Demographic situation in Russia in 1992–2010

Translated by Demographia.ru | Original version in Russian 

\"\" Igor Beloborodov, Ph.D, Editor-in-Chief of  Demographia.ru, member of  the Expert Council of the CIS Affairs Committee of the Council of the Russian Federation, Director of  Demographic Research Institute (Moscow), Head of the Charity Fund for Protection of Family, Motherhood and Childhood (the first Russian crisis pregnancy center), Vice Chairman of the All-Russian public organization “For life and protection of family values”

E-mail: demographia@demographia.ru

Report at the Moscow Demographic Summit (June, 2011)

The viability and economic development of a state is closely linked to its stable demographic development, which guarantees reproduction of generations. This obvious truth was proved by A. Smith, Ch. Montesquieu, M. Lomonosov, D. Mendeleev, and many other famous scientists.

However, nowadays many countries experience difficulties with reproduction of population (this process is observed mostly in European countries). For the last 19 years, a depopulation trend has been observing also in Russia: the population of our country is rapidly declining.

A deep crisis of the family institution is the primary reason for all Russian demographic troubles, which are expressed in disturbing trends in the field of matrimonial, reproductive and self-preservative behavior of the Russian people.

This report describes the Russian demographic dynamics in terms of all the processes that have a direct impact on the population size and reproduction of population—fertility, mortality, nuptiality, divorces, and migration. The latter process, though does not relate to reproduction, has an influence on the total population size, and therefore is also considered as a component of demographic dynamics.

Depopulation in Russia: 19 years of demographic tragedy

It is known that the Russian population ceased to reproduce itself in 1964–1965. Since then, the Russian society entered a phase of so-called latent (hidden) depopulation—when the population does not decline but the fertility rate is already below the replacement level. Due to the potential of its demographic structure, the population keeps on growing for some time “by inertia.”

Nowadays, a similar situation is observed also in China, Iran, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Chile, and many other countries.

According to the latest UN\'s demographic report—World Population Prospects-2010—42 percent of all mankind are encompassed by latent depopulation.

With the exception of almost 30 years of the latent depopulation tendency, there were a few years in the late eighties (1986–1988), when some economic measures to support families and motherhood were taken in Russia.

In 1989–1991, after a brief turning back to latent depopulation, Russia started to go to a more painful phase—the phase of explicit depopulation, in which we are now. From 1992, the Russian population started to decline.

Over the last 19 years (1992–2010):

  • the natural decrease in Russia reached 13.1 million;
  • a positive migration exchange (i.e. the compensation of the natural decrease due to the increase in immigration) reached 6.4.

As a result, the Russian population decreased by 6.7 million over the period considered and now continues to decrease.

Table 1. 
Russian population change in 1992–2010 (x1000)

Years Population size
at the beginning of  the year
Changes per year Population size
at the end
of the year
Total increase Natural increase Migration increase
1992 148,514.7 47.0 -219.2 266.2 148,561.7
1993 148,561.7 -205.8 -732.1 526.3 148,355.9
1994 148,355.9 104.0 -874.0 978.0 148459.9
1995 148,459.9 -168.3 -822.0 653.7 148291.6
1996 148,291.6 -263.0 -776.5 513.5 148028.6
1997 148,028.6 -226.5 -740.6 514.1 147,802.1
1998 147,802.1 -262.7 -691.5 428.8 147,539.4
1999 147,539.4 -649.3 -918.8 269.5 146890.1
2000 146,890.1 -586.5 -949.1 362.6 146,303.6
2001 146,303.6 -654.3 -932.8 278.5 145,649.3
2002 145,649.3 -685.7 -916.5 230.8 144,963.6
2003 144,963.6 -795.4 -888.5 93.1 144168.2
2004 144,168.2 -694.0 -792.9 98.9 143,474.2
2005 143,474.2 -720.7 -846.6 125.9 142,753.5
2006 142,753.5 -532.5 -687.0 154.5 142,221.0
2007 142,221.0 -212.8 -470.4 258.2 142,008.2
2008 142,008.2 -104.8 -362 257.2 141,904.0
2009 141,904.0 10.5 -248.9 259.4 141,914.5
2010 141,914.5 -81.6 -239.6 158.0 141,832.9
1992–2010 148,514.7 6,682 13,109 6,427 141,832.9

Only over the last year, 2010, the depopulation actually “erased” from the map of Russia the population of such city as, for example, Novorossiysk: the Federal Service of State Statistics (Rosstat) reports that Russia lost 239.6 thousand people in 2010.

If a distorting and at the same time compensative role of immigration is taken into account, the total demographic losses in 2010 would be 81.6 thousand, which can be compared with the population of, e.g., a Russian town Essentuki.


During this period the population decreased in 71 of 83 Russian regions.

All Federal Districts were involved in the process of depopulation:

  • in the Central Federal District the decline was observed in 15 of 18 federal regions;
  • in the Siberian Federal District—in 10 of 12; regions;
  • in the Urals Federal District—in 3 of 6;
  • in the North-Western, Volga, Far East and Southern districts population losses took place absolutely in all regions.

Only in the North-Caucasus Federal District, the population increase was observed in the majority of its federal regions—in 4 of 7.

Thus, numerical changes in the population size had a  sustained positive trend only in 12 of 83 subjects of the Russian Federation: in the Altai region, in the Belgorod region, in Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Moscow and the Moscow region, Tyumen region, the Tuva Republic, Khanty-Mansi autonomous district, Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district, Chechnya.

In most regions, the population did not decrease only due to immigration and/or the inertial effect of the auspicious age-sex structure.

But without these factors, the below-the-replacement-level fertility would not allow the regions to save even the previous number of their inhabitants.

The TFRs of only three regions could provide reproduction: Altai (2.36), Tuva (2.8), and Chechnya (3.37).


An obvious illustration of Russian demographic tragedy is the numbers of births and deaths.

27,564.1 thousand live births were recorded in Russia in 1992–2010, while the number of deaths over the same time period was 40,674.5 thousand.

This means that mortality in our country was 1.5 times greater than fertility.


As a result of the before-mentioned inauspicious trends, the number of the permanent population of Russia was reduced from 148,514.7 thousand (at the beginning of 1992) to 141,832.9 thousand (at the end of 2010).

In other words, for the last 19 years, Russia has irrevocably lost 4.5 percent of its original population.

It should be emphasized that 4.5 percent are the losses calculated with taking the “compensating migration” into account.

The net decrease of the Russian population (without migration inflows) reaches 8.8 percent.

It is also important to note that, despite an unprecedented population decline is already observed, the destructive demographic inertia is now only at the stage of gathering momentum. According to the most probable variant of the latest UN’s forecast, the Russian population can be decreased to 108.9 million, or almost by 33 million, to the middle of the 21st century. [1]

However, the forecasts of Russian demographers are even more pessimistic. According to calculations of some Russian researchers, the population of Russia can be reduced to 71.4–90.6 million (or by 51–70.5 million) by the middle of the 21st century. [2]

Marriages and divorces


Statistical facts indicate the progressive reduction of the number of marriages. During the last 50 years (1960–2010), the absolute number of annual marriages decreased by  284.5 thousand—from 1499.6 thousand to 1215 thousand; although the numbers of the most marriageable ages increased by 1.9 million people.

Over this period, the marriage rate declined almost 1.5 times—from 12.5 to 8.5 marriages per 1000 population.

Note that it was a decline against the background of a relatively good age-sex structure of the last decade (in contrast to the post-war 1950s and 1960s), when the generation of the last Soviet baby-boom (1982–1988) reached the marriage age.

This factor is expected to have an effect only until 2012–2014, and than the situation will rapidly get worse.


The average age of marriage has also been significantly changed. For the period between the censuses of 1989 and 2002, it increased by 2 yeas for men and 1.5 years for women and reached 25.8 years for men and 23.1 years for women. [3]


The increasing number of extramarital cohabitations continues to play their negative role in the demographic development of Russia. In 2002, more than 3 million of 34 million Russian families lived in so-called de facto marriages.

According to the latest sociological surveys, renunciation and postponement of marriage registrations become more and more popular in Russia. The “Family and fertility” survey (2009) shows that 10.6 percent of first-married Russian women and 14.1 percent of first-married Russian men live in concubinage. Most people whose first marriage is unregistered are of less than 25 years of age—25.5 percent of women and 32.2 percent of men.

The demographic effect of concubinages can be easily evaluated: the level of fertility in de facto unions is at least 2 times lower than in registered marriages. [4]

According to the results of the pilot “Family and fertility” survey conducted in 2006 by Federal State Statistics Service in three Russian regions (the Republic of Mari El, Nizhniy Novgorod and Tver regions), among adolescents who think that the marriage should be registered before the couple starts living together, the average desired number of children is 2.26, and the expected number is 2.06. Among those who consider that it is necessary to live together a year or two and check feelings before registration, the desired and expected numbers of children equal 1.91 and 1.58 respectively. [5]


Divorces are a mirror reflection of the family values destruction. The devaluation of the family way of life results in nearly threefold increase of the number of divorces during rather a short period of time: from 1.5 per 1000 population in 1960 up to 4.4 in 1992. As compared to the 1960s, a similar gap is also observed nowadays. [6]

In 2010, more than half of the registered marriages were broken up in Russia: 640 thousand divorces vs 1.2 million marriages.

A high level of divorces is typical for many modern states. However, it is Russia that is the divorce champion of the world; the other countries are far behind. Previously, the U.S. were on the divorce top, but since 1995, Russia, from time to time, ranks first in this sad rating.

In 2006–2007 the divorce top-10 consisted of the following countries: Russia—4.8 (per 1000 population), Ukraine—3,8, the U.S.—3.7, Belarus—3.6, Lithuania and Latvia—3.3, Cuba—3.2, Czech Republic—3.0, Estonia—2.8, Denmark—2.6.

If we compare Russia with countries that have the lowest divorce rates, the gap will be much more evident. For example, in Brazil in the same year they fixed 0.9 divorces per 1000 population, in Ireland and Italy—0.8, in Mexico—0,7, in Mongolia—0.6, in Georgia—0.5, in Tajikistan, in Bosnia and Herzegovina—0.4. [7]

Fertility and reproductive behavior

As a result of negative transformations in the mass reproductive behavior, the Russian population started to decline in 1992–1993. Almost a 40-years pause between the fertility decline below the critical level and the onset of depopulation is explained by demographic inertia, which is associated with the potential of a propitious age-sex structure formed in the previous years.


In 1999, having fallen to 1.17, the TFR reached its historic minimum on the Russian territory. Since then, this indicator rose a  bit, mainly due to an auspicious age structure, and at present it has grown to nearly 1.5 children, which is is still too far from the replacement level (2.1–2.2 children per woman over her reproductive age). [8]

Besides, in some regions it happened that sometimes the TFR fell even below the symbolic line of 1 child per woman.

Such decline was observed in 1993–2004 in Moscow, in 1993–2001 in St. Petersburg, in 1997 and 1999 in the Moscow region; in 1999, 2000, and 2002 in the Leningrad region; in 1999 in the Ivanovo and Smolensk regions. [9]

Currently, despite the government attempts to stimulate the birth rate materially (housing program, “maternity capital”, benefits, compensations, grants, etc.), few-children preferences of Russian families keep unchanged, which coincides with the experience of other countries that took the similar material measures.

The “maternity capital”—federal subsidies for mothers who give birth to at least the second child (~$13,000 at present)—and other material “stimulators” are unable to influence on the result number of births, and the today’s ultra-low TFR proves it quite clearly. Now, the Russian TFR corresponds to the level that was observed in the early 1990s (1.4–1.5).


One of the consequences of low fertility is a  deformation of the family structure. For the period of 1989–2002, the share of families with 1 child increased from 51 percent to 65 percent. Quite the contrary, the share of 2-3-and-more-children families declined dramatically—from 39 percent to 28 percent for the 2-children families and from 10 percent to 6.6 percent for families with 3 and more children.

The situation in 2002 was worse not only in comparison with 1989 but even when compared with 1979, although there was no pro-active family policy in that time period.

Percentage of families with different number of up-to-18-years-old children [10]


From left to right: families with 1 children, with 2, with 3 or more


An aggravating factor of the demographic crisis is high extramarital fertility, which is a result of mass prevalence of unregistered concubinages. Now, for the first time in Russian history, the number of out-of-wedlock births is almost 1/3 of the total number.

1990–2000 is the main period of extramarital births growth (from 14.6 percent to 28 percent). The number of extramarital births increased to 29.8 percent in 2004 and to 30 percent in 2005. By 2009, this indicator fell to 26.1 percent, reaching 24.6 percent for the urban residents, and 29.5 percent for rural residents.


A shift of births to later ages indicates a change of the value orientations to married life with children.

The average age of a mother at a birth reached 27.4 years in 2009. Since 1995, this indicator increased for 2.4 years and, judging by the tendency and the experience of other countries, later motherhood can become Russian childbearing norm in the short run.


However, statistics of the Russian depopulation is not limited by low fertility. It should also be added  by mass abortions.

Unfortunately, our country is the leader on the interruption of pregnancies.

Only for the period from 1992 to 2010, 40.5 million unborn children were killed in Russia. 

It is necessary to notice that the official statistics is not complete, because it does not include abortions performed in private clinics as well as medical abortions. If all abortions would be taken into account, the final figure, accsording to our estimations, will be not less than 80 million.

Mortality and longevity

Focusing on the decisive part of fertility decline in the structure of the Russian population, it is necessary to note the very bad trend in mortality. The relatively high (according to the standards of developed countries) mortality rate in Russia leads to aggravation of the demographic crisis.

In the beginning of the 21st century, Russia is characterized by low lifespan not only in comparison with developed countries, but also with the states which level of economic development is close to that of Russia.

Our lifespan lagging begind the most developed countries of the world (USA, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Japan, and others) is 12–17 years: 16–19 years for men, 8–12.5 years for women.

In comparison with the states whose GDP (PPP) per capita is similar to that of Russia (Belarus, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and others), the lifespan gap is 5–10 years: 5,5–14 years for men and 3–6 years for women. [11]

Among 220 countries, Russia ranks 162 in the lifespan rating. In this list, our country is left behind by such developing countries as Morocco, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Colombia, Algeria, Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc.

The difference between lifespans of men and women (11.9 per year in 2009) is one of the world\'s biggest in Russia; it is a result of high mortality among able-bodied men. Such gender gap has no analogues in the world and indicates demographic as well as social troubles. Among all dead persons, almost 30 percent are those of able-bodied age (more than 560 thousand people per year); among the the latter, 80 percent are men.

It is important to note that there is a  significant regional differentiation for the the above mentioned averaged figures. The highest rates of the life expectancy were observed in the republics of the North Caucasus and Moscow, where they exceeded 69 years for men and 77 years for women. The lowest regional figures were recorded in Tuva and in the Chukotka autonomous districts (less than 55 years for women and 66 years for women). [12]


In the total volume of the word\'s immigration Russia takes second place—after the U.S., which have long tradition of accepting immigrants, and a well-tested system of assimilating newcomers.

The scale of immigration into Russia made us very anxious with its spontaneity: for the period of 1992–2010, only in sight of the official statistics there came 8.4 million migrants. [13]

Even if we agree with a very questionable assumption that most of the immigrants (about 2/3) are ethnic Russians, anyway, according to the official (but not complete) figures, at least 2.8 million people different from us culturally and mentally have come to our country since early 1990s.

At the same time, the number of illegal immigrants residing on the Russian territory is estimated to reach 15–18 million people, i.e. 10.5–12.7 percent of the population.


An unfavorable situation has also emerged in the sphere of emigration.

Over the period of 1992–2010, more than 3.6 million people left Russia. [14]

Mostly, those were qualified specialists, who reinforced the economically active population as well as the intellectual and reproductive potential of other countries.

In 1994–2009, according to the official data, Russia was left by nearly 900,000 women—because of an intensive female emigration, stimulated by various employment agencies abroad. A considerable part of the women, on the pretext of helping to find a well-paid job abroad, was criminally involved in the sex industry and other illegal activity

It is reasonable to assume that the real number of women emigrated from Russia is 1.5–2 times greater than the official data.

The reproductive losses caused by female emigration from Russia are indirectly estimated at 833,000 children that will not be born in the nearest 5 years. [15]


The data presented in this report points to the fact that Russia has been living in a deep demographic crisis for years. A further worsening of the situation is fraught with numerous negative consequences, which would threaten the existence of the society and the state.

The consequences are as follows:

  • increase in growth of the number of single-parent families;
  • decrease in replacement of generation;
  • population decline;
  • aging of the society;
  • increase in demographic load;
  • growth of pension expenses;
  • change in ethno-confessional composition;
  • threat of violation of the territorial integrity;
  • decrease in defense capability;
  • worsening of labor potential;
  • further deformation of the age-sex structure,
  • and many other moral, ethical, genetical, and medical consequences.

According to a Russian demographer Viktor Medkov: demographically, depopulation means suicide of the population—disappearance of the nation and its culture. [16]

That’s why the today’s Russia needs not only to improve the demographic situation but also to create special conditions for stabilization and growth of its population.

[1] The World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision — http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp

[2] S. Ermakov, O. Zakharova. Demographic development of Russia in the first half of ХХІ century (methodical approaches and preliminary results of the forecast). ISPR RAS. M., 2000. P. 70;

A. Antonov, V. Medkov, V. Arkhangelskii. The demographic processes in Russia ХХІ century / Under the editorship of prof. Anatoly Antonov — М.: «Graal», 2002. P. 93–142

[3] Analysis of the demographic situation: trends and implications // Materials of the round table “Technologies of population growth as the basis of the demographic development of Russia.” The State Duma of the Russian Federation. March, 14, 2006

[4] A. Carlson. Society, family, personality: the social crisis in America. An alternative sociological approach / Russian translation and compilation under the editorship of prof. Anatoly Antonov. M.: 2003. P. 255

[5] Brief results of “Family and fertility” pilot survey—

[6] Demographic yearbook. 2007: Stat. col. / Rosstat—M., 2007, P. 112 — www.gks.ru

[7] World marriage data 2008 — http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/Main.html

[8] V. Borisov. Demographic situation in Russia. The role of mortality in the reproduction of population — http://www.demographia.ru/eng/articles/index.html?idR=68&idArt=1363

[9] Ibid.

[10] According to the censuses of 1979, 1989, and 2002.

[11] World Factbook — https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

[12] Demographic yearbook of Russia. 2010: Stat. col. / Rosstat—M., 2010, P. 102—107.

[13] Demographic yearbook of Russia. 2010: Stat. col. / Rosstat—M., 2010, P. 402

[14] Ibid. P. 403

[15] S. Ryazantasev. Female emigration from Russia. Report on “The Family and the Future of civilizations” round table. World public forum “Dialogue of civilizations” (October, 2010, Rhodes, Greece);

I. Beloborodov.
Improvement of legislative framework of migration policy. Theses of the report at the parliamentary hearings — http://www.demographia.ru/articles_N/index.html?idR=13&idArt=1884

[16] V. Medkov. Demography (textbook). 2nd edition.—M.: INFRA-M, 2007. P. 558

Дата публикации: 2011-06-30 04:04:34