This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Urban Shrinkage in Russia

Russia has been in the news a lot lately as it asserts itself in Eastern Europe (especially Ukraine) and in Syria. The combination of economic sanctions and low oil prices have hurt the Russian economy and it seems obvious that Putin is trying to take his countrymen's attention away from that by bullying others. It's a classic ploy. But it isn't just the economy that is shrinking in Russia. The population has been declining since the end of the Soviet era, as I have noted on several occasions, and a new paper just published in the French spatial demography journal Espaces Populations Sociétés documents a widespread shrinkage of cities throughout Russia. The paper by French demographer Clémentine Cottineau is titled "A multilevel portrait of shrinking urban Russia" and is available in English, in case you were worried that your French might be as weak as mine.

She points out that the country's demography is characterized by below replacement fertility and higher than average mortality, leading to negative natural increase, partly compensated for by migration from former Soviet republics like Armenia, as I noted a couple of months ago. There is also a clear regional pattern to the shrinkage. There is still positive population growth in the southwest of Russia, between the Caspian and Black Seas, but it is declining almost everywhere else. And the decrease is showing up (so to speak) in the cities:
Russia appears to be the most shrinking urban system in the world, even though Germany and Japan are usually cited to illustrate studies on urban shrinkage at a national scale. Their share of shrinking cities is indeed high (respectively 46 and 58%, cf. tab. 2) but significantly lower than that of Russia (> 70%).
Shrinkage is almost never popular in human societies, and so the demonstration of these widespread demographic changes taking place in Russia suggests that Putin is likely to continue aggravating the rest of the world to keep the Russian minds off what is happening at home. It is unlikely that anything good will come of this. 

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