Winning: Russia Gains Crimea But Loses Over A Million Russians


March 19, 2015: Since Russia began invading and trying to annex parts of Ukraine in 2014 there has been a substantial shift in population. Since early 2014 nearly two million people have left Russia. More than half these were Westerners (including many from East European countries) working in Russia, providing skills that Russia did not have. The rest were Russians, most of them highly educated and with similar skills to the departing Westerners. What all these migrants had in common was a desire to get away from an increasingly authoritarian, intolerant and economically disastrous Russian government. About half the departing Westerners and skilled Russians were replaced by more (less educated and skilled) migrants from the east (Central Asia, North Korea, China and the Caucasus). There would be more migrants from the east but the lower oil prices has caused an economic crises and fewer jobs, especially fewer jobs for the less educated. Since the current Russian government seems determined to continue its aggressive and anti-Western policies, the exodus of skilled Russians will continue. During the Soviet period such migration was forbidden and a growing number of Russians fear those Soviet era travel restrictions will return, because without such restrictions Russia will lose a critical number of skilled personnel needed to operate a modern economy. The current government seems unconcerned about this and has an attitude of “good riddance”. Some members of the government do realize the implications of these migration patterns but know better than to go public with their misgivings.

All this is good news, in a way, for Russia’s neighbors. For centuries Russia was considered a threat to its neighbors by virtue of its larger population. But since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 (and half the population broke away to form 14 new nations) the remaining Russian population has been in decline. Twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russian population implosion was getting worse. While in the 1990s the population was shrinking at a rate of .1 percent a year, in the first decade of the 21st century that increased to .2 percent a year. This was because the non-Slav Russians are having fewer children, just as the Slavs have been doing (or, rather, not doing) for decades. The Russian population has declined three percent since 1989, from 147 to 142.9 million. The proportion of the population that is ethnic Russian (Slav) has declined from 81.5 percent to 77 percent in that same period.

The rapidly aging Russian population is not only shrinking but is not fit for any major economic or military efforts. During the last decade it was discovered that some 60 percent of Russians are elderly, children, or disabled. Out of 20 million males of working age, one million are in prison, a million in the armed forces (including paramilitaries), five million are unemployed (or unemployable due to poor education, health, or attitude), four million are chronic alcoholics, and a million are drug addicts.

Thus there is something of a labor shortage, with plenty of jobs for women and immigrants. The birth rate is below replacement level (but was turning around before 2014) and a declining population means more immigrants just to keep things going. Improving medical care and health habits (especially treating alcoholism and drug use) is a government priority, in order to raise the life span of Russian males. That has had some success, and in urban areas you see more Russians out running and going to the many newly built private gyms. But these improvements are not happening quickly enough to reverse the population decline.

If this trend is not reversed, Russia will continue to have a smaller, and less Russian, population. If the current Russian leadership have their way the size and population will grow via conquest. As in the past, many of the neighbors are willing to resist.





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