Russia, free from people: what the census can show

Russia has undertaken a trial census in preparation for the upcoming nationwide census in 2020. The state has new questions for citizens, and citizens have new problems related to their prospects of survival.

Some examples include the distance of the respondent from their main place of work, and willingness to accept a new job even if they were not looking for one. There were also questions about the permanent registration of the respondent, and the duration of their stays in other countries.

“The question of the second job disappeared from the questionnaire, apparently because previously it was not answered, because of people trying to hide additional income. As for the academic degree, this figure, apparently, is not important for the country’s leadership to know,” Nikita Mkrtchyan, a researcher.

Curiously, shortly before the start of the trial census of October 2018, the UN published a report, according to which the population of Russia in the coming decades will decrease by 12-13 million. In particular, by 2025 the rural population in Russia will decrease from 36 to 22 million.

Actually, there is nothing sensational in the UN report. Since 2000, the rural population of Russia has decreased by 500 thousand people per year. In the Orel region, half of the surviving villages have only 1-100 people. In villages in the Pskov region, the death rate exceeded the birth rate by 2.6 times. It is followed by the Kursk and Smolensk regions…

Over the past ten years, 132 settlements have disappeared in the Orel region. Such data is published by the territorial body of the Federal state statistics service. According to the Orel information Bureau, in the near future more than 800 settlements will disappear from the map of the region. The extinction of the village has its own sad logic. The fact is that the network of primary schools in rural areas is rapidly decreasing. For this reason many move to regional centers where there is an opportunity to send children to schools. Another consequence of the disappearance of rural schools is the disappearance of rural teachers and the actual elimination of cultural life in the village. Clubs disappear, movie theaters are closed, people do not know what to do, and many start drinking from despair. “When people go to cities – large or small, they often stay there. There is a certain labor market there, specialists are needed… and the rural population is simply not reproduced. It is exhausted and very old,” Mkrtchyan said.

However, the former Director of the Institute of Demographic Security, Chief Researcher of the Institute of Childhood of the Russian Children’s Fund, Irina Medvedeva, does not agree with this point of view: “It is only necessary to stop the closure of maternity hospitals and the reduction of small village schools — and then the UN forecasts will not be justified. The destruction of the village is not only a demographic problem. It is also a cultural problem. Whatever village is not destroyed is half-asleep, it still retains the cultural tradition. And the Russian cultural tradition has many children.”

Among the causes of population decline is the outflow of people from sparsely populated areas. People leave mainly in search of work, because there is practically no work in the village. As expert Natalia Zubarevich explains: “The standard traditional agricultural sector is almost dead. …There are modern productions such as pig and poultry farms, but they are located near the cities and there is mechanized production, which does not require the employment of a large number of people. The village doesn’t need workers, you know?”

However, Irina Medvedev offers a way out: “We must give people jobs in small businesses. Small processing enterprises will extend the province and fix the demographic situation. …When people have a future that can bring happiness to them and their descendants, then people will begin to give birth to children.”

The authorities have their own point of view, and it is more pragmatic. Recently, the mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin revealed its essence: “In rural areas today there live an extra 15 million people who are by and large not needed for the production of agricultural products, taking into account new production technologies in rural areas.” Nikita Mkrtchyan confirms the thesis of the mayor of Moscow: “The rise of agriculture is now associated with certain industries. Grain-growing is a very profitable industry, it is export-oriented, and it requires almost no labor. This reduces the need for people. Agricultural productivity is growing, exports are growing, but people in villages are not needed. The non-Chern region has already disappeared. There is no one to work there, and it is no longer necessary.”


The World Bank has for the first time calculated a Human Capital Index that reflects the level of productivity of young people. Although Russia has occupied 34th place, its results in terms of survival rates of adults are lower.

The indicator that pulls Russia down is the survival rate of adults, which is estimated as the probability of 15-year-olds surviving to 60. Russia occupies 121st a place. According to this indicator (0.78), Russia is in the worst group of countries — the statistics indicate that only 78% of 15-year-olds live to the age of 60. For comparison, the survival rate of adults in the US, according to the World Bank, is 0.9, in China: 0.92, in Germany: 0.93. Russia was bypassed by countries such as Kazakhstan (0.8), India (0.83), Ukraine (0.81), Ethiopia (0.79), Mongolia (0.79), all countries of South America (except Bolivia, Venezuela and Suriname, for which the World Bank has no data). Other countries with the same results as Russia (0.78) include, for example, Afghanistan, Sudan and Papua New Guinea. One of the best results (0.95) is in countries such as Iceland, Switzerland, Italy, etc.

Translated from