29 oktober, 2006

Russerne er ved at dø ud

Fra Los Angeles Times kommer en 3-delt serie om den russiske befolknings-implosion, der ifølge formanden for det russiske parlaments overhus vil føre til et fald i Ruslands befolkning fra 142 millioner idag til kun 52 millioner i 2080. Fra "A Dying Population", den første del:

Welcome to Kstinovo, population one.

Antonina Makarova, 78, spends her days watching news and soap operas in her peeling wooden dacha, the only inhabited structure in two lanes of sagging cottages that once were a village. Her nearest neighbor, 80-year-old Maria Belkova, lives in adjacent Sosnovitsy, population two. But she can't hear anymore, and all in all, Makarova finds the television better company.

"All the houses here were filled with people. There was a cheese factory. But now everyone else has died. God has taken care of them, and he's still making me suffer," Makarova said. "Even the thieves have disappeared."

The Tver region, along the upper reaches of the Volga River 130 miles north of Moscow, is dotted with more than 1,400 villages such as Kstinovo labeled nezhiloye — depopulated. Since 1989, the number of people here has shrunk by about 250,000 to about 1.4 million, with deaths outnumbering births more than 2 to 1. ...

Russia is rapidly losing population. Its people are succumbing to one of the world's fastest-growing AIDS epidemics, resurgent tuberculosis, rampant cardiovascular disease, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, suicide and the lethal effects of unchecked industrial pollution.

In addition, abortions outpaced births last year by more than 100,000. An estimated 10 million Russians of reproductive age are sterile because of botched abortions or poor health. The public healthcare system is collapsing. And many parents in more prosperous urban areas say they can't afford homes large enough for the number of children they'd like to have.

The former Soviet Union, with almost 300 million people, was the world's third-most populous country, behind China and India. Slightly more than half of its citizens lived in Russia. The country has lost the equivalent of a city of 700,000 people every year since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, only partially offset by an influx of people from other former Soviet republics.

A country that sprawls across one-eighth of the globe is now home to 142 million people.

The losses have been disproportionately male. At the height of its power, the Soviet Union's people lived almost as long as Americans. But now, the average Russian man can expect to live about 59 years, 16 years less than an American man and 14 less than a Russian woman.

Sergei Mironov, chairman of the upper house of Russia's parliament, said last year that if the trend didn't change, the population would fall to 52 million by 2080.

Anden del, "For the Sick, No Place to Turn" handler om det russiske sundhedsvæsens kollaps, mens tredje del - "The Future Looks a Lot More Diverse" - omhandler muslimernes tiltagende andel af befolkningen. Et par smagsprøver:

Today's Russia includes seven predominantly Muslim regions. Ivan the Terrible conquered the first of them in the 16th century; the final pieces were small republics in the Caucasus with complicated names such as Ingushetia, Chechnya, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan — the very places where Moscow now is battling Islamic insurrections.

Russian identity still is primarily cultural, remaining closely linked to the Russian language and the Orthodox Church. And the overall proportion of ethnic Russians has slipped only slightly, shrinking from 83% of the population to 79.8% over the last decade.

Demographic trends suggest that the decrease is likely to continue. Although most experts are skeptical, a former U.S. government expert on Russian nationalities recently predicted that Russia would have a Muslim majority within 30 years.

In addition to its own Muslim population, Russia is home to an estimated 10 million illegal immigrant workers from the largely Muslim former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The city of Moscow has swelled to 10.4 million people, and one-fifth of them are Muslims. The Russian capital has the largest Muslim population of any city in Europe.

Along Moscow's wide boulevards, minarets rise next to the onion domes of Russian Orthodox churches. Across the country, there are 8,000 mosques, up from 300 in 1991, when Soviet strictures on religious observance were lifted. Markets more often than not are run by immigrants from Azerbaijan. Construction sites would come to a halt if not for low-paid workers from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Russian authorities have started a campaign to convince a nation historically hostile to foreign migration that its economic development, and perhaps its survival, depends on its opening its doors.

The Kremlin in July announced that it would try to attract as many as 1 million Russian-speaking immigrants from former Soviet republics by offering citizenship and other benefits, particularly to those willing to settle in underpopulated regions. The government also has proposed legalizing 1 million or more migrant workers, many of whom undoubtedly will be Muslim.

President Vladimir V. Putin, realizing that the country's survival is at stake, has exhorted the public to embrace a multicultural society. He has stepped up prosecutions for hate crimes. Recently, he launched a bid for Russia to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the premier political league of Muslim nations.

"Russia must be for Russians, Tatars, Mordovians, Ossetians, Jews, Chechens, for all our peoples and for the entire Russian nation," Vladislav Y. Surkov, the Kremlin's top political aide, told students in February.

The response in some quarters has been violent. About 50 Asians, blacks and other minorities died in racially motivated attacks across the nation last year, including a 9-year-old African Russian girl who was stabbed in St. Petersburg in March.

In August, riots broke out in an industrial backwater town of 35,000 people near the Finnish border after a bar fight between ethnic Russians and Chechen migrants left two Russians dead.

Soon after, an estimated 2,000 Russians turned out at a rally to complain that corrupt officials in Kondopoga were "selling our town to aliens," a reference to the estimated 200 Chechens who have a large presence in markets.

After the rally, a mob set fire to the restaurant where the fight occurred, as well as to the central produce market and several kiosks, stores and cars owned by immigrants.

UPDATE

Tjetjenien bringes op som et eksempel i artiklen adskillige gange, blandt andet fordi anddelen af Tjetjeniens befolkning, der er russere er styrtdykket fra 27% til under 4%, i hovedstaden Grozny fra 60% til under 4%. Forklaringen er overraskende:

Chechnya's demographic picture is changing, in large part because of the casualties and ethnic separation resulting from two wars. Researchers think as many as 55,000 civilians have been killed, 35,000 of them ethnic Russians.

Dette sætter umiddelbart klagerne om "folkemordet på Tjetjenerne" i et noget andet perspektiv.

UPDATE II:

Fra optøjerne i Kondopoga. Russiske demonstranter knalder ruder i et tjetjensk tilholdssted:



OMOM (de russiske sikkerhedsstyrker) rykker ind, efter at demonstranterne har sat ild på bygningen:

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