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Russia’s Peacetime Demographic Crisis

Dimensions, Causes, Implications

By Nicholas Eberstadt

Publication Year: 2010

Modern Russia is in the throes of a prolonged depopulation which, according to the report’s author Nicholas Eberstadt, qualifies as “nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe.” This population crisis is marked by disastrous mortality levels and an eroding human resource base and will present serious challenges for Russia’s future domestic and international policy priorities. This report represents the culmination of a three-year research project on Russia’s political economy, as examined through the unique prism of that country’s demographic profile.

Published by: National Bureau of Asian Research


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-3

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pp. ii-iii

This report represents the culmination of a three-year research project, commissioned by The National Bureau of Asian Research and led by Nicholas Eberstadt (American Enterprise Institute), to investigate Russia’s emerging political economy through the unique prism of that country’s demographic profile, and assess the implications thereof for Russia’s future. As posited by Dr. Eberstadt in his initial research proposal, Russia’s dependence on resource ...


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pp. vii-9


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pp. viii-ix

Table of Contents

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pp. x-xii

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Introduction: Russia’s Demographic Crisis: Not a “Normal Country” Problem

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pp. 1-2

In late 2003 and early 2004, toward the end of Vladimir Putin’s first term of office as president of the Russian Federation and during the run-up to his campaign for reelection to a second term, a pair of highly regarded U.S. academics (one an economist, the other a political scientist) published a series of papers that would make a deep impression on informed thinking about Russia in Western political and intellectual circles. The topic of ...

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I. Fewer but not Better: The Demographics of Russia’s Depopulation

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pp. 3-6

In March 1923, months after the formal constitutional establishment of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR), and only months before his own death, Vladimir I. Lenin, the indispensible strategist and prolific theoretician behind Russia’s Communist Revolution, wrote his final political essay. Its memorable title—still known to every literate adult in Russia today—In “Better Fewer, But Better,” Lenin considered the prospects for the fledgling Soviet state. There ...

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1. Depopulation, With Modern Russian Characteristics

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pp. 7-32

A specter is haunting the Russian Federation today. It is not the specter of Communism but rather the specter of depopulation—a relentless, unremitting, and perhaps unstoppable depopulation. For Russia and its people, the Communist era is history. The era of depopulation, on the other hand, may only have just begun.For over a decade and a half, Russia has been in the grip of a steady population decline. ...

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2. Russia’s New Patterns of Fertility and Family Formation since the End of Communism: Shock or Transition?

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pp. 33-60

Fertility trends are, so to speak, the mother of all demographic change. Births determine the maximum demographic potential for any closed population (including the planet as a whole). Perhaps counterintuitively, childbearing patterns also have a powerful and indeed decisive influence on the overall demographic structure of any fixed population.
Social scientists have struggled for—pardon the expression—generations to develop a ...

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3. Russia’s Ominous Patterns of Mortality and Morbidity: Pioneering New and Modern Pathways to Poor Health and Premature Death

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pp. 61-124

Disaster, calamity, tragedy: these are the sorts of terms that the Russian Federation’s current public health situation calls to mind. It serves no purpose, intellectual or political, to cloak the woeful state of the country’s health conditions beneath more diplomatic euphemisms for describing the ongoing crisis.
In its raw dimensions, Russia’s public health losses today are of a scale akin to what might be expected from a devastating and unending general war. Since the end of the ...

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4. The Terrible Mystery of Extreme Mortality in Modern Russia: Searching for Explanations and Answers to a Deadly Puzzle

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pp. 125-146

There is much we still do not understand about the grim new patterns of death and disease that have by now become almost as familiar for Russia, and nearly as distinctively Russian, as the matroyshka (or nesting doll). Yet this much we do know: achieving such extraordinarily poor survival prospects is something of a feat in itself, albeit a terrible and frightening one.
Russia’s contemporary patterns of bad health and high mortality did not just “happen.” ...

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5. Migration: Russia’s Unfamiliar New Dilemmas of Personal Choice

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pp. 147-198

Despite the Russian polity’s well-chronicled and widely lamented drift away from its initial liberal aspirations in the early years of the post-Communist era, the Russian population today almost certainly enjoys greater freedom to move about as they please, both at home and abroad, than at any previous time in the past several centuries, and perhaps even than at any previous juncture in their country’s history. This ...

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II. Russia’s Human Resources in Disarray: The Demographic Crisis Beyond the Population Count

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pp. 199-202

"Demography is destiny.” This marvelous aphorism is commonly attributed to Auguste Comte, the nineteenth century French polymath and pioneer in modern social sciences. It is a wonderful and evocative formulation, rich in its suggestive imagery. Yet at the same time, it offers little in the way of guidance for any practical analysis of the impact of the population factor on human affairs. For such mundane purposes, in fact, ...

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6. Population Aging: Toward a Russia That Is Gray, Sick, and Poor

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pp. 203-218

Paradoxical though it may sound given modern Russia’s horrendous mortality record, the Russian Federation is a society characterized by pronounced population aging, with much more graying still in prospect. The reason is simple: a population’s age profile is largely determined by fertility patterns (which, so to speak, set the width of the base for society’s population pyramid). With low or sub-replacement fertility levels, ...

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7. Education and Labor Productivity in Russia: High Levels of Schooling, Low Levels of Human Capital

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pp. 219-254

The workforce is the backbone of all modern economies, and long-term improvements in workforce productivity are the hallmark of sustained economic development. Education plays a critical role in improving labor productivity in the modern era by imparting knowledge, training, and skills, and by facilitating invention, innovation, and adjustment. The contribution of education to development, indeed, may ...

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8. “Social Capital” in Russia: An Attitude Problem, on a National Scale

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pp. 255-280

The concept of social capital has come to life in the social science literature over the past generation, in the wake of seminal studies by such leading sociologist as Pierre Bourdieu and James S. Coleman.1 The term has also gained currency in everyday discourse thanks to best-sellers by such thinkers as Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam and Francis Fukuyama of Johns Hopkins University. Researchers are still in the ...

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pp. 281-300

The previous chapters have detailed the dimensions of Russia’s peacetime population crisis and examined some of the factors that have helped to account for the country’s anomalous and disturbing demographic trends. It is now time to offer an assessment of some of the implications of the Russian Federation’s strange new population patterns and trends—not only for the country itself but also for the world. The ...


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pp. 301-321

Ads, Back Cover

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pp. 337-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780981890494

Page Count: 321
Publication Year: 2010