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#6 - JRL 7234
Argumenty i Fakty
No. 24
June 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]

Russia has the world's seventh largest population after China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. There are 145,537,200 people in Russia, or 2 million more than the authorities had believed before the census. What other surprises did it bring us? Vladimir SOKOLIN, chairman of the State Statistics Committee, in an interview with Veronika SIVKOVA.

Question: So, what other surprises did the census bring?

Answer: Those were surprises not for the Statistics Committee but for the militia. For example, more or fewer people lived in a certain settlement than were registered there. There are settlements in Chukotka, Kamchatka and the Magadan Region where the registered population has left them long ago. At the same time, 1.5 million more people live in the South Federal District than are registered there. And the actual population of Moscow is 1.8 million more than the registered one.

Question: People go to warmer parts but keep their flats.

Answer: People are leaving the Far East, Extreme North and Siberia for Moscow, South Russia and the Belgorod Region. In the 13 years since the previous census, the population of 66 constituent parts of the Federation has decreased, by three times in Chukotka and by half in the Magadan Region.

Question: I can understand leaving for Moscow and the south, where the money is. But why Belgorod?

Answer: It is situated in the Black Soil Zone, where it is easier to survive in the countryside. One more interesting feature revealed by the census is that the urban population of Russia stopped growing. Moreover, about a million urbanites have become rural dwellers in the past 13 years.

Question: Why?

Answer: The same is going on in the other industrialised countries, too.

Question: But the gap between urban and rural life is much larger in Russia than in the rest of the world.

Answer: It has become better to live in the countryside now because the state grants quite a few privileges to rural dwellers. About 300 urban settlements have reversed to their rural essence. And there is a new trend: a part of urban residents have settled in the suburbs, especially around large cities.

Question: The population of 23 regions has grown. Was it thanks to migration or has the birth rate increased after all?

Answer: The population of Altai, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Kabardin-Balkaria and Khanty-Mansi grew for natural reasons, but the number of people in the other regions grew only thanks to migration.

Compared to the 1989 census, Russia's population has dwindled by 1.8 million and the figure would have been much larger if not for migration. Russia is an attractive country for migrants now. It is the third most popular country in the world in this sense, after the USA, which annually receives an average of 924,000 migrants, and Germany (865,000). As many as 781,000 people annually settle in Russia. The "runners-up" are Ukraine (250,000), Kazakhstan, and Israel. But migrants make up only for 75% of the natural decrease. One million people more die than are born in Russia every year.

Question: How many of our specialists emigrate to the West?

Answer: The wave of emigration is gradually subsiding. In the early 1990s, more than 100,000 emigrated every year but last year's figure was only 54,000. I would not describe this as the brain drain. Of those who left last year, only 8,000 had a higher education, including 42 candidates and 11 doctors of sciences.

Question: On the one hand, you say that most people are leaving the Far East, Siberia and Yakutia. On the other hand, the census showed that the birth rate is the highest in those regions. Or take the Caucasus. The population of Chechnya and Ingushetia has grown by 23% compared to the Chechen-Ingush Republic, despite the war. Do you see any contradiction here?

Answer: Absolutely not. Birth rates always grow very much after wars, despite poverty and ruination. As for Siberia and the Far East, the birth rate is high there because young people constitute a substantial part of the population there. Very good conditions have been created for young people in Yakutia, where a fantastic university has been built.

In a word, there is no connection between the living standards and the birth rate. But there is a link between age and the birth rate. Russia is one of the old countries. And though it is criticised for many things, Russia has become a civilised country, where women marry when they want to, sometimes putting wedding off for later.

The highest average marriage age, 29 years, and the lowest birth rate are registered in Spain. You see, the older the brides, the lower the birth rate. Russian women now give birth to their first children at the age of 26. In the past, a mother at 26 was seen as an "old" mother but today this is becoming the norm. In a few more years 30 will become the norm. And when a woman gives birth to her first child at the age of 30, you should not expect her to produce three more children.

Question: Statistically, more girls than boys are born and the census showed that the gap has grown.

Answer: There are 10 million more women than there are men in Russia, especially in the Vladimir, Ivanovo, Tver, Tula, Yaroslavl, and Novgorod regions, in St. Petersburg, Chechnya and Ingushetia. The number of men is larger only in five regions: Chukotka, the Koryak, Evenk and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous regions, and the Kamchatka. Thirteen years ago there were 12 such "male-dominated" regions.

But it is biologically correct that there are more women than there are men. It is a demographic law. A hundred girls are born per every 105-106 boys in the Arab countries, in aboriginal ethnic groups, in Africa, Russia or America. When they grow up to 20 years, the gap is nearly closed because of the higher death rate among men.

Question: But why do women live longer in Russia?

Answer: They live longer in all other countries, too. Moreover, all mammalian females live longer than males do, beginning with whales and ending with human beings.

Question: The death rate grew higher than the birth rate in Russia after 1992. The communists blame it on the economic reforms. The people have become poorer, quality products have become more expensive, and we now have to pay for health care. This is why more people are dying, the communists say. Do you agree?

Answer: Not at all. We did not have the time to do anything in 1992, when the death rate grew higher than the birth rate. But all preceding generations "precipitated" this dwindling of the birth rate. Back in 1979 the Statistics Committee forecast that the process would begin in the spring of 1994, but it began in the spring of 1992. We missed by two years. But in principle, economic reforms and living standards have no effect on demography. Life goes by a biological law and we cannot change it.

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