Demographics of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

In his article of last summer “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, Vladimir Putin wrote the following:

“But the fact is that the situation in Ukraine today is completely different because it involves a forced change of identity. And the most despicable thing is that the Russians in Ukraine are being forced not only to deny their roots, generations of their ancestors but also to believe that Russia is their enemy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the path of forced assimilation, the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state, aggressive towards Russia, is comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against us. As a result of such a harsh and artificial division of Russians and Ukrainians, the Russian people in all may decrease by hundreds of thousands or even millions.”

The last sentence addressed the demographics of Russia, in particular the size of its population. For a long while, Putin has been mindful of Russia’s weak demographics. In the past, he has sought to stimulate Russia’s birth rate and has rewarded couples who have more children. According to UN estimates, the Russian population is not growing and its median age is rising. Because Putin views Ukrainians as the same people as Russians, a shift of the Ukrainian identity away from Russia and towards the West would mathematically reduce the total number of Russians. In other words, if you are Russian one day, you can be counted within the total Russian population. But if you no longer identify as Russian because of “forced assimilation”, it is possible that you may no longer be counted within that total.

So let’s take a quick look at the demographics of Russia, Ukraine and also Belarus since it too is viewed by Putin as part of the greater Russian people. As shown in the two tables below compiled from UN Population data, the population of Russia rose from 102.8 million in 1950 to 147.5 million in 1990, or a respectable average of 0.9% per year. But then it went flat after the breakup of the Soviet Union due to the deep economic problems that then affected Russia and other former Soviet Republics. According to the UN’s medium variant projection, Russia’s population will decline to 135 million in 2050. Meanwhile, the median age has nearly doubled since 1950 because couples are having fewer children, a phenomenon seen in many countries/regions including the United States and Europe.

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Ukraine Population Grows for First Time in 19 Years

The population of Ukraine peaked in 1993 at 52.2 million.  It now stands at 45.6 million.


Ukraine’s current population was 45,559,235 people as of October 1, 2012, while the permanent population was 45,378,880 people, which was 177 people more than on September 1, 2012, the State Statistics Service has said in a statement posted on its official Web site.

Thus, an increase in Ukraine’s population was reported for the first time in 19 years. Since 1993, reaching the highest mark in history of 52.2 million people (current population) and 51.7 million people (permanent population), it shrank every month.

At the same time, the country still recorded a negative natural increase – the number of deaths exceeded the number of births by 4,060 in September 2012. However, the migration growth of 4,237 people exceeded the natural increase for the first time. This was favored by the ongoing decline in the natural population decrease, and the traditional September surge in immigration growth, which is linked to the beginning of the academic year in Ukraine’s higher educational institutions. READ MORE.