Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Russian Demographic Disaster

 

There is such a difference between reading about something and seeing it. We’ve all read about Russian demographic decline. We all know abstractly that this is a Big Serious Thing. But this morning I saw it firsthand, and now I really get it.

I went for a bike ride in Peterhof Park, on the Gulf of Finland. Leo the Licensed Tour Guide was keeping a watchful eye upon our own demographically-declining tour group, so I was able for a few hours to escape and explore the park on my own.

It’s very big. It’s extraordinarily beautiful. This is one of the longest, sunniest days of the year.

It was empty. No mothers pushing babies in strollers. No young lovers escaping their families to take advantage of the privacy of the trees. No one else riding a bike.

A few very old women–maybe three. Cherry trees, apples trees, landscaped gardens and a handful of pale-pink drunks.

That was it.

Next generation: No more Russia.

There are 22 comments.

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  1. Conservative Episcopalian Inactive

    For all the problems that country has caused the world over the past 100 years, I say “Good!”

    • #1
    • June 8, 2011, at 5:33 AM PDT
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  2. Mel Foil Inactive
    Conservative Episcopalian: For all the problems that country has caused the world over the past 100 years, I say “Good!” · Jun 8 at 5:33am

    I don’t know about “good.” Having nothing to live for doesn’t make you LESS dangerous. Just the opposite.

    • #2
    • June 8, 2011, at 5:46 AM PDT
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  3. r r Inactive

    Russia aborts more children than are born alive each year…

    That’s where that missing generation went.

    • #3
    • June 8, 2011, at 6:00 AM PDT
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  4. AUMom Member
    AUMomJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This just hurts my heart.

    That a missing generation has been aborted. The soul of the nation has been ripped to shreds.

    • #4
    • June 8, 2011, at 6:37 AM PDT
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  5. milkchaser Member
    milkchaserJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I was surprised how few bicycles I saw in Ukraine. One would think such a cheap transport would be more common. Perhaps they’re just too easy to steal.

    Russian women are beautiful. Too many Russian men take them for granted.

    I remember my first summer there (1999) seeing some old Russian men drinking vodka by the tumbler, not a shot glass, every night as they played checkers in the courtyard.

    Given the poverty and joblessness there, abortion is a practical choice.

    • #5
    • June 8, 2011, at 6:45 AM PDT
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  6. Lockdowns are Precious Inactive
    Lockdowns are PreciousJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I take no joy in seeing Dostoevsky proved right.

    • #6
    • June 8, 2011, at 6:47 AM PDT
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  7. The Mugwump Inactive

    A stark reminder about the evils of collectivism. You will remember that one of Stalin’s crimes was to destroy the churches and execute the clergy. One of the functions of religion is to inform our individual and collective morality. Americans should take this example as a warning.

    • #7
    • June 8, 2011, at 6:48 AM PDT
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  8. Jack Richman Member
    Jack RichmanJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I had the same impression in St. Petersburg, Claire. There’s a modest city park near the Hermitage that was virtually empty on a beautiful summer day. The only local inhabitants were a half-dozen 13- to 15-year olds smoking and passing around a bottle of vodka. It was about 10am and they were already well under the influence. It was so sad.

    • #8
    • June 8, 2011, at 7:04 AM PDT
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  9. Crow's Nest Inactive

    Pseudo: right on the money.

    A civilization in this state of decay is never a pretty thing, or anything to cheer about. The sheer level of misery and hopelessness in a once proud people is agonizing to behold.

    • #9
    • June 8, 2011, at 7:16 AM PDT
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  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Conservative Episcopalian: For all the problems that country has caused the world over the past 100 years, I say “Good!” · Jun 8 at 5:33am

    I cannot imagine saying “Good!” about the extinction of any people, no less the Russian people. Surely you did not mean that?

    • #10
    • June 8, 2011, at 8:48 AM PDT
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  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Crow’s Nest: Pseudo: right on the money.

    A civilization in this state of decay is never a pretty thing, or anything to cheer about. The sheer level of misery and hopelessness in a once proud people is agonizing to behold. · Jun 8 at 7:16am

    Yes.

    I was last here before the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russia was–clearly, visibly–vastly more miserable and hopeless. It looks incomparably brighter, freer and less miserable now. Yet obviously, something has gone catastrophically wrong. What’s happened is in effect more lethal than anything Stalin or Hitler devised.

    I didn’t have the chance to speak at much length with a large sample of Russians, but nothing I heard really makes sense of this. Unemployment? Since when do people drink themselves to death and stop reproducing because of that?

    One woman today–a Hungarian, actually–said something to me today that made slightly more sense. “We thought when Communism ended finally everything would be better. But it wasn’t. So we gave up on everything for good.”

    • #11
    • June 8, 2011, at 9:00 AM PDT
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  12. Talleyrand Inactive
    Conservative Episcopalian: For all the problems that country has caused the world over the past 100 years, I say “Good!” · Jun 8 at 5:33am

    I don’t think one can so glibly damn an entire people. Communism, not Russia per se, caused many of these problems.

    The Russian nation won’t be have the population like they did, when they joined us and defeated Nazi Germany during WW2. 23M of their population was killed during that conflict, 10M in their military.

    Their sacrifice to repel Nazi Germany was extraordinary especially given they had Stalinist purges of just about every good leader, army commander and intellectual prior to, and during that war.

    • #12
    • June 8, 2011, at 9:21 AM PDT
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  13. Underground Conservative Coolidge
    Underground ConservativeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Russia embarked on a program a few years ago to pay out cash to parents who have children, increasing the amount the more children they had. The birthrate has improved, but it is likely too little, too late. Most people still have one child at best, and yes, the abortion rate is just as mentioned by Samwise Gamgee. They also have a massive emigration problem, higher mortality rates than births, (e.g. a man’s life expectancy is about 60-61 years) and huge orphan populations. The Muslim population in Russia continues to rise as their birthrate is quite high by anyone’s standards. The worry that has already shown its face is ethnic tension and nationalism. And that’s just one of scores of other potential problems that result from this tragedy. Instability in the future may be an understatement. Regardless, they’ll probably still vote for Putin.

    • #13
    • June 8, 2011, at 9:31 AM PDT
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  14. Ioannis Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    One woman today–a Hungarian, actually–said something to me today that made slightly more sense. “We thought when Communism ended finally everything would be better. But it wasn’t. So we gave up on everything for good.” · Jun 8 at 9:00am

    I imagine that that’s part of the problem but not the whole thing. The Baltic states face similarly bleak demographic futures as Russia (and Ukraine), Yet arguably life in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is considerably better now than when they were part of the Soviet Ynion, and not just for the elite. In fact much of the EU, including countries in which the church still has influence, the birthrates are sub-replacement. Exept, of course, there is immigration that results in modest population increases. I guess Russia does not get many immigrants.

    • #14
    • June 8, 2011, at 9:41 AM PDT
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  15. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Member
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLCJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. One woman today–a Hungarian, actually–said something to me today that made slightly more sense. “We thought when Communism ended finally everything would be better. But it wasn’t. So we gave up on everything for good.” · Jun 8 at 9:00am

    Civil society is composed of the totality of voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state”

    Communism was the deliberate and systemic annihilation of civil society. Once that is gone it does not spontaneously reapper. The citizenry must rebuild it from scratch, no mean feat. Your quote highlights the problem nicely, the end of communism was not sufficient to end the misery of the people and the people were unready for the new burden they needed to take up.

    • #15
    • June 8, 2011, at 11:07 AM PDT
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  16. ctruppi Inactive

    Japan, Spain, Italy & Greece also have extremely low birthrates – each country a different case study in this phenomona. As a native Italian, i can tell you that none of the many cousins in my extended family have more than 1 child (by contrast, my 3 siblings and I have produced 10 beautiful grandchildren for their very happy grandparents). Not to channel Mark Steyn too much here, but the common thread with all of these is a culture that has sold it’s soul to the cult of statism. The degrees may vary, but the outcome is the same.

    All of this is leading to a very unstable and dangerous future. I pray that the worst scenarios don’t play out (ie, majority Islamic population in Russia with a vast nuclear arsenal).

    • #16
    • June 9, 2011, at 1:31 AM PDT
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  17. Robert Lux Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    more lethal than anything Stalin or Hitler devised.

    Chilling words. Marx’s perhaps most lastingly toxic teaching is the incompatibility of human interests: all human relationships–whether in government, business or family–are exploitative. This is why Lenin and the Bolsheviks established a government that would rule so exclusively in the interest of its own class that it would obliterate all other classes. In effect, one could say they absolutized self-interest. (Cf. Chernyshevsky’s What is to be Done?his notion of a “new morality” of “rational egoism” or “enlightened self-interest” and “free love.” This socialist novel, as you probably know, exerted an incalculably huge influence on Lenin and the Bolsheviks, thus with lasting implications for Russia even today). The party that controlled the Soviet Union for seventy years was merely an instrument of this war of annihilation–the party being composed of people trained in conflict, particularly internal. So the Soviet Union was a country at war with itself, economically, politically, socially, from its inception to the end.

    Per Angelo Codevilla, “death is its proof and fruit.”

    It continues to bear that “fruit” — no children.

    And all friendships are basically seen as mercenary.

    • #17
    • June 9, 2011, at 4:50 AM PDT
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  18. Robert Lux Member
    Claire Berlinski

    [N]othing I heard really makes sense of this.

    What makes sense of this is politics Kesler in a seminar on “Democratic Theory” essentially made the point in a memorable way. From my lecture notes:

    • “A picture of the prettiest girl in the world will not forever support the sales of a bad cigarette, but that is not true of politics. A bad taste in your mouth will make you think twice about a certain brand of tobacco, but you may not develop such a bad taste over silly or foolish [or demoralizing, or tyrannical] politics.”

    People become accustomed to their circumstances such that how they perceive themselves (their self-efficacy) is fundamentally altered. Even the conceptualization of certain things can be impossible. (Conceive the idea of gay marriage a few generations ago, you’d be considered insane). What people perceive as possible for themselves is determined ultimately, not by “self-interest,” but by their political circumstances and by their political nature, however thwarted that nature. The essence of tyranny is the denial to people of their political nature. The political is about claims to what is right, not “preferences.” Politics is not the aggregation of individual preferences.

    • #18
    • June 9, 2011, at 7:02 AM PDT
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  19. WI Con Member
    WI ConJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    ctruppi: Japan, Spain, Italy & Greece also have extremely low birthrates – each country a different case study in this phenomona. As a native Italian, i can tell you that none of the many cousins in my extended family have more than 1 child (by contrast, my 3 siblings and I have produced 10 beautiful grandchildren for their very happy grandparents). Not to channel Mark Steyn too much here, but the common thread with all of these is a culture that has sold it’s soul to the cult of statism. The degrees may vary, but the outcome is the same.

    All of this is leading to a very unstable and dangerous future. I pray that the worst scenarios don’t play out (ie, majority Islamic population in Russia with a vast nuclear arsenal). · Jun 8 at 1:31pm

    I too was think of Mark Steyn’s writing of Japan’s demographic decline (that story of the ‘robot grandchildren’ for lonely old people still creeps me out) and thinking of who will ‘take over’ Russia (and Europe). It sure looks like the welfare state and a secularized society aren’t too good for the long term viability of societies.

    • #19
    • June 9, 2011, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  20. dogsbody Inactive

    It reminds me of the proverb in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18a).

    • #20
    • June 9, 2011, at 8:14 AM PDT
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  21. Robert Lux Member
    Robert Lux

    The essence of tyranny is the denial to people of their political nature.

    In politics people claim, they don’t just prefer. In politics, you don’t say “that wasn’t my preference.” You say, “that wasn’t fair.”

    The forum and the market are distinct. In the forum, you must give reasons. You must give a reason that sounds like a reason. You must make a claim of justice. (Bolshevism was not about reason, but will). In economics, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to explain why you want a new Porsche. You give the dealer money, he gives you the car.

    Mansfield: “That we get angry if we feel cheated, or that we succumb to the charm of salesmanship, shows that self-interest does not explain even commercial transactions…Self-interest tends towards peace, and if it could replace the thumos in our souls it would accomplish universal peace. Meanwhile, however, people want to stand for something.” (Emphasis added).

    The last sentence goes right to your Hungarian woman’s point, “So we gave up on everything for good.”

    • #21
    • June 9, 2011, at 9:03 AM PDT
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  22. Pat Sajak Contributor

    Claire, the incident reminds me of the time I was looking out over the Gulf of Finland during a visit to the Soviet Union in 1988. I turned back to look at the city and saw a sea of rooftop television antennas–all, by decree, pointing inward, away from the Gulf. It was a touching, sad sight, and results of such a society can now be seen in an empty park.

    • #22
    • June 9, 2011, at 12:09 PM PDT
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