Demographics is one of the cornerstones of how we understand the world here at Zeihan on Geopolitics. Few countries have had as difficult a series of demographic challenges as the Russians.
Beginning with World War I, the Russians faced serious demographic headwinds. The Soviet famine between the mass casualty events of the two World Wars did the population few favors. The move toward urbanization and the packing in of Russian families into state-built
tenement multifamily housing pushed birthrates down. As did the economic downtown of the late Soviet era.
Russia’s population is unlikely to grow again in any significant manner. They’re not alone here; South Korea, Japan, most of Europe have terminal demographies. But Russia also faces a mix of relatively low life expectancy leading to a caving out of expertise and the general Russian “brain trust.”
We see this everywhere. In Russian industry and innovation. In their crumbling infrastructure. And most important, in their government and military. There is not an emergent cadre of young leaders ready to step up to the plate. The last time Russia could boast a bunch of starry (or hammer-and-cycle-eyed) youths with big plans for the future? The late 70s and 1980s. Putin’s generation. And after decades of intimidating or eliminating and arresting rivals, there are precious Russians left who have meaningful statecraft experience that were not brought up in the Soviet Era.
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we asked our readers who were so inclined and able to consider donating toward a cause we thought was important: Feeding America.
While we still believe strongly in their mission, with recent events in Ukraine we are asking our subscribers to consider supporting a charity focused on relief efforts there. There are many good ones to choose from, but one in particular we are supporting is the Afya Foundation.
They collect money and health supplies for underserved communities in the world, and have begun delivering non-combat support to refugees and population centers in Ukraine. We hope that those who can, join us.