One Million a Year

1980s-style thinking aside, Russia is in no position to fight a “Cold War.” Indeed, a serious challenge to the west by Russia is much less likely than from, say, Venezuela and Iran. Russia is a short- and medium- term problem for Europe that can be countered by the development of alternative energy sources and alternative fuels, from nuclear power to BioDiesel.

The scale of Russia’s problem, from The Economist:

Russia’s demographic crisis is one of the main constraints on the country’s economy. Although Russia’s population has been ageing, over the past decade the country has enjoyed a “demographic dividend” because the age structure was in its favour. This dividend has now been exhausted and the population of working age will decline by about 1m a year, increasing the social burden on those that remain. Over the next seven years Russia’s labour force will shrink by 8m, and by 2025 it may be 18m-19m down on the present figure of 90m.

What makes a shrinking population dangerous for a country that has always defined itself by its external borders is the loss of energy it entails, Mr Vishnevsky argues. The Soviet Union did not just try to exploit the resources of its vast and inhospitable land, it tried to populate it. Now large swathes of land in Siberia and the far east are emptying out as people move to central Russia. The population density in the country’s far east is 1.1 people per square kilometre. On the other side of the border with China it is nearly 140 times that figure.

The farther oil and natural gas prices fall in the near- and medium- term, the less power Russia will have to harm the world, and the more incentived Russia’s government will be to harness what is left of the Russian economy into wealth-producing activities.

13 thoughts on “One Million a Year”

  1. It will have less to do with evening out population than with “Hey, look at all those natural resources!”

    It’s a sad, sad shame, not the possibility of losing East Asia, but the decline of Russia. It is a broken society now, but oh, was it something spectacular. Being engaged to a Russian has opened my eyes to a culture that is fascinating and fantastic. It was by no means ever perfect, but the fix has been in for 90 years. [Just imagine if all the people that Stalin had killed had lived.]

    So, what becomes of Russia.

  2. Russia like Japan is a “fascinating and fantastic” culture but the neighbors of both places are happy to see them in somewhat reduced circumstances.

    One of the more appealing features of Russians is the way they value human relationships over material possessions. Of course, this comes from a culture where there is no respect for private property and you own everything conditionally on people in power letting you keep it. Naturally, you will cultivate warm relationships with such people if you want to keep what you have.

  3. Abortions have exceeded live births in Russia for several years now. Abortion is the most common form of birth control there. Truly, Russians are committing suicide.

  4. If they had a predicable legal systems and the foundations of Democratic Capitalism, I might consider learning Russian and look to make my entrepreneurial fortune on the Russian frontier. Right now though, I think any success would be stolen/appropriated away from RussiaGOV+OrgCrime.

  5. I took two years of Russian – it is a hard language to learn.

    And that being said, I don’t think there are fortunes to be made in this day and age on physical frontiers, just technological ones.

  6. “When Mr. Brent asks a woman what she thinks about the years ahead, she answers: “I don’t.””
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122818209610571071.html

    Purpleslog:
    they are:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0CE4DB153BF93BA35754C0A9629C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0DEFD81331F932A3575BC0A96F958260&scp=2&sq=chinese%20farmers%20russia&st=cse

    Mark,
    I’m less sanguine about the Russian culture’s love of relationships, as you describe it, it is a series of power relationships in order to get something; not true friendliness. I’ve found many Russians to be very distrustful and wary.

    I agree, Japan is another of those cultures in slow suicide, but I don’t find it near as fatalistic or malicious or broken as Russia.

  7. What great comments!

    ElamBend,

    It will have less to do with evening out population than with “Hey, look at all those natural resources!”

    Since 1945, capital-rich countries have prefered a client-server/sphere-of-influence model with natural resource suppliers, instead of territorial annexation. The old Imperial model forces the capital-supplier to invest in public safety and social services in the resource-supplying countries. The new model allows minimal investment (essentially, just roads and railroads from a port of entry to the mines/forests/etc).

    It’s a sad, sad shame, not the possibility of losing East Asia, but the decline of Russia. It is a broken society now, but oh, was it something spectacular. Being engaged to a Russian has opened my eyes to a culture that is fascinating and fantastic. It was by no means ever perfect, but the fix has been in for 90 years. [Just imagine if all the people that Stalin had killed had lived.]

    So, what becomes of Russia.

    Have you read East of the Sun? My father liked it, though I found it too dreary to read. The part of Russia I had sympathy with seemed to end very early… To me, the shocking part is that Outer Manchuria was discovered by Russia /twice/ — the Czarist society was so rigid that the second expedition had no knowledge of the high-profile first expedition sent out a century and a half previously… It was as if in the 1860s, Abraham Lincoln chartered a ‘corps of discovery’ to discover the source of the Missouri River…

    Steve French,

    But will the Chinese decide to even out their population by buying/annexing/invading the unpopulated areas in some sort of Asian Manifest destiny

    The three basic models models seem to be

    a) ethnographic transition, where Chinese eventually form a majority in Outer Manchuria and Russia resigns itself to dealing with this minority
    b) the Malaysia model [2], where Chinese form the entrepreneurial elite of Outer Manchuria, though nativist hostility remains
    c) the Vietnam model, where a future Russian government simply expels all Chinese en masse

    Mark in Texas,

    Russia like Japan is a “fascinating and fantastic” culture but the neighbors of both places are happy to see them in somewhat reduced circumstances.

    Indeed. It will be interesting to see how Russia’s beliggerent foreign policy and resource-centric development compares with Japan’s pacifist and industrial approach, as time goes on.

    PS,

    I think you’d be better off in Kazakhstan — similar oil-wealth and central asian authoritarianism, with a slightly less goolish youth movements… [3]

    ElamBend,

    Excellent links!

    [1] http://www.amazon.com/East-Sun-Conquest-History-Siberia/dp/0671667556
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/03/14/malaysia-against-the-mixed-blooded.html
    [3] http://catholicgauze.blogspot.com/2008/11/nashi-putin-youth-go-off-deep-end.html

  8. I am not going to make any comments on your obviously incurable Russophobia. That would be a waste of time. Just a few words about that picture you use as an illustration of modern Russia. Do you realize that this color photograph is now exactly 100 years old? It is one of world’s first photographic color images ever made (from 1906 onwards) by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, one of Europe’s first color processes pioneer. This particular (and amazing) photograph was taken in 1909.

    http://sechtl-vosecek.ucw.cz/en/expozice5.html

  9. Roobit,

    I am not going to make any comments on your obviously incurable Russophobia. That would be a waste of time

    You neither define your terms, nor cite examples to demonstrate them, nor cite counter-examples to demonstrate your own point.

    Just a few words about that picture you use as an illustration of modern Russia. Do you realize that this color photograph is now exactly 100 years old?

    You are right: the picture of healthy Russian children is from Russia’s past, not Russia’s present.

  10. What examples of Russophobia do you need?
    You are all but drowning in your anti-Russian venom.

    The picture illustrates the point of you lacking any intellectual honesty. Your take a bit there, steal a bit in another place, use irrelevant imagery or facts, all arranged (and not so neatly) to fit your own schizophrenic ideological constructs.

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