Russia has recorded its largest annual population decline in 15 years. According to Rosstat, the official government statistics service, the number of people permanently living in the country dropped by 510,000 in just 12 months.

The national population now totals 146.24 million, a steep drop from 146.75 million at the start of 2020. The last time the country saw such a significant decline was in 2005, when the number of people decreased by 564,500.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Moscow was already concerned about the country’s falling number of inhabitants. Russia’s population peaked at the start of 2018 and has been declining ever since. However, the problem has been exacerbated by the world’s epidemiological situation and a reduction in migration. In 2018 and 2019, there was a combined loss of only around 130,000 people – far fewer than 2020.

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According to Moscow newspaper RBK, based on Rosstat estimates, excess mortality in the first 11 months of 2020 reached 184,600 people. Simultaneously, Russia’s birth rate has also taken a drop. In the first 11 months of the year, 1,306,000 babies were born, compared to 1,365,000 in the same period in 2019.

In recent years, the Kremlin has looked to migration as a means of boosting the number of residents. With Covid-19 restrictions closing borders and keeping planes grounded, this was much harder in 2020.

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin took several steps to make migration and obtaining citizenship much easier. In April, a newly signed law removed the obligation of naturalized Russians to give up their existing passports.

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