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.

Back in the USSR

Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSR

(Lyrics by John Lennon & Paul McCartney)

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) dissolved 25 December 1991, almost 18 years ago. There were 15 “republics” in the union. What, now, are the names of these countries? How are they doing?

I asked myself these questions as I prepared to write an article on Uzbekistan, a former republic of the USSR.

As for how the fifteen, individually, are “doing,” the answer has to be, in part: “compared to what?” I chose to compare a few demographic statistics with The World as the reference point. As I have so often in these pages, I went to the The World Factbook of the Central Intelligence Agency of the USA.

I chose seven demographic measures:

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita
  • Life expectancy at birth for females
  • Life expectancy at birth for males
  • Net migration per 1000 population (number of immigrants minus number of emigrants)
  • Infant mortality (usually within 30 days of birth) per 1000 live births
  • Fertility rate (number of births per year, per the number of all women)
  • The live birth rate per thousand population, minus the death rate per 1000

I arrayed these seven measures by country and compared each characteristic to that of the world, whether more, or less, favorable.

demography former USSR republics 2009

[Please click on the image for clearer detail]

For the specific data in each country and the world, click here

I then gave a score to each country by subtracting the number of negative results, compared to world averages or ratios, from the number of positive results (a positive number shows a positive comparison to the world, and the converse for negative number):

  • Countries Scoring “+3”: Belarus, Kyrgyzstan
  • Countries Scoring “+1”: Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Uzbekistan
  • Countries Scoring “-1”: Turkmenistan
  • Countries Scoring “-3”: Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Ukraine

So what makes Belarus and Kyrgyzstan so special—at least with respect to world averages and ratios? (One must keep in mind that probably none of the readers of this article would care to live in an area where these demographics are at or near World averages and ratios; and, that the data aggregation agency, in this case the CIA, is at the mercy of the quality of data collection and reporting in each country).

Despite low fertility and high overall death rate, Belarus has high GDP per capita, low infant mortality, high life expectancy at birth for both females and males, and more people are entering the country than leaving it. So, the overall population is growing. It does seem counter-intuitive for the population to be growing despite low fertility and high death rate, but perhaps there is still some in-migration of ethnic Belarusians from the other former republics who were dispersed during the Soviet era.

“Since 1996, Belarus has been negotiating with Russia to unify into a single state called the Union of Russia and Belarus.” [Source]

In looking at the nature of Belarus’s government before and since the dissolution of the USSR (see under the “Belarus” link, above), there is much room to doubt the accuracy of information coming from, essentially, a totalitarian state in existence for 70 years.

More people leave Kyrgyzstan than enter it, as residents, and GDP per capita is low, but all the life and health data are high. “Kyrgyzstan has undergone a pronounced change in its ethnic composition since independence [1991]. The percentage of ethnic Kyrgyz increased from around 50% in 1979 to nearly 70% in 2007, while the percentage of European ethnic groups (Russians, Ukrainians and Germans) as well as Tatars dropped from 35% to about 10%. The Kyrgyz have historically been semi-nomadic herders, living in round tents called yurts and tending sheep, horses and yaks. This nomadic tradition continues to function seasonally as herding families return to the high mountain pasture in the summer.” [Source]

Nine countries are scored “+1.”
Rather than list and discuss them individually, I will present what they have in common.

Statue of Lenin, founder of the USSR, in Tiraspol, Moldova [Source]

  • The life expectancy at birth for females is higher than The World average.
  • Other than for Kazakhstan and Russia, the life expectancy at birth for males is higher than the world average. Russia is lowest at 59.3 years, compared to the world average at 64.5 years. It is remarkable that the life of expectancy at birth for females in Russia is 73.2 years, almost 14 years more than for males.
  • All, except Russia, have more people leaving than entering the country as residents. Note, again, that there has been a general migration of expatriates toward their countries of origin after the dissolution of the USSR.
  • The infant death rate for all 15 countries is lower than the world average. The three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are lowest in this measure, by far (a good thing), between 6.5 and 8.8 deaths per thousand births. The world average is 40.9. Armenia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are highest, at 20.2, 23.4 and 25.7 infant deaths per thousand births, respectively.
  • The fertility rate of all 15 countries is well under the World average of 2.6 children per woman. A country needs around 2.1 live births per woman in order to maintain the country’s population at a given level.
  • Except for Uzbekistan, the difference between the birth rate and the death rate (BR minus DR) is lower than the world average of 11.8 per thousand population (not good). Russia is lowest at a difference of (negative) 5.0 per thousand people.

Turkmenistan (“-1”)
The only three positive factors for this country are life expectancy for males and females, and the birth rate minus the death rate. “The former Communist Party, now known as the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, has been the only one effectively permitted to operate. Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned. Turkmenistan is among the twenty countries in the world with the highest perceived level of corruption …” [Source]

Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Ukraine at “-3” score
The GDP per capita of all three countries is below the World average of $10,400, with Tajikistan by far the lowest at $1,800. Life expectancy for males born today is less than the World average, for all three. Except for Ukraine (at 8.9) the infant death rate is above the world average of 40.9 deaths per thousand live births. The fertility rate for Azerbaijan and Tajikistan is well above the World average, but Ukraine is among the lowest countries at 1.3 births per woman. Similarly, the birth rate far exceeds the death rate in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, but Ukraine is the lowest of all fifteen countries in this measure at (negative) 6.2; that is, the there are 6.2 more people dying than being born, per thousand population, in the current year.

1 Armenia
2 Azerbaijan
3 Belarus
4 Estonia
5 Georgia
6 Kazakhstan
7 Kyrgyzstan
8 Latvia
9 Lithuania
10 Moldova
11 Russia
12 Tajikistan
13 Turkmenistan
14 Ukraine
15 Uzbekistan

There is hard living almost everywhere in the former USSR. Look at the averages of these seven measures for the 27 countries of the European Union vs. those of Russia, the largest country, by far, of the former SSRs, and the most dominant, politically and economically:

European Union
GDP per capita: $33,700
Life expectancy, female: 82.0
Life expectancy, male: 75.5
Net migration: 1.5
Infant death rate: 5.7
Fertility rate: 1.5
Birth rate minus death rate: -0.4
GDP per capita: $16,100
Life expectancy, female: 73.2
Life expectancy, male: 59.3
Net migration: 0.3
Infant death rate: 10.6
Fertility rate: 1.4
Birth rate minus death rate: -5.0

I have been to two countries of the former USSR: Estonia and Latvia. Despite the obvious enthusiasm of the people for their freedom from totalitarianism, and the resultant social and economic progress, the ravages of the Soviet rule are still quite apparent.

With all respect to the poetry of Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, let’s not go back to the USSR.