Russia’s population is now less than it was 10 years ago and people are getting poorer and more miserable. The Russian-Ukrainian war will undoubtedly add to all this. In 2012, when Putin returned to the presidency after four years as prime minister, he declared that his camp had “won an open and honest battle.
Many things seem to be going well. The population was growing, people were living longer, getting richer and living happier. That’s not the case anymore. In the last decade, Russians have started dying earlier, the population is getting less fewer, poorer and more miserable.
The first was a chanllenge to the economy. Russia cheered the annexation of Crimea in 2014 which brought a wave of sanctions and triggered a plunge in oil prices. The ensuing recession hit the economy hard. Average incomes have fallen, especially among the poorest half of the population. Despite a rebound in Russia’s GDP per capita in 2018, people’s incomes did not increase.
The World Happiness Index Report, which is based on surveys that allow people to rate their lives, found that the happiness of Russians has declined. Since 2017. Russians consider themselves less happy than they were in 2012.
Then the epidemic came. According to The Economist’s excess mortality estimates, Russia’s true death toll is the highest in the world which is about 1.2 million people died, twice as many as in the United States and nearly three times as many as in the European Union. Combined with declining birth rates and migration, this means that Russia’s population is more less now than it was in 2012. Its population declines by 693,000, or about 0.5% in the year of 2021.
The Russian-Ukrainian war has only made things worse. Casualties have been rising rapidly and most of the soldiers who have died were young.
The unprecedented scale and ambition of the Western sanctions have hit Russia’s economy. The impact of the crisis on the economy has not been as severe as expected so far. Most analysts expect the situation to deteriorate further in the coming months.
It’s all bad enough. Russia’s decline looks worse compared to rich countries. GDP in developed economies has grown by 22% in the last decade. Not only has Russia lost 10 years of growth (in terms of economy, health and well-being), it is heading into the past.