By Paul Goble
Neither Vladimir Putin’s personal life nor his policies are consistent with what he says he would like to see as the demographic future of Russia, Kharun Sidorov says. Indeed, his remarks only serve to call attention to his own shortcomings personal and political.
Putin’s own divorce along with the extraordinarily high divorce rate among Russians suggest that all his talk about marriages stable with three or more children is simply hot air, the Prague-based Russian commentator says; and his remarks will do him no good with those who have watched this marker of demographic decline (idelreal.org/a/31431072.html).
The total population of Russia is now declining by almost a million a year, Sidorov suggests; and it is no longer credible to blame all this on the pandemic alone, especially as Putin constantly wants to claim how well Russia, the first country to develop a vaccine, has done, a claim that also rings hollow.
During his time in the Kremlin, Putin has also constantly talked about the need to raise the birthrate among Russians and announced policies intended to do that. But these have been mostly unsuccessful, and births exceeded deaths only between 2013 and 2016. In all other years, the reverse was the case.
What is perhaps most striking, Sidorov continues, is that Putin, despite all his talk about supporting the titular ethnic Russian nation, has failed to end its decline. At the end of Soviet times, Russians officially numbered more than 80 percent of the population; in 2002, 79.8 percent; and in 2010, only 77 percent.
The upcoming census promises to show their share of the population of the Russian Federation will have fallen still further. The only ways Putin knows to increase their number is to assimilate non-Russians within the country or ingather more Russians by conquering neighboring countries.
Putin refuses to recognize two realities, Sidorov says. On the one hand, he doesn’t seem to understand that urbanization lowers the desire of many people to have large numbers of children, not only in Russia but everywhere in the world. Such people live in small apartments and have many demands on their income.
And on the other, and most fundamentally, Putin does not see that the only way Russians will be willing to have more children is if their incomes go up rather than fall as they have in recent years under the current Kremlin leader. And taking steps to boost the incomes of any except the wealthiest is not something he is inclined to do.
What all this means, Sidorov says, is that “Putin’s demographic appeals and promises will remain fairytales” and that any honest characterization of his approach “can be characterized by only one world – bankruptcy.”