Russia's Demographic Challenge
MIN READDec 3, 2012 | 16:42 GMT
Russia is facing a massive demographic shift. By 2030, Russia's population of 143 million people is estimated to fall by nearly 10 percent. However, it isn't the decline in population that is most significant but the future composition of that population that will shift Russia's political and social landscape.
Russia's population decline is due to high infant mortality, low birth rates, emigration, poor healthcare, low life expectancy and a culture prone to high levels of alcohol consumption. Russia's population decline has slowed in recent years, though mainly due to the increase of Muslims and other immigrant populations.
Official estimates indicate 240,000 immigrants per year are coming to Russia, although that number is most likely 400,000 with illegal immigration. The majority of these immigrants are from the Islamic former Soviet republics, like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. This comes as Russia's indigenous Muslim population is also on the rise. Conversely, ethnic Russians, mainly Slavic and Orthodox, are in decline. At the fall the Soviet Union, Russia's Muslim population stood at 9 percent, and currently is nearly 13 percent. By 2030 it is estimated to be 16 percent. The increasing Muslim population has put social strains on the country, as most of the ethnic Russian population has deep bias against Muslims in the country.
This shift in the population is taking place at the same time as another important demographic change: a generational one. Today over 20 percent of the Russian population was born after 1992, meaning after the fall of the Soviet Union. By 2032 that population will be nearly half of all Russians. This generation did not live under Communism and is coming of age in a more stable and prosperous Russia. It is a generation that is also increasingly politically inclined, with protests in 2011 and 2012 against the ruling Kremlin.
Both demographic shifts are changing the face of Russia and forcing the Russian government to address its population in a different way in order to rule the diversifying populace in years to come.