. Between 1987 and 1993, the number of births in
Beyond birthrates, the way Russians form families and raise children has also undergone tremendous change over the past two decades, which raises questions about the human and economic potential of the country's rising generation. Marriages in today's
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The Kremlin understands that
To judge by its public pronouncements, the Kremlin appears optimistic about its new measures. And indeed, since they have gone into effect, births have risen and death totals have come down; in fact, overall life expectancy in
At the same time,
Given these realities,
No less important is domestic migration, especially in terms of the vast expanse of
THE BEAR LASHES OUT?
Although the Russian government has acknowledged the country's poor demographic trends, it appears to have both grossly underestimated the severity of the crisis and overestimated the ability of current Kremlin policies to counteract whatever negative effects it thinks may be on the horizon. In 2008, just before the onset of the global economic crisis, the Kremlin unfurled an ambitious economic plan known as
Rather than focusing on catapulting the Russian economy into the top echelon of global performers, Russian policymakers would be wise to ask what it would take to prevent the Russian economy from shrinking as a share of total global output in the decades ahead. Between 2005 and 2025, according to
Throughout the Putin and Medvedev eras, the potential security risks to
Most immediately and dramatically, the decline could lead
For the moment, the Kremlin evidently still believes that its ambitious long-term socioeconomic plans will not only remedy the country's demographic woes but also propel
Indeed, once the Kremlin finally confronts the true depths of the country's ugly demographic truths,
Foreign governments and other outside actors can also play a role. To start, the international community should promote technical exchanges and training, joint projects on developing best practices in health and education, and civil-society dialogues to build a domestic Russian constituency for stanching the ongoing hemorrhage of Russian life and talent. And when necessary, foreign policymakers, businesspeople, and officials from nongovernmental organizations should be ready to publicly shame the Russian government for its patent neglect of its people's well-being. After all, a healthy, robust
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Copyright 2011, Foreign Affairs