I am not a fan of Vladimir Putin. Enoch Powell once remarked of Edward Heath: “Once a chief whip, always a chief whip.” Similarly, I have remarked before about Putin, “Once a KGB officer, always a KGB officer.” Still, even former KGB officers who spend their time dismantling any nascent signs of democracy in the country they have been running for over a decade, and who, I imagine, are chronically looking over their shoulder to see if a rival is creeping up behind them to knife them between the shoulder blades, can do the maths. The maths concerns the dire demographic state of Russia today.
According to a report in LifeSiteNews, the Russian population will shrink by more than 30 million by mid-century if current trends continue. The population will age rapidly, from an average age of 37.9 in 2010 to an average age of 49 by 2050 – in other words, most Russians will be beyond their childbearing years “and Russia’s demographic fate will be sealed.” Further, abortions are still occurring in “epidemic proportions” in Russia, while the country continues to lose several hundred thousand people a year.
Putin has taken the recent occasion of his annual State of the Nation address to declare, “The 3-child family should become the norm in Russia.”
Since the average Russian woman has only one child, this would represent a significant increase. Putin is keen to give support to couples who respond to the call, though vague as to the means to implement this. Yet it is encouraging that he is apparently “in discussions with pro-life and pro-family groups” on the subject. It seems that hundreds of these groups, together with large families, are now joining together to form a National Parents Association. In a country with a sclerotic social security system and a housing shortage much worse than ours, it is heartening to think that some couples – Christians rather than atheists, I would assume – still have the courage to welcome many children.
Yet there is one large obstacle to Putin’s plans which he has not yet publicly addressed face to face: the prevalence of abortion in Russia. According to LifeSiteNews, “the average Russian woman has seven abortions in her lifetime. As long as society fails to recognise the value of human life…it will be difficult to establish a new 3-child norm. Abortion must cease being a way of life if Russia and her people are to survive.” How will a country that was officially atheist for so long under Communism, and which fully endorses a “woman’s right to choose”, respond to this challenge?
As I think of “Mother Russia” as being a much more spiritual country than our own, I very much hope that the demographic winter forecast for her will not happen. I have no basis for this impression of a spiritual dimension to her peoples except a long immersion in my youth in 19th century Russian literature – and my general lack of sympathy with the current state of “John Bull’s island” (I speak as a Celt.)