Russia population shrinks by half million in a year

Russia: The Russian population shrank by more than half a million in the last year, the biggest fall since the mid-2000s, official data showed on Thursday.

As of January 1, 2021, the Russian population numbered 146.2 million, 510,000 fewer than the previous year, and the sharpest decline in 15 years, the national statistics office Rosstat calculated.

While the agency did not explain, Russia, like many other countries, is currently suffering excess mortality due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

So far, a total of 71,651 deaths have been reported in Russia, where Covid-19 was given as the leading cause of death following an examination.

But at the end of December, the government acknowledged that the death toll was three times higher using a broader definition of the cause of death. 

Russia’s population has been in constant drop since the fall of the USSR or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991. 

The main factors behind this include:

  • The low birth rate.
  • An average life expectancy of around 72 years.
  • An unequal healthcare system.
  • Emigration. 

Nevertheless, the population grew by more than 2.5 million in 2014 when Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in a move never recognized by the international community.

In recent years, the Kremlin has looked to migration to boost the number of residents. With Covid-19 restrictions closing borders and keeping planes grounded, this was much harder in 2020.

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin took several steps to make migration and obtaining citizenship much easier. In April, a newly signed law removed naturalized Russians’ obligation to give up their existing passports.

The number of Russians with incomes below the subsistence level amounted to 19.6 mln people or 13.3% in January-September 2020. In Q3, the number of poor people increased by 1.2 mln compared to the same period in 2019 and amounted to 18.8 mln, according to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) materials.

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