Yesterday, the Russian Health Ministry announced that the country’s population grew for the first time in 15 years. The population now stands at 141.9 million, just a hair over what it was in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, which is when it all went to hell. The number of deaths overtook the number of births for the first time in 1992, and the population has been in decline ever since. (The fact that, most years, there are more abortions than live births — due to a perceived lack of birth control options — certainly has not helped.) The Russian government has futilely introduced various initiatives, including paying women to have more children and a creepy subway ad campaign that tells women “The country needs your records!” (I.e., have more babies.)
But it’s a tenuous increase: a mere 1,000 more births than deaths in the last month, and 41,000 more in 2009 than in 2008. In demographic terms, this is peanuts. And, given that economic constraints are often the limiting factor, the economic crisis and continuously rising unemployment is going to make this a very wobbly first step out of demographic collapse.