The Russian demography from 1991 to 2012

In December 2010 I зublished a column entitled “The Russian population, object of all fantasies[1]” in which I recalled how the political, economic and institutional collapse that followed the disappearance of the USSR had triggered a health and demographic disaster in Russia. From 1991 to 1999, the health of the population has significantly declined and life expectancy has collapsed. Both were the consequences of the collapse of the Russian economy.

The excessive consumption of an often adulterated alcohol, the related poisonings, the increase of suicides and the development of drugs use and sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, have led to an explosion in the mortality rate. These living conditions in the Russia of the 1990s also caused a gradual decline of the birthrate. Abortion was often the  only option for many women in the midst of the economic crisis. All this led to an unprecedented demographic crisis. Let’s now have a look at the number of births, deaths, and at the natural balance (excluding immigration).

Year after year, the birth rate decreases while the mortality rate increases.

Year                Births               Deaths              Balance
1991            1.794.626        1.690.657           +103.969
1992            1.587.644        1.807.441           -219.797
1993            1.378.983        2.129.339           -750.356
1994            1.408.159        2.301.366           -893.207
1995            1.363.806        2.203.811           -840.005
1996            1.304.638        2.082.249           -777.611
1997            1.259.943        2.015.779           -755.836
1998            1.283.292        1.988.744           -705.452
1999            1.214.689        2.144.316           -929.627

Between 2000 and 2005, the birthrate is going through a significant upturn, probably due to the improved global economic conditions, but the mortality has increased again, resulting in an incredible drop of 5,363,668 inhabitants in the population over six years, that is to say 893,944 per year. In January 2006 the Russian population had dropped by 142.2 million, against 148.3 million in 1990.

Year                Births                  Deaths                   Balance
2000             1.266.800            2.225.332            -958.532
2001             1.311.604           2.254.856              -943.252
2002             1.397.000           2.332.300            -935.300
2003             1.483.200           2.370.300            -887.100
2004             1.502.477           2.295.402            -792.925
2005             1.457.376           2.303.935            -846.559

In 2005 the Russian government has launched a new demographic deal entrusted with Medvedev, who was by the time vice prime Minister in charge of national projects and priorities. This social plan was intended to boost the birth rate and to lower mortality, but its complementary effects on the living standards continually rose from 2005 to 2009. The restoration of the Russian health system and the financial aids to families has had spectacular results. In 12 years, from 1999 to 2011, the mortality has sharply dropped and the annual number of births increased by over 40%.
Year                     Births                   Deaths             Balance
2005                    1.457.376           2.303.935             -846.559
2006                    1.479.637           2.166.703             -687.066
2007                    1.610.100           2.080.400             -470.300
2008                    1.717.500          2.081.000             -363.500
2009                   1.764.000          2.010.500             -246.500
2010                   1.789.600          2.031.000             -241.400
2011                   1.793.828           1.925.036             -131.208

Taking into account the slightly positive net migration in 2009 (for the first time since 1991), Russia‘s population hasincreased by  almost 50,000 inhabitants. In 2010 it fell slightly (about 50,000 people) but in 2011, the populationeventually increased by 160,000. 

The year 2011 is also the best for birth rate since 1991, with 1,793,828births, and for the first time since 1992 there have beenless than 2 million deaths in the country.2011 has a special feature because the numbers of the second semester (births against deaths) aresignificantly better than the first half. Over the last 6months of the year, the natural balance (excludingimmigration) is positive: there were 951,249 births and943,617 deaths, i.e. a positive balance of 7632. August2011 has even seen a record of births (173,166) and the average of the 5 other months of the semester is over150,000. If this trend continues next year,the number of births in Russia could flirt with 1.8 million, while deaths should continue to decrease, falling below 1.9 million. The natural negative balance in 2012 could well be less than100,000. The net migration, as far as it is concerned,should be positive again, given the manpower needs of the Russian economy. Therefore, Russia‘s population should increase again in 2012. For readers interested in the links between economics anddemographics, a more detailed study has been published in France by the IRIS (Observatory of the post-Soviet world) in their September 2011 review under the title: The solution to the Russian demographic decline is in the growth[2].

In the end, let us note that the existing Russian population projections envisage three demographic scenarios[3] (low, medium and high) leading in 2030 to a population balancing between 128 and 144 millions. In its most optimistic version, the demographic scenario predicts that Russia’s population would reach 143 million inhabitants only at the beginning of 2015. But this demographic threshold was already reached by January 1, 2012. The population decline that Russia should theoretically face over the next decade could therefore probably be much lower than expected. One can even imagine that the Russian population will noticeably increase by 2030.


1 thought on “The Russian demography from 1991 to 2012

  1. Olivia Kroth

    I am very glad to see that Russia has an upwards trend in economy and demography, too. Of course, these two factors are closely intertwined, as you rightly point out, dear Alexandre.

    I am still very sad when I read that people continue to spread those clichés about “Russians being drunkards”, which they are certainly not any more, nowadays. Not more than other nations, anyhow.

    Certainly many people take in alcohol, when they get depressed and face financial problems. But this is a human phenomenon, not simply a Russian phenomenon.


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