Russian demographics

alec ramsdell a_ramsdell at
Wed Jul 15 07:46:21 PDT 1998

Doug Henwood posts-
>>From RIA Novosti
>>July 13, 1998
>> The World Population Day was marked all over the globe
>>July 11. The United Nations had proclaimed July 11 as an
>>official holiday in 1987, when the global population had
>>reached the 5-billion mark. Russia has marked this holiday by
>>an unprecedented demographic crisis. The average life
>>expectancy in this country has declined by six years over the
>>1990-1996 period, currently totalling 59.6 years for men and
>>72.7 years for women. In fact, Russia now ranks somewhere
>>between Egypt and Brazil in terms of its average life
>>expectancy. Nationwide infant mortality has started
>>diminishing (albeit by a very small margin) over the last few
>>years. However, experts are now concerned over rising teenage
>>mortality. For example, 1,500 out of 15,000 teen-agers, who
>>annually graduate from local orphanages, commit suicide.
>>Children's lives were threatened on 17,000 occasions last
>>year, what with 200 teen-agers falling prey to their parents;
>>and another 2,000 had committed suicide. According to the
>>State Committee for Statistics, the number of mentally
>>retarded Russian children has soared 20-fold over the last
>>decade. About 1 million children are either crippled or
>>registered at all kinds of specialised outpatient clinics. 25
>>percent of all teen-agers being registered by
>>juvenile-delinquency boards, have been selected for drinking
>>alcohol. Besides, the number of teen-age drug addicts has
>>soared by 300 percent in 1997 compared with the 1993 level.

After reading this I emailed a friend of mine, who's a young American journalist in Moscow. She notes that "the government's emergency reform package aimed to advent further crisis cuts spending and increases revenues, but it does so in many very harsh ways (such as charging extra taxes for baby food and clothing, and taxing the people, including pensioners, on their bank accounts). One economist today told me, 'Considering many people are living just at the poverty line, these reforms could mean the difference between survival and starvation.'" Hmm. She notes that the mortality rate is higher for men, that alcoholism is more widespread among men, both to alleviate the stress of the climate of crisis and their personal economic and health crises. There's no "government body or group devoted to exposing . . . institutionalized ripping-off of state assets by company directors", which makes coming by accurate statistics difficult. And there's "the AIDS epidemic in Russia--growing out of control because of the high instance of IV-drug use (at least 76 percent of HIV-infected persons were infected through drug use)." As far as "widespread health concerns . . . AIDS is just the tip of the iceberg". She observes a correlation between mental "handicap" and large-scale ecological disasters.

And she notes: "Now, the IMF just gave Russia $22 billion. . . . Everyone's ecstatic . . . the government is patting itself on the back, and now life can go on as it was pre-crisis."


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