Birth rate worries in Russia

Low domestic birth rates and rising immigration from the former Soviet republics are producing explosive growth in Russia's Muslim community, which is on a track to account for more than half the population by mid-century.

As in many countries with growing Islamic populations, tensions are also on the rise. Many ethnic Russians fear their country is losing its traditional identity, while many Muslims are offended by widespread discrimination and a lack of respect for their faith.

Russia's Muslim community is extremely diverse, including Volga Tatars, the myriad ethnicities of the North Caucasus and newly arrived immigrants from Central Asia. But they all share birth rates that are far higher than Russia's ethnic Slavs, most of whom are Orthodox Christians:

  • Russia's overall population is dropping at a rate of 700,000 people a year, largely because of the short life spans and low birth rates of ethnic Russians.

  • According to the CIA World Factbook, the national fertility rate is 1.28 children per woman, far below what is needed to maintain the country's population of nearly 143 million.

  • The fertility rate in Moscow is even lower, at 1.1 children per woman.

    Russia's Muslims, however, are bucking that trend, says Paul Goble, a specialist on Islam in Russia and research associate at the University of Tartu in Estonia:

  • The fertility rate for Tatars living in Moscow is six children per woman, while the Chechen and Ingush communities are averaging 10 children per woman.

  • At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have been flocking to Russia in search of work.

  • Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40 per cent since 1989, to about 25 million.

  • By 2015, Muslims will make up a majority of Russia's conscript army and by 2020 one-fifth of the population.

    Source: Michael Mainville, Muslim birthrate worries Russia, Washington Times, November 21, 2006.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 28 November 2006
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