Russia's Peacetime Demographic Crisis
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Since the end of the Communist era, Russia's population has plunged by almost 7 million people--the greatest drop anywhere since Mao's Great Leap Forward. The country has recorded three deaths for every birth, public health is in disarray, Listen to Audio


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and the education system is failing. Adding to these existing demographic challenges, Russia is set to age profoundly in the decades ahead. What accounts for Russia's troubles, which are so unusual for an urbanized, literate society? Can government policies effectively redress these issues, and how will they affect Moscow's behavior on the world stage? Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI's Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy, will present an overview of his timely new book on the subject, Russia's Peacetime Demographic Crisis, followed by an expert panel discussion on the implications for Russia in the coming years.

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Event Summary

WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 21, 2010--The current and future demographic troubles facing Russia constitute a "catastrophe," argued AEI scholar Nicholas Eberstadt in a presentation on his new book, Russia's Peacetime Demographic Crisis: Dimensions, Causes, Implications. After Eberstadt's overview, a panel of distinguished experts, moderated by AEI's Leon Aron, discussed the book and its implications for Russian society in the years to come. Harley Balzer (Georgetown) praised the book, noting the role played by stress and human-capital exchange in the crisis. David F. Gordon (Eurasia Group) discussed the economic and security implications for Russia, its neighbors, and great powers. Andrei Illarionov (Cato Institute) shared his research on a number of specific facets of the Russian demographic profile, including the mystery of the high death date, life expectancy, mortality, and alcoholism.

  • "We're expecting a smaller Russia, with many fewer people of young working age. But we're also expecting more people in Russia who will be 60 years or older--that is to say, of pensionable age. These older prospective pensioners will be less healthy, and have greater needs, than their counterparts in other parts of the developed world. They will be supported by a smaller cohort of younger workers, who will also have their own health and morbidity limitations. So in some sense, the situation for Russia in the future may be even more challenging--in terms of demography and human resources--than what it is today, given what we expect to see in aging and health over the next two decades."
    --Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy, AEI

  • "Depending on whose numbers you take, somewhere between 2 million and 3 million Russians have left the Russian Federation in the last two decades. They are overwhelmingly people of higher education--virtually all of the lab directors and scientific managers left over from the Soviet Union left in the 1990s."
    --Harley Balzer, Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs, Georgetown University

  • "This demographic profile--the tragedy that [Nick Eberstadt] portrays--is really going to make the whole modernization strategy and aspiration much more difficult to achieve. And thus, I think it will create incentives to keep Russia focused on exploiting its resources as the main form of economic activity and behavior."
    --David F. Gordon, Head of Research, Director of Global Macro Analysis, Eurasia Group

  • "In Russia, this area of study is not necessarily taboo, but clearly avoided in public discussion. It is very well researched by Russian demographers, and many of them have written extensively, but it is not a topic of public debate. That is why this book contributes to the general discussion in English as well as in Russia--it is incredibly important for the Russian public and Russian authorities, since this is one of the most important issues of our time."
    --Andrei Illarionov, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

--DALE SWARTZ

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Speaker biographies

Leon Aron is a resident scholar and the director of Russian studies at AEI. He was born in Moscow and came to the United States as a refugee from the Soviet Union in June 1978 at the age of twenty-four. In addition to writing AEI's Russian Outlook, Mr. Aron has contributed numerous articles on Russian affairs to leading U.S. and Russian newspapers and magazines. Among the topics he has covered are the political, economic, and ideological factors shaping Russian foreign policy and U.S.-Russian relations and the social, political, and economic facets of "Putinism." Mr. Aron's frequent television and radio interviews range from CBS News's 60 Minutes to NPR's All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation. He is the author of the first full-length scholarly biography of Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (St. Martin's Press, 2000), and Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989–2006 (AEI Press, 2007). His most recent book, Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987–1991, will be published by Yale University Press in fall 2011.

Harley Balzer is an associate professor of government and international affairs and an associate faculty member of the Department of History at Georgetown University. Mr. Balzer's research interests include political economy, Russian domestic politics, education, Russian and Soviet social history, science and technology, and U.S.-Russian relations. Previously, he taught at Grinnell College and Boston University, and he has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Harvard University Russian Research Center and at MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society. He was a Congressional fellow in the office of former representative Lee Hamilton and a Jennings Randolph senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Nicholas Eberstadt is the Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy at AEI. A political economist and demographer by training, Mr. Eberstadt is also a senior adviser to the National Board of Asian Research, a member of the visiting committee at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a member of the Global Leadership Council at the World Economic Forum. He researches and writes extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. He has written over a dozen books and monographs, including The Poverty of Communism (Transaction, 1988), The Tyranny of Numbers (AEI Press, 1995), The End of North Korea (AEI Press, 1999), Korea's Future and the Great Powers (University of Washington Press, 2001), The North Korean Economy: Between Crisis and Catastrophe (Transaction, 2007), Europe's Coming Demographic Challenge: Unlocking the Value of Health (AEI Press, 2007), The Poverty of 'The Poverty Rate': Measure and Mismeasure of Want in Modern America (AEI Press, 2008), and Policy and Performance in Divided Korea during the Cold War Era: 1945–91 (AEI Press, 2010). His most recent book is Russia's Peacetime Demographic Crisis (National Bureau of Asian Research, 2010).

David F. Gordon is Eurasia Group's head of research and director of global macro analysis. Before joining Eurasia Group, Mr. Gordon spent more than ten years working at the highest levels of U.S. foreign policy formulation. From June 2007 to January 2009, he was the director of policy planning under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He played a leading role in developing policy ideas on issues ranging from Afghanistan and Pakistan to U.S. engagement in East Asia to the multilateral response to the international financial crisis. He has also served in leadership positions at the National Intelligence Council. His latest book is Managing Strategic Surprise: Lessons from Risk Management and Risk Assessment, coedited with Paul Bracken and Ian Bremmer (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Andrei Illarionov is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. From 2000 to December 2005, he was the chief economic adviser for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Illarionov also served as the president's personal representative (sherpa) in the G-8. He is one of Russia's most forceful and articulate advocates of an open society and democratic capitalism. From 1993 to 1994, Mr. Illarionov was chief economic adviser to Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He resigned in February 1994 to protest changes in the government's economic policy. In July 1994, Mr. Illarionov founded the Institute of Economic Analysis and became its director. He has coauthored several economic programs for Russian governments and has written three books and more than three hundred articles on Russian economic and social policies.

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