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:


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…


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):


[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.


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):


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:


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.


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).