Russia’s ‘catastrophic’ missing men problem

Escape from Russia.

Escape from Russia. Illustrated | Getty Images

“Where have all the flowers gone?” asks the famous anti-war song of the 1960s. Today in Moscow The New York Times The question reportedly is: Where have all the men gone?

The answer to both questions is partly the same: to the soldiers’ cemeteries. But many of Moscow’s missing men also fled before Russian President Vladimir Putin was called up for his war in Ukraine. In fact, demographers say Russia may not recover for generations, if ever.

“Putin has spent years racing against Russia’s demographic clock, only to order an invasion of Ukraine that is leaving his country’s population in historic decline.” Bloomberg News reports. Here’s a look at what demographer Alexei Raksha is calling Russia’s “perfect storm” of demographic decline:

So where have all the young men gone?

Putin says his latest mobilization has drafted about 300,000 men, 82,000 of whom are already in Ukraine. Another 300,000 Russians are said to have fled to other countries to avoid conscription. The Pentagon estimated in August, ahead of Kiev’s fall counteroffensive, that Russia had suffered about 80,000 casualties in Ukraine, including wounded troops. “I feel like we’re a women’s country now,” said 33-year-old Stanislava, who lives in Moscow Times. “I looked for male friends to help me move furniture and I realized almost everyone had left.”

Aleksei Ermilov, the founder of the Russian hair salon empire Chop-Chop, tells the story Times They “see the massive wave of resettlement more in Moscow and St. Petersburg than in other cities, in part because more people have the means to go there.”

The urban professionals, who blithely avoided thinking about the war in the summer, got a rude awakening when the Kremlin began to pressure them into military service. The ranks of Moscow’s “intelligents, who often have disposable income and passports to travel abroad,” have “become noticeably thinner — in restaurants, in the hipster community, and at social gatherings such as dinners and parties.” Times reports. But ethnic and religious minorities in some regions have it even worse.

In Russia’s remote far north and along the border with Mongolia, in the Sakha and Buryatia regions, mobilization rates are up to six times higher than in Russia’s European regions, according to Yekaterina Morland of the Asians of Russia Foundation. Indigenous people in these regions were “rounded up in their villages,” recruiting officers combed the tundra and “issued subpoenas to everyone they met,” said Vladimir Budaev of the Free Buryatia Foundation The Associated Press.

How has the male exodus affected Russian demographics?

Russia already had a huge gender imbalance before invading Ukraine, dating back to massive battlefield losses in World War II, writes Paul Goble Eurasia Daily Monitor. The results of the 2021 census are expected to show that there are 10.5 million more women than men in Russia, almost the same inequality as a decade ago – the double whammy is that Russian men are of “first childbearing age” in Ukraine die or flee from Putin draft that will “further depress already low birth rates in the Russian Federation and put the country’s already struggling demographic future at even greater risk.”

“The mobilization turns families upside down at what is perhaps the most tense moment ever for Russian demographics, as the number of women of childbearing age has fallen by about a third over the past decade,” given the country’s overall population decline, Bloomberg reports. “While demographic trauma typically drags on for decades, the fallout from the invasion makes worst-case scenarios more likely — and much sooner than expected.”

Continuing the war in Ukraine and mobilization efforts until the end of next spring would be “disastrous” for Russia, says Moscow demographer Igor Efremov Bloomberg. It would likely drop the birth rate to 1 million between mid-2023 and mid-2024, and lower the fertility rate to 1.2 children per woman, a low mark that Russia only reached once in 1999-2000. “A fertility rate of 2.1 is required to keep the population stable without migration”, Bloomberg adds, and right now Russia is facing “immigrant brain drain” and serious questions about its “ability to attract labor from abroad.”

The war is bad for Ukraine too, isn’t it?

Yes — and like Russia, Ukraine was already suffering from demographic conditions before the invasion, wrote Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the conservative Institute for Family Studies, in March. “Both Russia and Ukraine have low fertility rates, but in recent years Russia has adopted pro-natal policies that have helped the country avoid extreme fertility declines,” while Ukraine was relatively little lacking in such policies when she was 15 Has struggled for years through war, political and economic upheaval.

Given Russia’s much larger population and less recent population decline, “Ukraine’s position relative to Russia is steadily eroding,” and “this trend will continue at an even greater rate in the future as differences in fertility rates between the two countries get bigger. ‘ predicted Stone. But “core demographics such as birth rates and migration rates,” while important, “are not destiny,” and Ukraine has “turned demographic decline into military rejuvenation” through coalition building and Ukrainians’ “strong willingness” to fight.

Furthermore, if Russia succeeds in annexing significant parts of Ukraine, Putin will have succeeded in increasing Russia’s population – but he will also add Ukraine’s “unfavorable demographics” to his own problems, Bloomberg Remarks.

Could there be a post-war Russian baby boom?

It is possible. Sometimes wars “result in higher fertility,” as when “sudden bursts of conception” occur as men go into battle, Goble writes Eurasia Daily Monitor. “For example, monthly birth records from the 1940s clearly show that the baby boom in the US did not start when the GIs returned from the war, but when they went to war.” After the fighting stopped, he adds, ” wars can unleash a wave of nationalistic ideas that make people vulnerable to pro-birth ideas and policies, although so-called ‘surrogate fertility’ often prompts families to ‘react’ to high-victim events by having ‘surrogate’ children.’”

In the short term, however, “it is likely that many couples in insecure circumstances will postpone having children for some time until the situation stabilizes,” says Elena Churilova, a research fellow at the International Laboratory for Population and Health at Higher School Economics Bloomberg. “In 2023, we’re likely to see another fall in the birth rate.”

And in the meantime, “downloads of dating apps in the countries to which Russian men have fled have increased significantly,” she said Times Reports noting a sharp increase in downloads in Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and Kazakhstan. “All the sanest guys are gone,” said Tatiana, a 36-year-old Muscovite. “The dating pool has shrunk by at least 50 percent.”

Can Russia reverse its demographic spiral?

The most likely outcome is that “Putin’s war will cast a shadow over Russia for a long time to come – a shadow that will grow darker the longer the war goes on,” writes Goble. The loss of Russian men to emigration and death on the battlefield will not only “leave a huge hole in Russian society” but “the Russian men who actually manage to return will face enormous problems” from PTSD and other health issues Fighting to the point of participating in a “spreading crime wave similar to that following the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya.”

The shape of “Russia’s population pyramid” means “that the birth rate is almost doomed to fall,” wrote Brent Peabody foreign policy in January. Putin said he was haunted by that fact, and “Russia’s need for more people is undoubtedly a motivating consideration for its current aggressive stance toward Ukraine,” although “the notion that Ukrainians would commit to being good Russians is largely.” is delusional”.

Ukrainians may not volunteer to be good Russians, but thousands of Ukrainian children have been trafficked to Russia to be placed with Russian “foster families.” AP reports.

Ukrainian authorities say they are launching criminal proceedings against Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, who said in mid-October that she herself had adopted a boy so large by Russian forces in bombed-out Mariupol, Ukraine. AP reports. US, British and other Western nations sanctioned Lvova-Belova in September over allegations she oversaw the deportation of more than 2,000 vulnerable children from Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces to Russia.

Demographics and assumptions about how nations will respond to demographic changes are not exact arts, Rhodes College professor Jennifer Sciubba wrote in the Population Reference Bureau in April. For example: “For years, a common argument in US policy was that Russia’s demographic problems would limit its ability to project power outside its borders.”

Apparently, the “peace of old age” theory doesn’t sit well with Russia, Sciubba adds. But more broadly, “population aging and shrinking are such recent trends that we know little about how states conduct foreign policy under these conditions, and we should not expect aging states to behave like aging individuals.”

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