Russian population drops by a million in 2021

Russian population drops by a million in 2021
The natural decrease in population is attributable to a greatly increased death rate and a declining birth rate, while net immigration was up. / Image: Don Vip via Wikimedia Commons.
By Theo Normanton in Moscow January 31, 2022

Russia’s population dropped by over a million people in 2021, according to data released by state statistics agency RosStat. This represents the biggest drop in Russia’s population since the time of the Soviet Union.

Natural decrease in Russia (the number of deaths minus the number of births) stood at 1,042,675 for the year 2021. This is the first time that this figure has exceeded 1mn since the formation of the Russian Federation in 1991.

This figure is almost twice that of 2020, and the statistics agency attributes the dramatic change mostly to an increase in deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19). The death rate increased by an alarming 15.1% in 2021, reaching a total of 2.4mn deaths.

Russia is the third worst-hit country in the world by COVID-19 per head of the population, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Its efforts to curb the spread of the virus have been hampered by slow vaccine uptake.

Another significant factor is a steadily declining birth rate, which stood at 1.4mn in 2021, down 2.3% from 2020, and the lowest it’s been since 2002. President Vladimir Putin has made increasing Russia’s birth rate a priority of his policy agenda, offering tax breaks, welfare benefits and free school meals, as well as his signature “materinskiy kapital” – one-off payments to families upon the birth of a new child.

Russia has had more success in attracting migrants, however. With more people coming to Russia than emigrating, migration was able to offset about a third of the natural population decrease.

The discrepancy between the amount of deaths attributed to the coronavirus by the official government coronavirus website and the much greater number listed on the state statistics agency has led to allegations that the Russian government may be massaging its coronavirus figures.