Policy Memos

The 2002 Russian Census and the Future of the Russian Population

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




Throughout the 1990s, Russian and Western demographers competed over who could produce the gloomiest forecast of Russian population trends for the coming decades. Highly respected demographers argued that the population of the Russian Federation would drop from a high of 148 million in 1992 to 100–105 million by 2025. These forecasts were based on statistics produced by the State Statistics Committee of the Russian Federation (Goskomstat), which showed that the Russian population was declining steadily due to an increase in the death rate and a simultaneous decrease in the birth rate. The panic began in the early 1990s, when in one year the death rate increased by 20 percent while the birth rate dropped by 15 percent. Overall, from 1991 to 1994 the death rate for men increased from 14.6 per thousand to 21.8 per thousand. (The increase for women was smaller.) As it turned out, most of the increase in the death rate was the result of an increase in deaths due to alcoholism that had been deferred because of the Soviet government’s anti-alcohol campaign in the mid-1980s. As this effect abated in the mid-1990s, life expectancy and the death rate recovered and long-term population estimates were to some extent revised upward. [...]