Friday, March 02, 2012

Russia Haunted by Tens of Thousands of Ghost Villages

Despite abundant happy talk and spin claiming that Russia has turned the corner on its demographic collapse, the facts on the ground tell a starkly different tale.
The discrepancy in life expectancy between Russian men and women has created a gender imbalance that can be seen most acutely in the country's "ghost villages".

Russia has tens of thousands of 'ghost villages' with populations of less than 10 people. Tens of thousands of such villages, whose populations can be counted in handfuls, are dotted across Russia, particularly in the west of the country.

While the exodus of the rural population to cities since the collapse of the Soviet Union has contributed to the trend, the premature deaths of many men has left some villages populated solely by elderly women. _Source
The public health disaster that is modern Russia, is not likely to improve no matter who is president or prime minister. Rates of adult smoking, drinking, suicide, and other risky behaviours are simply too high -- reflecting a palpable despair and nihilistic atmosphere choking the lungs.
Adding to Russia's demographic problems, many skilled Russians are also leaving the country in search of better and higher paid jobs.

A survey in 2011 by the Levada Centre, an independent, non-governmental polling and sociological research organisation, revealed that half of Russians did not think there was a future for them in the country, while 63 per cent said they would like their children to live abroad.

...Speaking to Russians in Moscow, citizens seemed both aware and concerned about the problem.

Aleksei, 33, an opera singer from Perm, said: "I think that the demographic situation in Russia is very bad. There is a lot of dying, and few are born."

While the population decline is mainly among ethnic Russians, other mainly majority-Muslim populations such as Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanis are seeing a rapid increase.

Marina, 43, an accountant from Moscow, said: "The number of Slavs [ethnic Russians] has become much smaller, it is very noticeable; even without considering such large central cities as Moscow and St Petersburg."

...The entire eastern third of Russia has a population of less than 10 million people, while the Chinese provinces immediately on Russia’s border have a combined population of more than 120 million.

Last month, the Russian government announced that it would spend $993bn on the development of Eastern Siberia and Far Eastern regions.

The programme outlines various preferences for citizens willing to move to Russia’s sparsely populated eastern territories, but similar schemes have made little difference in the past.

...If present trends continue, experts say that Russia's population will drop from 143 million to 107 million by 2050.

That problem is a major talking point in the country’s upcoming presidential election, due on March 4, with all the candidates offering various policies to tackle the issue.

Vladimir Putin, who is running for a third term as president, has described the decline as "the most acute problem of contemporary Russia" and last month declared that the country faced becoming a "a geopolitical void” if the trend was not reversed. _Source

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