THE closely-guarded secret of Russian population trends has been slightly unveiled recently. The total population of the Soviet Union was stated to be 200,000,000 at the end of 1949. Then, on November 7, 1951, the anniversary of the Communist Revolution, L. P. Beria[i] gave in the usual cryptic Soviet form some indication of how the population is developing. By analyzing this and other postwar information in the light of what we know about the prewar population we are able to do considerably more than merely peep through the Iron Curtain. The information as to birth rates and death rates revealed by Beria-- the first to be given out since before the war--suggests a trend at odds with that supplied in Soviet propaganda and one which may in the long run modify the economic and even political picture in Russia. On the other hand, the age and sex structure of the current population points to a forthcoming period when the supply of human effectives will be favorable for Russian aggression.
The yearly net increase of the Russian population, according to the Beria statement, amounts to more than 3,000,000. "Mortality has been halved as compared with the prewar year of 1940." Beria emphasized the difference between the endeavor of the "imperialist cannibals" in the "capitalist camp" to reduce the birth rate, and Comrade Stalin's discovery that "people are the most precious capital."
A 3,000,000 natural increase of a population of 200,000,000 would mean a 15 per thousand excess of births over deaths. The last disclosed prewar figure for the Russian death rate is 20 per thousand in 1938. If we use this figure, and assume that the present death rate is half as high, it would be only 10 per thousand; that is, it would be among the lowest in the world, about the same as in the United States. "He that believeth shall be saved." Quite contrary to Beria's intention, this assumption would also reveal another incredible figure. If the excess births over deaths is 15 per thousand and the death rate is 10, then the
Loading, please wait...