LONDON — In his recent State of the Union speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the “most important [matter] for our country is the demographic problem.” He said Russia’s population is declining by 700,000 a year — this from a base of 143 million. Russian demographic experts suggest that the decline is actually now running at 900,000 a year and from a lower base, maybe lower than 140 million.
Putin said his government has recognized the problem for some years, but has “done very little to address it.” His May 10 speech did address it, with policy proposals to reduce the death rate and increase the birthrate. Of most interest, was his emphasis on the need for an effective migrant and immigration policy. Migration is a politically sensitive issue in Russia, one that Russia’s leaders believe should be played down ahead of next year’s presidential election. Street violence against ethnic minorities is on the rise.