Russia is not the Soviet Union—what are ‘we’ afraid of?

Over a quarter of a century has passed since the Soviet Union dissolved into its constituent republics, and since its satellite countries in Eastern Europe have declared their independence from Soviet hegemony. Yet many in Europe and the USA are acting as if the Soviet Union still exists.

NATO continues to act as if Russia were the Soviet Union. The European Union continues to challenge Russia’s real and perceived interests in Eastern Europe. Some politicians in the USA are preparing to urge the new president to be ‘tough’ with Russia.

What’s going on? And what are the facts underlying the purported similarity of today’s Russia with the defunct Soviet Union that certain politicians and talking heads are promoting?

How strong was the Soviet Union in 1989 before its dissolution? And how strong is its successor state, Russia?

– In 1989 the Soviet Union was the third most populous country, after China and India, with the USA in fourth place.
– In 2016, Russia was the ninth most populous country, after China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, with Japan in tenth place.

– The population of Russia today is about one-half that of the Soviet Union in 1989.

– In 1989, The Soviet Union’s share of World Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 13.5%.
– In 2016, Russia’s share of World GDP was 3.3%

– In 1989, The Soviet Union’s fertility rate (births per woman—all women) was 2.4, comfortably above the population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. Its population was growing at a rate of 0.8%
– In 2016, Russia’s fertility rate was 1.61, well below population replacement rate. Its population was shrinking at the rate of -0.06%

Here are two charts, one for 1989 and one for 2016, which underly the above statements:

screenhunter_459-jan-02-17-47

I offer questions and ideas for discussion on this and related issues:

1. India seems poised to take the path which China has taken in the last quarter century, in terms of population and economic growth, while the other ‘great powers’ are slowing down in these respects. Why are ‘we’ not afraid of China and India, or at least as much as ‘we’ seem to be afraid of Russia?

2. Is it in the nature of the Russian character and its history as a regional power to expand its influence through the use of raw, i.e., military power?

3. I have seen it asserted that China is not ‘expansionist’ in nature, but rather seeks economic strength, and stability in its relations with other entities.We have not seen India as an expansionist entity, but perhaps Pakistan has a different perspective.

4. All European countries, except France and Iceland, are losing population, even with the recent migration waves from Asia and Africa. Eastern European countries are experiencing the greatest reductions in fertility and population. Perhaps this engenders fearfulness for their respective futures which the peoples project toward more powerful neighbors?

5. All four of these ‘great powers’ possess nuclear weapons. Who should be afraid of whom?

Let’s discuss this…

END

Letter from Poland

I recently visited Kraków, Poland, with nine of my writing colleagues, for a ‘writing retreat’ and some minor tourism.

We arrived 10 November, the day before an important national holiday, National Independence Day…

… a national day in Poland celebrated on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Empire. (Wikipedia)

img_0697

One of the celebrations early on November 11, image taken from our hotel room

In pursuing the tourism, I went to the English language Massolit Bookstore. The fellow at the cashier and cafe desk is interested in the Beat Poets, as I am. He and I struck up a conversation and I promised to send him a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

After returning home, I sent him the poem, along with some personal comments and links to my writing. I received from him a most unexpected response. Here it is:
___

I am happy to read that you enjoyed your stay in Kraków. It is my favourite Polish city and I am happy to have moved here for good. You found it much settled in history and past. The city was lucky, very lucky not to be destroyed much by any war. Even the Communist  regime didn’t crush its beauty and spirit. And seriously, to me Kraków is an escapist city.

In any other Polish city I always feel some destruction. Warsaw was paved to the ground and awfully rebuilt after 1945. Lublin, which I came from is a God-forgotten place suffering from the consequences of a too rapid switch from communism to capitalism. Wrocław, which I lived in is a German town made Polish fifty years ago and still struggling to reinvent it’s identity, a continuing process. Only in Kraków do I feel at home, without all the damage that has been done to this country.

poland-map

I am writing this at age thirty-four, in the generation that grew up seeing the old being replaced by the new Poland after 1989. I was eight when it all happened. My parents would tell me “how it’s been” and why the Regime should “never repeat”. They raised me with this warning. Their parents raised them with the warnings against war. I am happy to notice twenty-year-olds not influenced with this kind of perspective.

My grandfather lost all his family during the war. He never came back to Lviv (today’s Ukraine, yesterday’s Poland). My mother tried to look for our relatives, didn’t meet anyone when she came there. I don’t feel like going there at all. Let past be the past.

This might sound cruel, but… I am sick and tired of war literature, especially the Holocaust kind of literature still being “mass produced” by yet another Jewish person coming to Auschwitz as a part of their “identity trip”. With masterpieces like Ellie Wiesel’s “Night” we don’t need any more Shoah books to understand the trauma.

I spent one year volunteering in Israel, which was a great lesson on complexity and diversity of life in all kinds of meaning. I walked a mile in someone else’s shoes and it was the most precious experience so far.

I came back to Poland and got close to Judaism again. I acted in Jewish theatre groups. I think that if there is any space in which we can work out the demons of all kinds it is art. Only in art and only on the non-personal but emotional and spiritual level of metaphorical language we can “speak with the ghosts.”

Some people now say: “If they chose Trump it means that humankind didn’t learn anything”. Well, a bit overstatement I would say, but I find an answer in Walter Benjamin’s “The Angel of History” essay. He said that all the answers have been given a long time ago and that if there is something like the Messianic times it IS the time of now, and if we can recognise ourselves and recognise our calling in the calling that has been left to us by the late generations to be accomplished, then it means we are doing right at life.

But why am I writing all this actually? Well, I believe life is a journey and I am trying to learn from all the passengers I happen to be travelling with. Sometimes I feel like explaining myself. Maybe that was one of these moments. We, Poles, have an idea of “The Polish complex,” which is an old fear of not being appreciated or never being understood by outsiders. Maybe this is also my complex that keeps me trying to tell this story again and again, come back to past, tell the identity and keep on checking if I have really told “the whole” story…

jakub-wydrzynski

— Jakub Wydrzynski

These Fourteen European Countries are Disappearing

[See end notes for sources, inclusions and exclusions]

These countries are currently losing population (sorted by population growth rate):

screenhunter_453-oct-16-10-05

[Note: Fertility Rate is the ratio of ‘total children born’ to ‘all women’ in a given population. In order for a given population to remain constant (not counting net migration) the ratio needs to be 2.0 to 2.1.]

What can we intuit from correlating these figures with what we see happening in the world today?

Intuition No. 1: Germany needs to increase the number of its permanent immigrants in order to maintain or grow its population, despite that it already has a relatively high net migration rate: 1.5 net new migrants per 1000 population. But, politically, there is currently a movement away from increased immigration which has created a problem for the current leadership of the country. Note that Germany records the highest median age and the largest percent of the population over 64, in the list above.

Intuition No. 2: Greece’s high net migration rate (2.3 per 1000) is barely adequate to keep its population stable. But the ability of Greece to accommodate large numbers of new residents and citizens is problematical, given its current economic distress. What is not known at this point, is the long term effects of the tens of thousands of refugees who have recently arrived in Greece. Despite recent waves of immigration, the age measures for Greece are only slightly under Germany’s.

screenhunter_453-oct-16-09-36Intuition No. 3: The three, small Baltic Sea countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are seriously losing population (0.5% to over 1% annually, currently). Further, their fertility rates are low (1.5-1.6), and immigration from elsewhere is not occurring. What can be the future of these countries if they continue to fade away? [Note: they all share a border with Russia.] Despite different cultures and ethnicities in these three countries, their age measures are almost identical. In that they were dominated and occupied by the Soviet Union, I wonder if there is a uniting thread resultant from this. There are no separate measures available for the entity named ‘Kaliningrad’, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, around one-third the size of the neighboring Baltic States. According to the 2010 Census, its population was 431,902

Intuition No. 4: The neighbor countries of Bulgaria and Romania, like the Three Baltic states, are losing population and are not gaining immigrants. Their current populations are much larger than the Baltics, so it will take longer for them to “disappear.” In that they border the Black Sea, Russians flock to these countries during the tourist season and have bought many properties along the coast. Russians are a palpable presence in these two countries, which unofficially affects national politics. Their net migration rates are only slightly negative, but their fertility rates are very low, below 1.5.

screenhunter_452-oct-16-09-36

Intuition No. 5: Five of the six former provinces of the united Yugoslavia, which have reverted to their former independent states, are losing population: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The other, Macedonia (not in the above chart), is slowly growing due, apparently, to positive net migration, despite its fertility rate being 1.6. The bottom line: the former Yugoslavia is slowly fading away, as are Bulgaria and Romania, above. [Note: The present day state of Kosovo was, until recently, a province of Serbia. We have no data for Kosovo, other than population: 1,883,0189]. The population of these five seems to be slightly younger than others on this list, but they are not reproducing. Their fertility rates are at or near the bottom of the list.

Intuition No. 6: The remaining two states in the above chart are Hungary and Poland. Both are currently aligned politically to resist immigration from non-European countries. But, unless they reverse this position, they will fade along with the others mentioned here. Hungary’s fertility rate is 1.44 and Poland’s is a very low 1.34.

On the other hand: These 13 countries in Europe are currently growing at an annual rate between 0.5% and 2.0% (sorted by population growth rate):

screenhunter_453-oct-16-10-08

Why are these countries not fading away like the others?

The quick answer is: immigration. The Net migration rates for all are relatively high, ranging from 2.5 in the United Kingdom to 16.3 in Luxembourg. The highest fertility rates are in Sweden and Ireland; the are lowest in Austria, Cyprus and Spain. In the latter three, if their current fertility rates and immigration rates continue, the native born ethnic Austrians, Cypriots, and Spaniards will be in the minority within a lifetime. Is this a problem? I guess it depends on the person viewing the situation. Such things have happened many times in the past, peacefully and otherwise.

Not Reproducing

Only two European countries in the forty studied have a positive fertility rate:

screenhunter_453-oct-16-10-09

I intuit that France is the picture of the future for most European countries. France has had waves of immigration of people from North Africa in the past and, more recently, from the Near East whose birth rates are higher than the indigenous population.

rvxnf4bujdek3kcm2dwdq6jy These people, in my intuition, are responsible for France’s high fertility rate, compared to other European countries. Nonetheless, France’s annual population growth rate of 0.41% is not remarkable or significantly different from other European countries. The non-immigrant residents are reproducing at a much lower rate than the immigrant population. The accompanying chart was for the year 2004, and the ensuing twelve years have seen a significant rise in the immigrants from ‘Asia.’

Iceland seems to be a special case about which I have no useful remarks.

WHY are European countries Not Reproducing?

The answer is given by Col. Robert de Marcellus (Ret.) in an article “Falling Fertility: The World at the Tipping Point,” in the online magazine of the Population Research Institute:

  • The great increase in the number of wives who must work in the paid economy to help support the family due to the loss of the “family wage” concept
  • The increasing cost of raising children
  • High taxation that reduces family disposable income
  • Educational debt
  • Lifestyle changes that increasingly cause luxuries to be considered necessities
  • More years spent by young people in higher education. delaying family formation
  • Older average marriage ages, which greatly reduce wives’ childbearing years
  • Less family support as young couples relocate at a distance from family members

Please read the entire article for a lucid discussion of these and other factors.

My Final Intuitive Statement

The spirit of ‘Europe’ is depressed. Depressed spirits decline to reproduce.

Perhaps there is no more ‘Europe.’ It seems to be an idea, an abstraction, without a basis.

We can point to European Culture, starting from its putative origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, then The Renaissance, then The Enlightenment, and so on—Art, Music, Literature, Philosophy, Science… and the relationship of the Church to any of these.

It seems all a museum now.

The European ‘Union’ is reeling, nationalism on the rise, tribalism more evident.

Popular arts are declining, public figures ever more ridiculous.

BUT…

Perhaps the above is necessary for a rebirth of something more beautiful?

“Without mud, there can be no lotus,” Thich Nhat Hanh, renown Buddhist teacher.

The data are taken from the current listings, by country, in the CIA World Factbook.

I analyzed all countries in Europe (40), not just those in the European Union (28)

I excluded Russia and Turkey, even though some parts of these nation-states are in what is recognized as Europe, geographically.

I excluded five other “European” countries because they are dominated politically and/or economically either by Russia or Turkey: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine.

Where have the New Citizens to the USA Come From?

Did you notice that I didn’t use the word “immigrants”?

STLI.statueblueskysunbehindtorchThe times are such that this word has taken on a negative connotation for a large number of Americans and Europeans.

The USA remains a remarkable country in that it has, since its beginning, attracted new citizens from throughout the world, and continues to do so. Since the subject is currently of higher than usual temperature in Europe and North America, leading to the promulgation of misleading or misinterpreted information, I was delighted to come across a large official database on immigration from the years 1820 through 2013, a span of almost 200 years. (You can download the file from this link, provided by Metrocosm.)

I summarized the data in the following table, and subsidiary tables not displayed, then created several charts to highlight major aspects of the data.

(for a larger view, right click the table-image to get a drop-down menu from which you can open the image in a new tab).
Table 1Table 2See the Note at the end regarding African immigration.

The greatest impact of immigration on the existing population occurred in the time period 1870 – 1919, when 23 million people arrived from Europe, a number equal to the 21.7% of the population in the United States, 1920. You can review the table to see that, other than the first wave from Europe in 1820 – 1869, the subsequent waves from Europe, ‘North America’ and Asia of were of much lesser magnitude with respect to existing population. [See end note regarding “unauthorized” immigrants]

During the entire 193 years Europe has been the dominant exporter of new citizens to the USA, but this trend is declining. The dominant trend is now emigration from “North America.” This label needs explanation. These are all countries (other than the USA) in the continent, which (officially) includes: Canada, Caribbean, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, ‘Other Caribbean’, ‘Other America’. Here is the detail for these countries.

Immigrants to the USA by Country in the Region North America, 1820 - 2013

Here is a broader perspective on these numbers. During the 193 years studied here, around 75% of documented immigrants came from sixteen countries or areas, with more than 60 identified countries and areas comprising the remaining 25%. These are easily seen in the source document.

Number of Documented Immigrants to USA by Country or Area, 1820 - 2013

The two nations Austria and Hungary were once one nation and, over time, were reported/recorded together, then separately. I have combined all three entities for this study. I combined Norway and Sweden for reasons pertaining similarly to Austria-Hungary.ScreenHunter_437 May. 15 10.26

One final chart to increase our perspective:

ScreenHunter_437 May. 15 10.48.jpg
Depending on one’s point of view, he or she will make conclusions regarding the above data and graphics. I make none, here, but offer the data as a basis for further discussion–which I welcome as responses to this article.

Note Regarding Africa: The official number does not include an estimated 450,000 Africans brought as slaves directly and indirectly to the USA during the times of the slave trade. The first African indentured servants arrived in 1619 in Jamestown (Colony of Virginia), and by the middle of the century the slave trade was firmly established. Congress prohibited the importation of slaves, effective in 1808, but illegal smuggling took place. Slave trade ceased completely sometime during the period between President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 and, finally, with the adoption of the 13th Amendment, 1865.  (Source 1, Source 2)

Note Regarding unauthorized immigrants: The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has estimated that 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States in January 2012. In 2012, 52% were from Mexico, 15% from Central America, 12% from Asia, 6% from South America, 5% from the Caribbean, and another 5% from Europe and Canada. (Source).

The World’s Largest Islands

Quick! Think of all the big islands in the world.

Is Australia an Island? No, it’s a continent. How do we know this? It’s just a matter of definition.

Conventionally, “continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water…” The criterion “large” leads to arbitrary classification: Greenland, with a surface area of 836,330 square miles is considered the world’s largest island, while Australia, at 2,941,300 square miles is deemed a continent… (Source). 

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

So now we know that, by definition, Greenland is the world’s largest island. But even this may not be correct, in that: “If the ice disappeared, Greenland would most probably appear as an archipelago, at least until isostasy lifted the land surface above sea level once again.” (Source). But let’s not quibble over probabilities.

The next two largest islands are neighbors in the area generally bounded by the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific: New Guinea (#2) and Borneo (#3). Between them is the eleventh largest island, Sulawesi.

The orange bubble labeled ‘A’ denotes the Island of Sulawesi, part of the nation of Indonesia. The Island of Borneo is to the left of Sulawesi, and the Island of New Guinea is to its right. The latter two islands are divided politically among two or more separate nations: Brunei , Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua-New Guinea.

The orange bubble labeled ‘A’ denotes the Island of Sulawesi, part of the nation of Indonesia. The Island of Borneo is to the left of Sulawesi, and the Island of New Guinea is to its right. The latter two islands are divided politically among two or more separate nations: Brunei , Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua-New Guinea.

  • There are approximately 180,497 islands in the world. (Source).
  • What minimum size constitutes an island? One square mile. (Source).

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of southern Africa. It has a total area of 226,660 square miles, with 224,530 square miles of land and 2,100 square miles of water. Madagascar originated as part of the Gondwana supercontinent. Its west coast was formed when Africa broke off from Gondwana around 165 million years ago. Madagascar eventually broke off from India about 66 million years ago.

Wikimedia

Wikimedia

 

Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world. Its area is 195,928 square miles and its population is about 11,000 (2007 estimate). Named after English explorer William Baffin, it is likely that the island was known to Pre-Columbian Norse explorers from Greenland and Iceland and may be the location of Helluland, spoken of in the Icelandic sagas (the Grœnlendinga saga and the Saga of Erik the Red). (Source).

Baffin Island, in red (Wikipeida)

Baffin Island, in red (Wikipeida)

Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, to the west of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island that is entirely in Indonesia (two larger islands, Borneo and New Guinea, are shared between Indonesia and other countries) and the sixth largest island in the world at 182,812 square miles with a current population of almost 50 million. (Source).

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons


Honshu
 is the largest and most populous island of Japan.  It is the seventh largest island in the world, and the second most populous after JavaIt had a population of 103 million in 2005, mostly in the Kantō plain where 25% of the total population reside in the Greater Tokyo Area. The island’s total area is 88,016.85 square miles, 60% of the total area of Japan. It is slightly larger than Great Britain. Its area has been expanding with land reclamation and coastal uplift in the north, but global sea level rise has diminished these effects.The highest peak is the active volcano Mount Fuji at 12,388 feet, which makes it the world’s 7th highest island.

map_japan_honshu


Victoria Island
 is an island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is the eighth largest island in the world, and at 83,897 square miles is Canada’s second largest island. It is slightly larger than the island of Great Britain. It contains the world’s largest island within an island within an island.

706px-Victoria_Island,_Canada.svg


Great Britain
,also known as Britain, is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, off the north-western coast of continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world and the largest island in Europe. With a population of about 62 million people in mid-2010, it is the third most populous island in the world, after Java (Indonesia) and Honshū (Japan). It is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. The island of Ireland lies to its west. The island is part of the sovereign state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, constituting most of its territory: most of England, Scotland and Wales are on the island of Great Britain.


Ellesmere Island
 (InuitUmingmak Nuna, meaning “land of Muskox“)is part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. It comprises an area of 75,767 square miles, making it the world’s tenth largest island and Canada’s third largest island. Vikings from the Greenland colonies reached Ellesmere Island, Skraeling Island and Ruin Island during hunting expeditions and trading with the Inuit groups. Unusual structures on Bache peninsula may be the remains of a late-period Dorset stone longhouse.

Ellesmere Island is at the Northernmost part of Canada Government of Canada: “Natural resources Canada.”

Ellesmere Island is at the Northernmost part of Canada
Government of Canada: “Natural resources Canada.”

  • Devon Island, just south of Ellesmere Island, at 21,331square miles, is the 27th largest island in the world, and the largest uninhabited island in the world. The entire planet’s population could fit on this island, at densities of the most densely populated part of Earth, Lalbagh, Dhaka as of the 2011 census figures there. (Wikipedia).

I’ve mentioned the 11th largest island, Sulawesi, so here are the rest on the list of the top 300, after which the sizes diminish more precipitously. The 300th largest island is Melchor Island, Chile, with 333 square miles.

 

 Rank

Island’s name

Area (sq mi)

Country(s)

12

South Island

56,308

New Zealand

13

Java

53,589

Indonesia

14

North Island

43,082

New Zealand

15

Luzon

42,458

Philippines

16

Newfoundland

42,031

Canada

17

Cuba (main island)

40,369

Cuba

18

Iceland (main island)

39,315

Iceland

19

Mindanao

36,657

Philippines

20

Ireland

32,595

Republic of Ireland; Northern (Great Britain)

21

Hokkaido

30,394

Japan

22

Hispaniola

28,544

 Dominican Republic; Haiti

23

Sakhalin

27,989

Russia

24

Banks Island

27,038

Canada

25

Sri Lanka (main island)

25,200

 Sri Lanka

26

Tasmania (main island)

25,105

Australia

27

Devon Island

21,331

Canada

28

Alexander Island

18,946

None (Antarctic)

29

Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego

18,302

Argentina; Chile

      30

Severny Island

18,177

Russia

You might ask, “where do most of the top 300 islands reside?” Here you are:

49

 Indonesia

45

 Canada

27

 Russia

23

United States
17-Alaska
4-Hawaii
1-Long Island, New York
1-Puerto Rico

17

Antarctica

15

 Philippines

8

 Chile

8

 Greenland

8

 Papua New Guinea

7

 Australia

6

 Solomon Islands

5

 Brazil

5

 Norway

5

 United Kingdom

4

 Japan

4

 Spain

3

 Bahamas

3

 Denmark

3

 Greece

3

 New Zealand

248

Total
  • Finally, these 300 islands comprise 2.5% of the Earth’s land surface.

“Europe” is Old and Fading Away

I put “Europe” between inverted commas because it is more than a physical and political region of the world—it is a concept, a culture, an historical memory.

It also represents a people. Genetic scientists recognize three major groups of humans: Africans, Asians and Europeans. Simply put, Europeans are people found mostly in Europe and, via emigration during the last several hundred years, in the two American continents.

The Europe that is fading away is not the geographically defined region, but the people who carry the designation “European”. For evidence of this assertion, let’s look at the median age of the five regions I use for this study (please clink on this image and all others to see the charts clearly):

Median Age by Region

The median age is the age that divides a population into two numerically equal groups; that is, half the people are younger than this age and half are older.

The chart shows that the regions of Africa and “Asia-I” contain the youngest populations of the world, with the three other regions containing the oldest.

Before we look at other factors and trends to support my assertion in the headline, I should explain the terminology and country groupings (regions) used in this study:

  • “Asia-I” is comprised of all the countries in Asia, except those I have put into “Asia-II”, below.
  • “Asia-II” is comprised of China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan and the two Koreas.
  • “Americas” are the two continents of North and South America, combined.

(See the note at the end of this article for countries and populations included and excluded from this study).

Back to the discussion.

To begin to see the import in the wide variation in median age among these regions, we need to see the mass of the people within them:

Percent Population by Region
One can say that the regions containing 75% of the world’s population have the youngest people, and the regions containing 25% of the world’s population have the oldest people.

But what are the trends? What is the population growth rate in each of these regions?

Pop Growth Rate by Region

We see here that world population is currently growing at the rate of 1.1 percent per year. One region drives this number: Africa, at 2.33% per year. If all data from Africa were taken out of the calculation (i.e., if the continent theoretically did not exist), the world growth rate would be 0.88%. This calculation puts into even greater perspective that Asia-II and Europe are lagging far behind in population growth rate.

But there is at least a little population growth in Europe (0.11% in 2012), so how can I say that Europeans are disappearing? Let’s look at net migration rates (percentage of people entering a country minus the percentage of people leaving):

net migration rate by region

Without the migrants from other regions entering Europe, its population growth rate would have been -1.13%; that is, Europe’s population would have declined by 1.13%, or by around 8.5 million people.

As the nail in the coffin, let’s look at how Europeans are replacing themselves through the making of babies; that is, to study the Total Fertility Rate by region.

[Total fertility rate (TFR—Definition from The CIA World Factbook):

… TFR is a more direct measure of the level of fertility than the crude birth rate, since it refers to births per woman… A rate of two children per woman is considered the replacement rate for a population, resulting in relative stability in terms of total numbers. Rates above two children indicate populations growing in size and whose median age is declining… Rates below two children indicate populations decreasing in size and growing older. Global fertility rates are in general decline and this trend is most pronounced in industrialized countries, especially Western Europe, where populations are projected to decline dramatically over the next 50 years. (Emphasis added).]

Fertility Rate by Region

Both Europe and Asia-II do not have a sufficient number of newborn, to replace the old people who are dying, in order to maintain the current population (if there were a net migration rate of 0.0%).

Conclusion:

Both Europe and Asia-II regions have populations growing well below the world average.

Both regions have a median age in excess of the world average and well above those of Africa and Asia-I. The people residing in these regions are getting older while the rest of the world remains very much younger.

The population of Europe is remaining stable only because immigrants from other countries make up for the deficit in European fertility.

If trends continue, Europe will be peopled mostly by non-Europeans.

Why haven’t I included Asia-II in the headline? Because the population of Asia-II is 1,574 million people, while the population of Europe is 754 million people, around half as much as Asia-II.

If the trends continue as they are, Asia-II (this includes China!) will begin to fade away as well.

NOTE: There are 267 countries, dependent areas, and other “entities” in the world, as listed in The World Factbook of the CIA which is the source of all information here. I have placed 156 of these entities (almost all are countries) in the five regions described above.

Not included in these five regions are data from 107 countries and other “entities” all of which have populations under one million; nor are the data from Australia and New Zealand included. Also not included are data from two small countries: Kosovo (Europe) and South Sudan (Africa). The latter two countries are too new to have generated sufficient information. Altogether, the data not included here are from entities totaling 38.8 million people, or 0.55% of the world’s population of 7.022 billion people, in 2012.

Also, I have included Russia in Europe, as well as the Southern Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Turkey is in Asia-I.

“North Dakota is still the least visited state in the nation”

The quote is from an article in The Writer’s Almanac, published daily on the Internet by americanpublicmedia.org.


My immediate reaction was to visit North Dakota but I quickly, and practically, let that impulse fade. This created a disappointment in me which I decided to assuage by discovering more about North Dakota, and to perform a virtual visit. Here it begins:

  • Formation of the land within the boundaries we now name as North Dakota
  • Native peoples before immigrants appeared
  • Explorers, pioneers, immigrants, and the formation of the state
  • Troubles between the native peoples and the newcomers
  • Current status and items of Interest

As a coda to this virtual tour, I present a famous fictional account of emigrants from Sweden to the Minnesota territory.

[In addition to links under words in the following text, there is a list of linked sources at the end]

Formation of the land

Inland Sea

Until around 70 million years ago, the interior of North America was flooded by an immense ocean that connected the present day Gulf of Mexico with the Arctic Ocean. As North America drifted farther west from its prior attachment to Europe and Africa, it encountered a oceanic plate on its western edge that caused the crust beneath this seaway to buckle up. This was the start of the Rocky Mountains as we know them today.

The Rocky Mountains, stretching from Canada through central New Mexico, began rising 70 Million years ago and continued, rapidly as geologists see things, for a period of 30 million years. They stopped growing 40 million years ago and erosion began to wear them down. Clay, sand, and silt were washed down the mountains by rains, creating The Great Plains and the North Dakota Badlands. At this time the climate of western North Dakota was subtropical and crocodiles were present in the lakes and rivers.

Then the ice came.

The current ice age started around 2.6 million years ago, centering in huge ice sheets over North America and Eurasia. Glaciers, advancing and retreating several times generally from the north, scoured the land, creating river valleys and other north-south features, such as “coteaus”—hilly uplands between the valleys, e.g., the Turtle Mountains in the north and the Missouri Coteau running diagonally across the center of the state from the northwest.

The box approximates the boundaries of North Dakota

The major rivers of North Dakota are The Red River of the North, which forms the boundary with Minnesota to the East, and the Missouri River which roughly encompasses the southwest quadrant of the state.

Rugby, located in the north-central part of the state, is the geographic center of North America.

Native Peoples

In the years between 1100 and 1300 AD, tribes migrated from the east, including the Hidatsa and Mandan. They built extensive villages, developed agriculture and hunted and traded over a large area. By the 1600s, the Cheyenne had become temporary residents of the area, following the great herds of bison. They, along with the Lakota Sioux and Assiniboine, profited immensely by domesticating wild horses of Spanish origin.

At the time of the Europeans’ incursions into the region in the early 1800s, major native groups included the following: the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara along the Missouri River; the Ntonai Sioux in present-day southeastern North Dakota; the Lakota, the most numerous and powerful of the tribes, in the southwest; the Ojibwa in the northeast and the Assiniboine in the northwest. (Source).

“Mandan Men”, Aquatint by Karl Bodmer from the book “Maximilian, Prince of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832–1834″

Explorers, Pioneers, Immigrants, and The Formation of the State

In searching for a hypothetical “River of the West” connecting Hudson Bay to the Pacific, The French Canadian Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye located the Missouri River in Mandan country, probably near the modern New Town, North Dakota about 70 miles east of the Montana border (October 1738).

In 1762, near the close of the French and Indian War, France granted Spain the area known as Louisiana. The major European influence at the turn of the century was Canadian, primarily through the activities of the North West Company. David Thompson of the Company explored north central North Dakota in 1797 and drew maps of his findings.

The region was ceded back to France in 1800. The rapid territorial exchange was completed in 1803, when France sold the area to the fledgling United States in what is known as the Louisiana Purchase. This acquisition provided about two-thirds of the territory that today is North Dakota; the remaining portion was obtain from Britain in the Convention of 1818. (Source).

By the 1840s, two major changes were occurring. First, the number of fur-bearing animals was being exhausted, reducing a major source of income for many of the tribes. Second, surrounding areas were developing rapidly; Iowa achieved statehood in 1846 and Minnesota gained separate territorial status in 1849. Spillover from these areas increased the non-native population of the Dakota regions, which aggravated a number of the Indian tribes that resented incursions onto their homelands.

During the 1850s, land companies enticed settlers. Sioux Falls was founded in 1856 and over the next few years Yankton, Bon Homme and Vermillion followed. The increased population led to the establishment of the Dakota Territory immediately before Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861.

The new jurisdiction included present-day North and South Dakota, plus portions of Montana and Wyoming. Montana was separated in 1864 and Wyoming in 1868. The non-native population in the Dakotas, however, grew very slowly, due in part to the challenging climate and the remote location. Also inhibiting growth was the widely held perception that the northern Great Plains area was devoid of anything of value. Maps and atlases of the day labeled the region “The Great American Desert.”

Most settlers came to North Dakota for free or inexpensive land and the chance to farm. Between 1879 and 1886 over 100,000 immigrants entered northern Dakota territory. The second massive movement into the state was between 1898 and 1915 when more than 250,000 persons arrived. While some of the earliest settlers came by ox-drawn wagons, stagecoaches, or steamboats, the vast majority came on the railroad. Both the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railroads advertised Dakota in Europe, promoting people to take the railroad to North Dakota and farm the rich land there.

Most new settlers grew wheat, but did not have large farms. They either bought their land from the railroad or they homesteaded federal land. Homesteading involved living on and improving 160 acres of land for a number of years, after which the settlers got the land for free. They could receive an additional 160 acres of land by planting and maintaining trees on the prairie.

Large-scale farming occurred in eastern North Dakota from about 1875 to 1890, when investors from the eastern United States purchased huge tracts of rich Red River Valley land. Much of it was acquired from the Northern Pacific Railway and operated as large farms growing “No. 1 Hard” wheat. These farms ranged in size from 3,000 to 65,000 acres. The farms earned such tremendous profits that they became known across the United States as bonanza farms.

German-Russian Immigrants

Thousands of Germans emigrated to a newly expanded Russia beginning in the mid-1700s and extending into the 1880s. Disenchantment developed within the numerous German colonies beginning in the 1870s when the Russian government revoked many privileges and subjected the males to conscription, the children to the Russian language in schools, and all colonies to Russian rule. They were also upset by a shortage of new land for sons. Coincidentally free land was available in the United States and heavy German-Russian emigration began in the 1880s.

Approximately 120,000 German-Russian immigrants entered the United States to settle in various parts of the Great Plains before World War I. Most of these were Protestants, but a smaller number of Catholics, mainly from the Black Sea area, also emigrated. These largely settled in North Dakota where large expanses of unimproved land were available for homesteading in the counties immediately to the east of the Missouri River and west of the river on the Missouri Plateau.

The Dickinson, North Dakota area was primarily settled by German-Russian Catholics from Beresina in Bessarabia in the 1890s. Many of those arriving in the early 1900s settled south of Dickinson in the vicinity of Schoenfeld, later called Schefield. German-Russian homesteading continued to World War I when they comprised the largest immigrant population in western North Dakota.

Norwegian-American Settlements

The first Norwegians arrived in the Dakotas as early as 1859, shortly after the treaty with the Yankton Sioux was signed July 10, 1859. It took another ten years before the greater influx of Norwegians took place.

The Norwegian immigrants began arriving in North Dakota in the 1870s. They settled mainly in the eastern and northern parts of the state, but today they’re found everywhere in the state. Because of the lack of farmland in Norway, the Norwegian immigrants sought the wonderful fertile farmland of North Dakota.

Some of the immigrants had spent a few years in other states before they finally arrived in North Dakota. In 1880 the census recorded 8,814 Norwegians in North Dakota, and by 1900 there were 73,744.

The towns of Columbus and Larson is approximately 100% Norwegian, founded by Columbus Larsson in 1906 and 1907. It had 672 inhabitants in 1960, while it’s just 133 in 2010. Although these towns have a strong Norwegian heritage, none of the inhabitants speak Norwegian. Like the trend for the rest of North Dakotans, Norwegians are moving out of the rural areas.

Settlers from Telemark, Norway found their way to most of the major settlements in North Dakota in the late 1870s and early 1880s. In 1880, a band of people from Telemark, settled in the area of what is now Bue (named for the settlers’ Norwegian home in Bø, Telemark) in Nelson County. Their main cash crop was wheat, and they soon found that raising cattle was also quite lucrative. The main markets were in Valley City and Grand Forks.

Troubles Between the Natives and the Newcomers

Chief Sitting Bull was born in what is now North Dakota. During the Civil War he orchestrated raids on settlers who had encroached on the traditional territories of the Sioux Nation. His refusal to return to the reservation in 1876 led to the campaign know as “Custer’s Last Stand” in which General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry were wiped out at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Relations between the Indians and the occasional explorers and settlers were generally peaceful in the early decades of the 19th century. The fur trade changed native life, bringing guns, metal implements and cloth. Contact with the outsoders also introduced disease. The Mandan and Hidatsa in particular were hit hard by smallpox in 1837.

But as the settlers increased pressure on the lands, problems arose between the natives and newcomers. Indian “problems” dissuaded many settlers from considering the Dakotas as a possible home. In 1862, the Santee Dakota in Minnesota had staged an uprising and then fled into the Dakota Territory. They were pursued by the U.S. Army, which began to construct a series of forts across the territory to provide protection for settlers and travelers. The presence of the army also served to stir up tensions among the resident tribes, the Sioux in particular.

Some stability was brought by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 in which the U.S. pledged to keep settlers out of specified areas. In return, some of the Sioux, but not all, agreed to remain on reservations west of the Missouri River. The coming of the railroads and the discovery of gold, however, would again ignite warfare in the region.

After signing treaties with the United States government from the 1850s to the 1870s, North Dakota Native Americans were placed on several reservations. Many tribal members remain on these reservations still today.

There are five reservations in North Dakota, two of which occupy land in both South and North Dakota.

  • The Spirit Lake Nation (Devils Lake Sioux) is located at Devils Lake, in east central North Dakota.
  • The Fort Berthold Reservation is home to the Three Affiliated Tribes (Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan), and lies in the west-central part of the state along the Missouri River.
  • The Standing Rock Reservation (Standing Rock Sioux) straddles both North and South Dakota and is about forty miles south of Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • The Turtle Mountain Reservation (Chippewa and Metis) is the northernmost reservation, just below Canada in north central North Dakota.
  • The Sisseton Reservation (Sioux) is predominantly in South Dakota, with just the northernmost edge in southeastern North Dakota.

Tribal Nations of North Dakota

Ending the Tour: Current Status and Items of Interest

Ethnicities

As of 2000, about 92.4% of the state’s population was classified as white. The American Indian population was 31,329, or about 4.9% of the total. Among Americans of European origin, the leading groups were Germans, who made up 44% of the total population, and Norwegians, who made up 30%. Only about 1.9% of the state’s population (12,114) was foreign born as of 2000, predominantly from neighboring Canada. (Source). Click on the image immediately below to see common family names:

Most common last names from gravestones, in twelve cities and towns containing 42% of ND Population (in descending frequency, top to bottom, left to right)

Bakken Formation

Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated mean undiscovered volumes of 3.65 billion barrels of oil, 1.85 trillion cubic feet of associated/dissolved natural gas, and 148 million barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken Shale Formation of the Williston Basin Province, Montana and North Dakota. (Source).

Bakken Formation

U.S. Public Land Survey Method

Modern land survey is based largely on proposals developed by Thomas Jefferson in 1784.  It is based on a series of rectangular surveys, adjusted for the curvature of the Earth.

Soon after a territory was ceded to the federal government by American Indian representatives, the land needed to be surveyed before it could be sold.   The homesteading and timber rush in the 1800s overwhelmed the government’s General Land Offices (GLO) to the point that offices sometimes had to be closed for days or weeks at a time just to catch up on the paperwork.  Some survey contractors were very meticulous, others were less so, and a few were downright fraudulent.  Overall, the GLO survey was remarkably accurate, especially in light of the technology and wildness of the land at the time. (Source)

County Borders in North Dakota

The Badlands of North Dakota

The badlands are a hilly landscape, but on approaching them, you look down on the hills from above, not up at them. From the rim of the “breaks,” as the descent into the badlands is called, you see a strip of sparsely wooded ridges, bluffs, buttes, and pinnacles. Behind, a rolling plain, broken only by an occasional butte, stretches away to the horizon.

The Sioux Indians, one of the tribes that inhabited the area when European settlers arrived, referred to the badlands as “makosika” (“land bad”). Early French explorers translated this and added to it, referring to “les mauvais terrers a’ traverser” (“bad land to travel across”).

Layers of sedimentary rock are found near Dickinson, where badlands are carved from the Oligocene Brule and Chadron Formations. These beds are notable for their abundant mammal fossils. Other areas of badlands topography include exposures of the Eocene Golden Valley Formation, also near Dickinson, and exposures of the Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation.

Coda

The Emigrants, by Vilhem Moberg

The Emigrants and its sequels,  Unto a Good LandThe Settlers and The Last Letter Home, is the epic story of peasant farmers in Sweden who found they could not make progress and would continue to live on the cusp of total poverty. As with so many others from the Scandinavian countries, they gather family and friends to take the monumental step of making a fresh start by emigrating to the United States of America. The books depict their lives in Sweden, the motives for the huge decision they each made, and their tough sea voyage across the Atlantic, and generally their hardship and struggle. Vilhelm Moberg did considerable research into the subject and the result sheds important light on the exodus from Scandinavia in general and Sweden in particular.

The saga was made into a movie starring  Max von Sydow, and Liv Ullmann.

Sources

Aber, James S., “Regional Glaciation of Northern Great Plains”
Carlson, Alvar W. “German-Russian Houses in Western North Dakota.” Pioneer America 13, no. 2, 1981
City-Data.com: North Dakota
Geology.com: North Dakota Map Collection
Library of Congress
North Dakota Historical Overview: “Native Americans”
Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920: “Settlement”
MHA Nation
National Park Service, Navajo National Monument Geologic History
North Dakota Studies: “Geology, Geography, and Climate”
North Dakota Studies
North Dakota State University: “Geology of North Dakota”
Online Highways LLC: United States History; North Dakota
Native Languages of the Americas
Arikara Indian Fact Sheet
Assiniboine Indian Fact Sheet
Cheyenne Indian Fact Sheet
Cree Indian Fact Sheet
Dakota Indian Fact Sheet
Hidatsa Indian Fact Sheet
Mandan Indian Fact Sheet
Ojibway Indian Fact Sheet
Peakbagger.com, “Rocky Mountains”
Spirit Lake Tribe
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
US Geological Survey (USGS) of the Federal Department of the Interior: “Rocky Mountain System”
US Route 89 Appreciation Society: “Quick Guide to US Route 89 in the Rocky Mountains”
Website of the Sota Iya Ye Yapi: Lake Traverse Reservation
Wikipedia
Last glacial period
Missouri River
Norwegian Dakotan
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye
Red River of the North
Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation
World Oil, Vol.232 No.1, January 2011: “Drilling Technology”