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Russia’s demographic emergency

Russia’s population decline is a national emergency, and its attitude to abortion is to blame

By on Thursday, 20 December 2012

Russia Putin

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.)

  • Benedict Carter

    I am a fan of Vladimir Putin. 

    Now in my 15th year in Russia, I well remember the atmosphere of palpable danger on the streets as society imploded under Yeltsin. Putin isn’t perfect, but give me him rather than the odious Obamas, Camerons, Junkers, Barrosos and Van Rompuys of this world. Putin saved the nation, for God’s sake, and tamed the Chechens, self-described “wolves”. 

    The ignorance in the West of this country is almost total and fills long-termers like me full of contempt for those journalists who write about it from the point of view of the modern social democrat metromale and the education of some American or British red brick “educational establishment”. 

    What is needed here – and in Ukraine – are laws banning abortion, which are being considered. Please God He brings those in positions of real power to have the courage to take this step!

  • Francis Marsden

    Is this the Vladimir Putin who has said that the break-up of the USSR was the greatest disaster of the 20th century? Is this the Vladimir Putin who recently compared the embalmed corpse of Lenin in the mausoleum in Red Square to the relics of Orthodox saints and martyrs? Is this the Vladimir Putin who has constantly worked to undermine the independence of ex-Soviet states such as Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia? Is this the Putin who showed no emotion or care about the drowning of 130 Russian sailors in the Kursk atomic submarine, until political pressure forced him to return from holiday in the Crimea and actually look involved and concerned? Is this the Putin, before whose election as president the first time, there were three unexplained explosions killing 300 people in Moscow blocks of flats, conveniently blamed on Chechen terrorists? Is this the Putin under whose rule so many journalists critical of the Kremlin have suffered unfortunate and lethal accidents? Is this the same Putin whose political enemies always seem to get arrested, lose their business empires and end up in prison?  Sorry, but as Francis Phillips says: “Once a KGB officer, always a KGB officer.”

    The trains ran on time under Mussolini and Hitler too……

  • cullenD

    ” tamed the Chechens”
    Are you mad? At best Putin contained them for a short time. He granted them some autonomy, to allow them to set up a tinpot dictator, who takes care of himself and his. 

    Now you have a country where a “marriage proposal” is often a kidnap, rape and enforced conversertion to islam. Where it’s not unusual to find the frozen body of a gang raped and executed woman in a ditch. Sometimes the lack of investigation is due to the fact that the police force were guilty of the crime. 

    Our definition of “taming” differs.

  • Alastair Wanklyn

    Those who hope Putin will disappear should be careful what they wish for.

    Perhaps the most reasonable frustration for outsiders is that the country could have developed so much better than has been the case, given the clean sheet Russia began with in the early 90s.

    Yeltsin, for all his many failings, understood this, and threw the doors open to foreign advisors and investors. Predictably, many who arrived were incompetent, or cranks, who only added to the chaos.

    Putin was a welcome change, but he could have achieved significantly more had he not rejected “non-Russian” ways so wholeheartedly.

  • Benedict Carter

    Started with a “clean sheet”, after 75 of state criminality? Are you mad?

  • Benedict Carter

    Yes, and that’s how the Chechens have been for millenia. They had their 5 year chance at the end of 1996 and blew it. 

  • Benedict Carter

    The alternative back in 2000 could very easily have been Civil War. 10 million died in the last one, more than in the First World War.

  • Agent Provocateur21

    It’s funny how Western journalist always say something negative about Russia or Putin before going to the point. Sadly, Catholic journalists are no exception. I am a fan of Putin! He is not a politician, he is a statesman. God bless him! However, I don’t understand why he has not issued a presidential decree forbidding all abortions in Russia. This is only effective step which could save hundreds of thousands innocents lives. Let’s pray abortions will become illegal in Holy Rus and then (hopefully) the West will follow the example.

  • teigitur

    You reap what you sow.

  • Agent Provocateur21

     There are many errors in your post, but there is one I can’t forgive. The original name for Ukraine is “little Russia” and Belarus actually means “white Russia”. Majority of Ukrainian citizens (apart from nationalist from Western parts) would happily join Russia again. Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are one Holy Rus. Get over it.

  • aearon43

    Can we agree though that Poland, Georgia, and the Baltic countries are not part of “Holy Rus?”

  • cullenD

    I apologise for using the word “mad”. It was unfair and uncalled for. I think you’re right about Chechens, but I dream and hope we are both wrong. The optimistic side of me says that no culture could survive adopting that level of brutality against a gender.

    Otherwise gimme a chance to catch up!

    The two things I know I know too little about are the “Korean War” and the Russian/Afghan war. If you’d like to suggest a book on the latter, I’ll read it. 

    That will be a good starting point for me.

  • Benedict Carter

    “Chechnya, Tombstone of Russia’s Power”.

  • Agent Provocateur21

    Sure, of course Poland and Baltic states are not part of Holy Rus. I’ve never heard anyone claiming the opposite.

  • Stephen Smythe-Jones

    Would you want to bring children into the world in a nation where much of the land is frozen over most of the year? Where the words “democracy and freedom” are used to further the ambitions of tyrants and autocrats? Where the life expectancy  for males is about age 60 yrs and then death  from alcoholism? Where  the only joy in life is being able drink your comrade under the table? Me neither.

  • AugustineThomas

    “The average Russian woman has seven abortions.”

    Seven murders for every wasted secularist life. They managed to outdo Stalin.

  • James Ignatius McAuley


    Merry Christmas!  This article is spot on.  As a father of three, I thank God everyday for my children.  I will say the Divine Mercy Chaplet for this intention and ask St. Winifred, Anthony, Jude and Philomena for help in this. 

  • Brendan

    Actually, if one consults “Demographics of Russia” on Wikipedia, it’s clear that Russia is in recovery mode. Abortions fell below one million last year — from over four million per year during the 1980s! — while births are up again and should hit 1.9 million this year.

  • Francis Marsden

    Dear Agent Provocateur.
    Who is your FSB (new KGB) handler?

  • Agent Provocateur21

    So typical…if you don’t have arguments, you resort to personal attacks. Repent Francis, repent….

  • Benedict Carter

    A total caricature, just pathetic. 

  • Arimathean

    No, you get over it! Ukraine and Belarus are now independent nations. (And they were not always part of Russia.)

    Putin’s constant attempts to undermine the independence of Russia’s neighbors is a despicable political ploy. It is not unlike the Argentine generals’ attempt to hold onto power by invading the Falklands 30 years ago.

  • Arimathean

    Putin does not care about the people of Russia. To him, they are just cows to be milked to enrich him and his cronies. His policies keep Russia weak because a strong Russia would be harder for him to control.

  • Oleg-Michael Martynov

    Fact: under Putin, Chechnya has much more independence than Dudaev ever dreamed of, AND much more Sharia rule, AND all this happiness is paid by Russian taxpayers. His policies are a major failure there as in any other area. I’m telling that as a Russian, mind you.

  • Aurora

    Because making laws in Russia is absolutely useless, nobody follows the rule of law in this land starting with Putin and anyway you can do abortion in any clinic just pay the money…

  • Aurora

    Are you serious about Russian statistics? Who wrote this statistics on Wikipedia, Putin?