War spoils everything. Demographer – about the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine

War spoils everything.  Demographer – about the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine

The war in Ukraine will lead to serious demographic problems for Russia. Russian authorities do not disclose data on military casualties, but according to experts, they number in the tens of thousands. After the invasion of Ukraine and the announced mobilization, hundreds of thousands of people who did not want to fight and did not support the policies of Vladimir Putin left Russia. No one knows their exact number.

Independent demographer Alexey Raksha I am sure that Russia’s military losses in Ukraine are unlikely to be included in official mortality statistics. He notes that the number of Russians who died in February is a record low for many decades, and the life expectancy for the current year will exceed the previous peak by the end of March and will average 73.53 years. According to demographers, 5–10% fewer children will be born in the Russian Federation in 2023 than a year earlier. But so far it is difficult to connect it with the war and the mass departure of men from the country, the scientist believes.

Mortality schedule in Russia

Mortality schedule in Russia

Aleksey Raksha is an independent expert and demographer. He graduated from the Faculty of Banking, majoring in “Finance and Credit” at the Financial Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation. He received his second higher education at the Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics, majoring in “demography”. From 2014 to 2020, he worked in the Department of Population and Health Statistics of Rosstat. Three years ago, in 2020, Alexei Raksha was fired from Rosstat, because he doubted the veracity of the official statistics of morbidity and mortality in Russia from the coronavirus.

It was he who first drew attention to the information that in April 2020 the death rate in Moscow increased by 20% compared to the average data for the previous ten years. Alexey Raksha also acted as an expert in studies of statistics on mortality from the coronavirus, published on “Mediazone” and “Meduza”.

About how his career turned out after his dismissal from Rosstat, what might be Russia’s losses in the war with Ukraine, how many people left the country after the announcement of mobilization, and whether a demographic catastrophe awaits Russia, Alexey Raksha told Radio Svoboda in an interview:

They study the demographic situation in Russia, possibly without working in Rosstate

– You can say that I am now a freelance artist, I work for myself. I sometimes fulfill some orders, give advice. I am engaged in my favorite business – demography. I did not leave Russia. They study the demographic situation in Russia, possibly without working in Rosstate. First, Rosstat publishes not a very large part of official statistics. Secondly, demographer colleagues regularly receive sufficiently detailed and voluminous statistics upon request. Believe that later there is something to work on and something to study. But, of course, there are some more subtle, cunning, experimental calculations and indicators, some secret data that I do not receive.

What do official Russian statistics say about mortality in the country? And can these numbers be trusted, in your opinion?

Military losses are increasing, this should affect mortality, but we do not see it

– Since military losses are increasing, then, in theory, this should somehow affect mortality, but we don’t seem to see this. It is possible to conclude that this statistic cannot be trusted only in terms of military casualties, but in terms of the number of peaceful deaths, I think it is possible to trust it. It is possible to trust the number of births, the number of marriages and divorces: this was the basis of the famous “Mediazone” study with calculations of the number of mobilized people. Unfortunately, after the completely failed population census, all coefficients, all relative indicators, such as the birth rate, death rate, life expectancy, now correspond to reality even less than before, and many of them have become completely useless.

Mobilized from the Tyumen region

Mobilized from the Tyumen region

– Is it possible to draw conclusions now about the damage caused to the demographic situation in Russia by the war that has been going on for an hour? Or is he talking about it too early?

The consequences for the economy will be worse than for demography

– So far, this is more likely an economic damage – we have not yet seen a significant demographic damage. And we don’t have any exact data. First of all, we do not have data on migration, and never will. We can only guess, try to estimate its scale. But we do not have official and accurate data on migration, and this is a problem. We don’t know for sure how many people left us because of the war, how many came because of the war, with this there is even less certainty. But, apparently, these flows plus or minus are more or less equal. So far, the war has had almost no effect on the birth rate. Well, the mortality rate should be studied according to the reports of “Mediazone”, multiplied by two. That’s all. Therefore, it can be said that the war has practically not yet affected the demography of Russia.

Alexey Raksha

Alexey Raksha

– At the beginning of March, an article published by The Economist was widely discussed, in which it was stated that over the past three years, Russia has lost at least two million more people than expected. This is absolutely frightening information. Do you understand what data the publication used when publishing this article? Can they be trusted?

– The publication sucked these numbers out of their fingers, pulled an owl on a globe, stuffed something that could not be pushed into the article, glued something that could not be glued together, spiced it up with some slang words and expressions, and in this way simply demonstrated the standard of the “yellow press”, unfortunately. The article is biased. Journalists could not and did not want to understand the situation. I think it happened because the war was going on. There is propaganda from both sides. In general, war has a bad effect on everything – on democracy in the whole world, on the press, on human rights, on mortality, and on birth rate. War spoils everything.

– Returning to the topic of demography and war: Russia’s war in Ukraine has been going on for more than a year. There are no official data on the number of dead, and they are unlikely to appear in the near future. Maybe you have some guesses, scientific methods for determining how many people could die and still die in this war? And how can the death of these people affect the demographic situation in Russia?

There have been no such losses in our country since 1945

– Of course, there are such guesses. I usually use the data of Mediazones and BBC and multiply them by two (On February 12, 2023, the Russian Service of the BBC, “Mediazon” and volunteers confirmed the death of 14,093 Russian servicemen in Ukraine through open sources. – RS). About the same number leads to another completely secret, cunning element, which my colleagues developed. But in recent weeks, of course, military losses have increased sharply, which is typical for February. If they had remained like that all the time, 100 thousand people would have died in an hour. But, probably, this will not happen, because the war does not develop linearly, exponentially and in general somehow according to the forecast. This is an unpredictable process. Losses, of course, are huge, such losses have not occurred in our country since 1945. Moreover, in the whole world after 1945 there were only two wars with a similar number of victims.

– How can this affect the Russian demographic situation?

The situation will be bad from all points of view

– This may affect the fact that the migration attractiveness of Russia will decrease. More people will leave the country, and fewer will come. The birth rate will decrease, the mortality rate will increase. Vodka, cigarettes, and medicine also affect mortality. The coronavirus is almost over, it no longer affects mortality. But in general, the situation will be bad from all points of view.

– After the start of the war, tens, and maybe even hundreds of thousands of citizens left the country. Their number is difficult to count. People left for political reasons, people left who did not want to go and fight in Ukraine after the announcement of mobilization. Many scientists and sociologists say that educated, well-earning people have left. How will their departure affect not only the demographic, but also the socio-economic situation in Russia?

– Of course, this will affect the economy much more than demography. Because people left, as a rule, young, active, ambitious, highly educated, sufficiently wealthy, advanced and so on, who could make a huge contribution to the economy of Russia. They could also make a contribution to demography, but much less. Therefore, the consequences for the economy will be worse than for demography.

– What is happening now with the birth rate in Russia, let’s say, the last three years? And how can the war and the departure of thousands of men theoretically affect him?

I would call the situation alarming and unfavorable

– The biggest factor over the last three years is the transfer of maternal capital to the first child, which now simply collapses the birth rate of second children. Because of that, it actually decreases. There is also a positive moment – the introduction of the program “450 thousand for a mortgage” for those who gave birth to the third and subsequent children. This program, on the contrary, brought approximately 100 thousand additional third and subsequent children who would never have been born. By and large, these are the main phenomena of fertility over the past three years. Nothing else, anything special happened with the birth.

– Is it possible to say that a demographic catastrophe awaits Russia due to the war, the death of men and mass emigration from the country? Or will this be a terrible exaggeration and a lie?

– We don’t know what will happen yet. If a nuclear war happens, there will be something worse than a catastrophe, but so far there is nothing like that. I would call the demographic situation in the country alarming and unfavorable. I think the government understands this, but it has other priorities. The long-term consequences are faster reduction and aging of the population, slower economic growth, and so on. This is the reduction of Russia on the geopolitical map of the world, its reduction, like shagreen skin. This is exactly what our government is afraid of and does not want, but provokes it with its actions. Unfortunately, this is a completely common phenomenon here.

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