Russia's Demographic DisasterNicholas Eberstadt
December marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the Soviet dictatorship and the beginning of Russia's postcommunist transition. For Russians, the intervening years have been full of elation and promise but also unexpected trouble and disappointment. Perhaps of all the painful developments in Russian society since the Soviet collapse, the most surprising -- and dismaying -- is the country's demographic decline. Over the past two decades, Russia has been caught in the grip of a devastating and highly anomalous peacetime population crisis. The country's population has been shrinking, its mortality levels are nothing short of catastrophic, and its human resources appear to be dangerously eroding.
Indeed, the troubles caused by Russia's population trends -- in health, education, family formation, and other spheres -- represent a previously unprecedented phenomenon for an urbanized, literate society not at war. Such demographic problems are far ou