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Indeed, Russia’s window for further population growth is rapidly closing. Within a decade, according to RANEPA’s estimates, the population of Russian women aged 20 to 29 will shrink by nearly 50 percent. The corresponding decrease in birth rates, particularly when combined with the country’s mortality rates—the 22nd highest in the world, according to the study—makes it clear that Russia is still in for long-term decline.
In fact, without remedial action, Russia’s population could shrink to 113 million by 2050, a decrease of more than 20 percent from today’s population of 144 million. And in a worst-case scenario, RANEPA argues, Russia’s population could fall by nearly a third, to 100 million, before midcentury. The economic effects of such a shift would be dramatic; Russia’s working-age population would decrease by more than 26 million, making the country less competitive and less prosperous. But there is still some hope: if Moscow takes measures to reduce mortality and boost the birthrate, RANEPA estimates that the Russian population could rise modestly, to 155 million, by 2040.
In other words, Russia has a choice to make—one with deep social and economic consequences. If implemented in the near term, improvements in health care, tax benefits for families, and steps to discourage emigration could offset and even reverse Russia’s long-term population decline. The opportunity to do so, however, will be lost over the next decade, and the social and economic consequences of governmental inattention could be catastrophic.
Unfortunately, there’s little chance that the Kremlin will seize the moment. In recent years, preoccupied with regaining its place on the world stage, Moscow has only peripherally addressed the long-term sources of national decline. Instead, it has prioritized spending on programs that reinforce its reputation as a great power. Even before the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, it was estimated that Russia planned to spend upward of $600 billion on upgrading its military capabilities by 2020. The increased expenditures have funded, among other projects, the creation of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, the deployment of additional long-range strike capabilities, and serious work on electromagnetic pulse weapons.
—Ilan Berman, “Moscow’s Baby Bust?” Foreign Affairs, July 8, 2015
Crimean officials estimate that over 4 million tourists will visit the recently annexed peninsula’s beaches this year, boosting the region’s economy by up to 125 billion rubles ($2 billion), news agency RIA Novosti reported Thursday.
“We expect to welcome 4.3 million people to Crimea in 2015, most of them from Russia,” Crimean Tourism Minster Yelena Yurchenko was quoted as saying.
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in March last year in a move widely applauded at home but condemned by the West, which imposed sanctions on investment in Crimea.
Before the annexation, 6 million tourists visited Crimea annually, according to Russia’s tourism watchdog, Rostourism. Most of these were Ukrainians.
Russia is trying to stimulate travel to Crimea to help the region’s tourism-dependent economy, but the land route through mainland Ukraine has seen a steep drop in use since Russian and Ukrainian guard posts were placed on the Crimean border.
Over half of tourists this year will come to Crimea by plane and 45 percent will come by the Kerch Strait ferry, according to Yurchenko.
Russia plans to build a multibillion-dollar bridge between Russia and Crimea, but construction will not be complete until 2018.
— “Crimea Plans to Make $2 Billion on Summer Tourism This Year,” The Moscow Times, March 19, 2015The emphasis, above, is mine.