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Haunted by demographic holes Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov weighs in on Russia’s declining population

Source: Meduza
Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency / ABACAPRESS / ddp image​s / Vida Press

Kommersant FM: Back in 2018, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin said in his message to the Federal Assembly that “everything depends on the preservation of the people of Russia and the well-being of our citizens, this is where we need to make a decisive breakthrough.” Today, a working version of the government’s new projections on population loss in our country has appeared. And although it’s a working version, the trends are clear: Russia’s population will decrease until 2030, the first increase will only take place then, and in total, for example, from 2020 to 2024, the number of Russian citizens will [decline] by 1.2 million. Do you know what the president thinks about this and how long this decisive breakthrough will have to be postponed? Is it possible that a breakthrough in this sphere won’t happen under Putin?

Dmitry Peskov: First: of course the government doesn’t keep the results of its work and its calculations secret from the president. Second: The demographic situation, the situation [surrounding] the population’s growth or decline, is well known, and the president has repeatedly said that this is the most acute and most important problem for our country. Third: indeed, one of the most important tasks is to minimize population loss and then enter a growth trend.

Why is the population declining? For objective reasons. This is a convergence of two demographic holes: the hole of the Great Fatherland War [World War II] and the hole of the Soviet Union’s demise at the start of the ‘90s. These two holes are haunting us throughout our modern history and, unfortunately, they’ve come together here and that’s why there are such negative trends. You know, the government and the president are taking the most energetic measures possible to stimulate the birth rate, to protect motherhood and childhood, and so on and so forth. These measures are well known, they’re in high demand among the population and they will definitely yield their own results. The result, of course, can’t be calculated over the course of a year or two years, but it will certainly be noticeable, even in the short term. As you know, unfortunately, the circumstances we have to face aren’t very favorable either: a pandemic, which, unfortunately, has probably forced all countries to encounter such negative developments, including in terms of demography. Well, this is the reality we have to live in. But measures are being taken, work is being done. 

Kommersant FM: Regarding the short-term/long-term, I wanted to clarify: the family support measures haven’t just been working for a year or two — for example, maternity capital has been issued since 2007, almost 13 years have passed — there was population decline last year, before covid, it simply wasn’t so rapid. Is it that the support measures aren’t providing the desired results yet?

Dmitry Peskov: No, they are providing the desired results. Any specialist in the field of demography and sociology will explain to you that if it weren’t for these [support] measures, the rate of population decline would be significantly faster. But, thank God, this isn’t happening. Don’t forget that our country lost 30-something million people during the Second World War and we simply have few women who can bear children. That’s all. 

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