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Measuring Sustainability in the Russian Arctic: An Interdisciplinary Study

by Votrin, Valery, PhD


Page 121

general birth rate coefficient (the number of babies born for every thousand inhabitants) and the
total birth rate coefficient (the provisional number of children that, given a particular rate of
reproduction, one woman might have in the course of her childbearing years) fell precipitously in
the early 1990s in Russia and in several countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU), down to
levels that are considerably lower than those in Western Europe and almost half that of the
United States. Another factor not fitting the “demographic transition” theory is the drastic rise in
death rate and the shortening of life span in Russia during the 1990s. In developing countries
where a demographic transition is really taking place, these indicators moved in the opposite
direction in recent decades.
While in the recent years the natural loss of population in Russia noticeably declined, the
rate of population loss is still alarming. Today, the comparative rate of population loss in Russia
is higher than in Europe where the population is declining, except for the Ukraine. Especially
high is the death rate among men, particularly those of working age, as a result of which the
country has the lowest life expectancy in Europe, 58 years (Rimashevskaia, 2005).
Table 4.13 shows the population growth in Russia and the Russian Arctic regions per
1000 inhabitants.
Table 4.13. Population growth in the Russian Arctic and Russia, 1990 to 2003, per 1000
inhabitants

Region 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Murmansk 5,5 3,9 0,9 -2,9 -3,2 -3,3 -1,8 -1,2 -0,7 -2,5 -2,9 -3,0 -3,2 -4,0
Nenets AO 9,7 8,8 5,6 1,1 2,5 0,7 1,1 2,5 2,8 1,8 0,3 0,8 1,4 1,8
Yamal-Nenets AO 13,0 11,4 8,5 6,3 6,9 6,7 6,6 7,1 7,7 6,9 6,2 6,7 7,4 8,0
Taimyr 8,9 8,5 5,6 3,3 1,4 0,7 0,9 2,4 3,0 1,6 0,5 2,9 4,8 6,0
Sakha 12,8 11,1 8,4 6,9 5,8 5,5 4,8 4,8 4,8 3,4 3,9 3,6 4,3 4,8
Chukotka 10,4 8,6 5,9 2,4 2,5 1,2 1,2 2,6 3,1 1,9 1,6 0,3 0,6 2,3
Russia 2,2 0,7 -1,5 -5,1 -6,1 -5,7 -5,3 -5,2 -4,8 -6,4 -6,7 -6,5 -6,5 -6,2
Source: Rosstat (2004)
Contrary to Kashepov’s (2004) statement that in the recent years the rate of population
loss in Russia has improved, the actual numbers show that in 2003 the population growth was
the same as in 1994, i.e. on the peak of the Russian reforms, although there is a very slight
tendency of the population loss to decrease (from -6,7 in 2000 to -6,2 in 2003). In fact, the early
2000s have seen the dramatic and steady increase in population loss in Russia compared to
the early 1990s. Anderson (2002) emphasises that the sharp decline in fertility in Russia
between 1990 and 1999 was likely to be due to the economic crisis, and economic
improvements may result in increased fertility. The importance of economic factor influencing
fertility in Russia is also highlighted by Roschina and Boykov (2004), who found the significant
correlation between income and probability of a childbearing, in particular for lonely women, and
the dramatic change in fertility pattern which was due to the rapid change in social norm for
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children number (1 or sometimes 2 children per family) in the early 1990s. The authors note that
“crisis could speed up this process, however it is in vein of global tendencies for all Western
countries”.
According to Anderson (2002), attributing population loss in Russia to increases in
mortality during the 1990s as some authors do is true only in a very narrow sense. Albeit
serious, especially for older men, increases in mortality in Russia are not a cause of population
decline in Russia on the long term as they did not contribute to a widening in the gap between
the gross reproduction rate (GRR) (the number of daughters a woman would have if she went
through her life having daughters at the rates at each age in the given population) and the net
reproduction rate (NRR) (the GRR modified by mortality). Mortality changed in very different
ways in Russia for different age groups and for men compared to women. If all men and women
died at the age of fifty, it would be a social tragedy, but it would have no effect on the gap
between the GRR and the NRR and would have no effect on long-term population growth. The
author argues that, as throughout the rest of developing world, the main cause of slowing
population growth in Russia seems to be low fertility and ageing of the population. Although the
proportion of Russia’s population aged 60 or older (19 per cent in 2000) is less than in Italy (21
per cent in 2000) which is one of the European countries most affected by the ageing crisis, the
rapid rate of growth of Russia’s elderly population, from 16 per cent in 1990 to 19 per cent in
2000, coupled with overall economic problems, makes the ageing problem probably the most
acute demographic problem for modern Russia.
It is worth noting that the population growth pattern typical for the whole Russia can be
observed only in Murmansk where the population growth has turned into the population decline
since 1993. The other Russian Arctic regions are doing amazingly well in terms of the
population growth rates (the data are from the official Rosstat yearbooks). The biggest
increases are reported in Yamal-Nenets AO, followed by Sakha and Taimyr, in particular
beginning from the early 2000s. This somewhat contradicts Bogoyavlensky’s (2004) finding that
the peak of population growth in the Russian Arctic was in the 1990s, which in fact have
witnessed almost steady population growth rate throughout the whole decade.
There is also a discrepancy between the data above and the finding that “…fertility of
Russia’s circumpolar population is equal to, or slightly lower than that of Russia’s total
population” (Bogoyavlensky, 2004). The author attributes this to the high proportion of urban
population, including those inhabiting large towns (Murmansk, Norilsk, Vorkuta, Noyabrsk, Novy
Urengoi), where fertility rates have always been lower. However, he finds that in regions with a
relatively high share of indigenous people, the differences in levels of fertility among the urban
and rural population are evident and reflect the fact that the indigenous population consists
mainly of rural inhabitants.
One of the major demographic problems the Russian Arctic regions are facing is outmigration.
The past 15 years have witnessed the ever greatest outflow of population from the

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Russian Arctic (and on a greater scale, from all of the Russian Far North), and it is still going on,
with mainly people of working age leaving the region. More than 1 million people, or about 12
per cent of the population of these areas, relocated to more centralised areas of Russia from
Siberia and the Russian North and Far East, mainly to Moscow, where the population increased
by 1.5 million from 1990 to 2002 (Heleniak, 1999; WWF, 2002b, Rutkowski et al, 2005). This
tendency has been in direct contrast with the situation facing Russia as a whole, where an
impressive inflow of population has taken place. Migration from the Arctic began in the 1990s
and reached its peak from 1992 to 1994, when 2 to 4% of the population left the region every
year. The Arctic part of the Republic of Sakha has lost almost one half of its population, while
the Sakha as a whole lost only one fifth of its overall population. Almost 40% of the population in
town of Vorkuta have been lost as a result of migration, and the rest of the districts have lost 20
to 30% of their populations. Only the Yamal-Nenets AO stands out against the general
background with its minimal losses of a mere 7% of the 1989 population. In Chukotka, more
than 10% of the population left every year (Bogoyavlensky, 2004).
This region was particularly hit by the depopulation problem. However, it is worth noting
that central government facilitated out-migration as high subsidy costs of maintaining supplies
and services began to reveal. Yet these efforts were chronically underfunded. The only
successful, albeit smaller resettlement programme in Russia is the one funded by Chukotka’s
governor Roman Abramovich in 2001-2003. The programme was the first in post-Soviet Russia
to offer a full resettlement package on a voluntary basis to all long-term residents who were no
longer contributing to the region’s economy and was accompanied by the region’s thorough
modernisation and investment programme that has stipulated the cost-cutting measures such
as the elimination of “unpromising settlements” and resettlement of thousands of nonindigenous
residents to central Russia. While about 75,000 people lived in Chukotka by
December 2000, at the time Abramovich has become governor, officials in his administration
proposed an ideal target population of 30,000-35,000. As of 1 September 2005, about 50,500
people lived in Chukotka. In relative terms, the programme funded by “extra-budgetary funds”
was highly effective: compared with 1,300 individuals resettled in 2001 under the programme,
federal funding was sufficient to resettle 75 people only. The programme which is not only
resettling locals but also investing in infrastructure and resurrecting the traditional native
economy, has attracted outside investment and hundreds of professionals. This has led to a
spike in the property value in Anadyr and the boom in regional economy (Thompson, 2004).

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Figure 4.6. Population growth in the Russian Arctic

12

10

per
1000
inhabitants 8

6

4

2

0

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Population growth 10,5 8,7 5,8 2,8 2,6 1,9 2,1 3,0 3,4 2,2 1,6 1,9 2,5 3,1

Source: author’s calculations based on Rosstat (2004)
As shown in Figure 4.8, this indicator has diminished dramatically from 1990 to 2003 by
70.5 per cent. From 2001 it tends to increase, with 3.1 in 2003 compared to 1.6 in 2000 which
was the lowest value in a 13-year range.
The moderate but steady population growth in the Russian Arctic can be explained by
the fertility higher than Russian average (in all regions but Murmansk) and less pronounced
ageing problem. The share of population aged 60 or older is lower here than in other Russian
regions. This is in contrast with the finding that “the birth rate is higher in poorer regions with
lower level of female unemployment” (Roschina and Boykov, 2005). The region’s resource
economy seems to stimulate the fertility behaviour, although the birth rates per 1000 inhabitants
across the regions are uneven: 16 in the Nenets AO, 14 in Yamal-Nenets AO, 16 in Taimyr, 15
in Sakha and 13 in Chukotka in 2003, compared to 10 in Russia. Only in Murmansk the crude
birth rate was lower than in Russia, at 10.
The Russian Arctic is also the only region where the number of women is somewhat
higher: 990 men per 1,000 women according to the 2002 Russian census. This is a new
phenomenon for the region. In the 1989 census and earlier, there were more men than women.
This shift is most likely a consequence of the high male mortality rate. During the period 1995-
2002, the number of male deaths outstripped male births by 3,000, while the number of female
births outstripped female deaths by 25,000. There was thus an overall natural increase of
population in the region of about 22,000 (Bogoyavlensky, 2004).

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4.3.2 High Life Expectations
Life expectancy at birth reflects a great many social, economic and environmental
factors as an indicator of human well-being and is one of the important components of Human
Development Index (HDI). It is also an indirect measure of mortality and provides the indications
for health status and health care.
There are many reports about diminished life expectancy in Russia. The most recent
comprehensive study, Alam et al (2005), reports that life expectancy in Russia is five years
below the 1990 levels and explains most of the decline in life expectancy by premature (or
avoidable) deaths in the most productive age groups, with males affected particularly strongly.
In Russia, the total number of male premature deaths was 2 million during 1992–2000, which,
when compared with all deaths, suggests that one out of five deaths during the period was
preventable. Interpreting premature death as an extreme manifestation of health poverty, the
risk for Russian males to suffer for this form of deprivation was about 3 per cent. Environmental
factors are also important. Bobylev and Makeyenko (2002) link the decline in life expectancy in
Russia to the toxic contamination and the high air and water pollution.
The population changes in Russia are mainly due to mortality from preventable causes,
such as non-communicable diseases (including cardiovascular disease and certain neoplasms),
alcohol abuse, road traffic accidents, and intentional and unintentional injuries. The life
expectancy of adult males fell between 1987 and 1994 by 7.4 years to 57.5 years, rose to 61.3
years in 1998, and then fell again by 2.4 years in 2001. Female life expectancy fell by 2.6 years
to 72 years between 1989 and 1994. In 2001, men in Russia could expect to live 13.4 fewer
years than females (Levintova and Novotny, 2004). The decline in life expectancy at birth in
Russia is also associated with the high mortality at the age of 15 and older and mortality at
working age. If between 1990 and 1994 the main cause of mortality among men was accidents,
between 1998 and 2003 it became cardiovascular diseases. However, accidents continue to
play a significant part as the cause of mortality in rural areas (Andreev et al, 2004).
By the mid-1990s, Russia ranked second, after Lithuania, in the world table of rankings
of suicide. The peak was achieved in 1994-1995, with 61,000 to 62,000 deaths per year, a
coefficient of more than 41 per 1000 inhabitants. After a slight decrease in 1996-1998, a new
surge followed in 1999. Mature men choose to take their own lives much more frequently than
women. In the case of men, an unusual dramatic rise in the age curve of suicides is observed
until the older working ages are reached (from 40 to 49), after which the number of suicides
tends to decrease. Apart from other factors, alcoholism plays the most fatal role: alcohol was
detected in the blood of at least 60 per cent of victims, and in 40 per cent of the cases the
alcohol concentration corresponded to medium and severe degrees of intoxication
(Bogoiavlenskii, 2004). In the Arctic as a whole, the rate of suicide is high, especially among
young men, and rates of completed suicide among this sub-group in the North are much higher
than the national averages, ranging from a slight increase to a factor of nearly ten (7-11).

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Among contributing factors to these startling numbers are dynamic changes in the government,
in culture, and in community and family values, as well as stress on the individual. The
inordinate level of change in the Arctic may well contribute to the increased rates of suicide.
Males in northwestern Russia commit suicide at a higher rate than males in Scandinavia, with
the Arkhangelsk oblast having the highest rate of suicide among males in the Barents Region
(Hild and Stordahl, 2004).
Poverty resulting in a decreasing quality of life is a primary social cause of deteriorated
public health in Russia. The transition period and the half-hearted reforms in the 1990s have led
to crisis in the social sphere and breakdown of normal activities among the overwhelming
majority of the population. The rates of tuberculosis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C and AIDS have
reached epidemic proportions: the rate of tuberculosis grew by 70 per cent between 1996 and
2001, and hepatitis is spreading at 20 per cent per year. Deteriorating health leads to the
spread of disabilities in the population and ultimately to high mortality rates (15.3 per 1,000
population in 2000). The death of people of working age increased, with 29 per cent of all
deaths in 2000. In today’s Russia the poor make up about one-third of the population, and the
polarisation and differentiation processes in terms of the amount and quality of health services
is mounting (Rimashevskaia and Korkhova, 2004).
These general negative processes are also reflected in the Russian Arctic. While the
majority of Arctic countries have very low mortality rates and the Nordic countries and Canada
are among those countries whose life expectancy is one of the highest in the world, Russia is
an exception, being one of the countries with low infant mortality rates but high adult mortality
rates. In the Arctic as a whole, Russia has the lowest life expectancy (Bogoyavlensky, 2004). As
shown in Figure 4.9, average life expectancy for men in the Russian Arctic in 2003 was 56
years and for women 69 years. Since 1998 average life expectancy has decreased by 6 years
for men and 3 years for women. Average life expectancy for both sexes in 2003 was 62 years, a
decrease of 4 years since 1998.

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Figure 4.9. Life expectancy in the Russian Arctic

80

70

60

71,6 72,5 72,2 72,1
66,6 66,6 65,6 66,1
62,0 61,5 60,2 61,3
56,4

69,0

62,3

50

40

30

Men
Women
All

20

10

0
1998 1999 2000 2002 2003

Source: author’s calculations based on Rosstat (2004)
Thus, just for five years life expectancy in the Russian Arctic decreased from 67 years in
1998 to 62 years in 2003. For men, the decrease in life expectancy was even more dramatic –
from 62 years in 1998 to 56 years in 2003. Women also suffered a marked decrease, from 72
years in 1998 to 69 years in 2003.
Table 4.14 demonstrates life expectancy in Russia and the Russian Arctic by region
between 1998 and 2003.

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Table
4.14.
Life
expectancy
in
Russia
and
the
Russian
Arctic,
1998
to
2003
Region
1998
1999
2000
2002
2003

All
Males
Females
All
Males
Females
All
Males
Females
All
Males
Females
All
Males
Females

Murmansk
69
64
74
67
62
73
66
61
72
66
60
72
63
56
70
Nenets
AO
66
61
70
66
61
73
64
57
71
64
58
71
58
52
68
Yamal-Nenets
70
66
74
69
65
75
69
65
74
70
67
75
67
62
72
Taimyr
65
60
71
65
59
71
63
56
71
66
62
72
61
55
68
Sakha
65
60
70
65
59
70
64
58
71
65
58
72
64
58
70
Chukotka
65
61
69
67
62
73
67
62
73
65
60
72
59
55
64
Russian
Arctic
67
62
72
67
61
73
66
60
72
66
61
72
62
56
69
Russia
67
61
73
66
59
72
65
58
72
65
58
72
65
58
72
Source:
Rosstat
(2004)

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From 1998 to 2003, all Russian Arctic regions have experienced disastrously declining
life expectancy which decreased by 7 years in Nenets AO, 6 years in Murmansk and Chukotka,
4 years in Taimyr, 3 years in Yamal-Nenets AO, and 1 year in Sakha. Male life expectancy in
the same period dropped sharply in all Russian Arctic regions: by 9 years in Nenets AO, 7 years
in Murmansk, 5 years in Taimyr, 4 years in Yamal-Nenets AO, 3 years in Chukotka, and 2 years
in Sakha. The most dramatic 5-year decline in female life expectancy was in Chukotka, whereas
it decreased by 4 years in Murmansk, 3 years in Taimyr, and 2 years in Nenets AO and Yamal-
Nenets AO. Sakha was the only region where female life expectancy did not decline. In Russia
as a whole, life expectancy in that period declined steadily and stabilised in 2003.
According to Krasovskaya et al (2000), inter-regional comparisons of life expectancy at
birth in Russia give unexpected results because of the conflicting influence of three factors:
climatic conditions, with the influence of the so-called northeastern gradient of decreasing life
expectancy (from 70 to 72 years in the Northern Caucasus to 63 to 64 years in the northern part
of the Far East); alcoholism, which is widespread in the Russian Far North; and the level of
socio-economic development, which produces disparities similar to those seen in inter-country
comparisons: in the developed zones, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, life expectancy is
68 to 69, whereas in the under-developed Republic of Tuva in Siberia it is only 56. So the
Russian Federation is a statistical mosaic, in which, however, the Arctic regions (except for
Murmansk Oblast) exhibit relatively low indices.
The cluster analysis of life expectancy at birth and infant mortality for all Russian regions
(Andreev et al, 2004) has identified three groups of territories that included 29, 24 and 21
regions respectively. Almost all Russian Arctic areas have been included in the first group of the
regions of Asian part of Russia, Urals and Northern Caucasus that comprised the regions with
the lowest life expectancy (Krasnoyarsk, Magadan, Sakha, and Tyumen). The demographic
situation in the regions included in the second group of mainly Central Russian ones, including
the two capitals, was considered the most favourable. Arkhangelsk and Murmansk Oblasts were
included into the third group of the regions of the Russian European North where the
demographic indicators are somewhat in between the first two.
Bogoyavlensky (2004) is also of opinion that the Russian Arctic is an exception to the
trend of decreasing mortality observed across all Arctic countries, with no steady decrease
during the past 30-40 years. Life expectancy there has been on the decline that was faster
among men than among women. Today, Russia is facing a gender gap in life expectancy of
about 13 years, which is larger than anywhere else in the Arctic.
4.3.3 Human Development in the Russian Arctic
To assess in an integrated manner the population’s level and quality of life, HDI
developed by the UNDP is used. This method takes the approach that a high quality of life

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requires not only high income, but also the opportunity to lead a long and eventful life, for which
a good education and a decent standard of living are needed (Krasovskaya et al, 2000).
In Russia, federal HDI has been included in the Human Development Reports since
1998 and in regional HDIs, including the reconstructed data for the last 25 years, since 2001.
The level of economic development is calculated on the basis of GRP per head, while the other
components are similar to those used by UNDP. Analysing the HDI dynamics in Russia
between 1979 and 2001, Bobylev (2004) suggests a division into three periods: 1979-1989,
when the growth of all components of HDI was relatively steady; 1989-1994, when life
expectancy, material well-being and the overall HDI fell, and only education rose; and 1994-
2001, when further growth of education and significant rise in the material well-being put the
HDI back on an upward trend. In those periods, regional HDIs experienced substantial changes
due to uneven adaptation of regions to market conditions, which also led to some shifts among
the three groups of “leaders”, “middle-rankers” and “outsiders”: regional differentiation shrank in
1979-1985, increased in 1989-1994, and began to shrink again from the end of the 1990s.
Trends in HDI in the majority of Russian regions from 1979 to 2001 also showed an ever-slower
increase in 1979-1989, a slump in 1989-1994 and a recovery towards 2001. In some regions in
Siberia, Urals and Northern Caucasus (that do not include any of the Russian Arctic regions) the
HDI decline began as early as 1985 due to the changes in material well-being and life
expectancy, while education rose steadily. In 2001, the HDI exceeded its 1989 level in only six
regions: Belgorod Oblast, Moscow City, the Republic of Kalmykiya, the Republic of Mari El, the
Republic of Tatarstan, and Tomsk Oblast. The HDI in 57 regions was below its level in 1985,
and in 19 regions it was even lower than in 1979.
Table 4.15 demonstrates the dynamics of HDI in Russia vs HDI in other Arctic countries.
Table 4.15. Human Development Index in the Arctic, 1979 to 2001

Region 1979 1985 1989 1994 2001
Arkhangelsk 0.730 0.758 0.768 0.698 0.732
Murmansk 0.746 0.771 0.785 0.709 0.742
Tyumen 0.740 0.775 0.850 0.767 0.847
Krasnoyarsk 0.729 0.756 0.784 0.733 0.764
Sakha 0.726 0.759 0.781 0.706 0.766
Magadan 0.739 0.759 0.763 0.634 0.732
Moscow 0.789 0.809 0.810 0.764 0.855
Russia 0.796 0.811 0.809 0.766 0.779
Canada 0.876 0.887 0.900 0.924 0.944
Denmark 0.879 0.886 0.893 0.910 0.930
Finland 0.854 0.872 0.894 0.907 0.930
Iceland 0.884 0.893 0.912 0.918 0.942
Norway 0.876 0.887 0.900 0.924 0.944
Sweden 0.871 0.882 0.893 0.924 0.941
Source: UNDP (2003); Bobylev (2004)

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