A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Demographic Change in Moscow

“Moscow’s face is getting darker”
The Moscow Times
Wednesday, January 29, 2003

By Nabi Abdullaev

If existing demographic trends continue, in two generations most Muscovites will have olive skin, dark hair and extended families in the Caucasus and Central Asia, according to a leading institute.

The main reasons for the imminent change to the city’s face is that ethnic Russians do not have as many babies as their darker-skinned counterparts and, to lesser extent, the growing number of non-Slavic migrants moving to Moscow, they say.

The institute counted the large non-Slavic Armenian and Georgian communities as Christian.

The demographic shift is largely due to the reluctance of Slavic women to have large families, said Yelena Pobedonostseva, a researcher at the Institute of General Genetics.

“In 1999, for example, there were only 1.24 births per 100 female Russian Muscovites and 1.36 for Ukrainian Muscovites, while Azeri Muscovites had 5.71,” she said.

She said a population group must have a birth rate of no less than 2.2 to avoid extinction.

The city’s champions in reproduction were Chechens, with more than 9 births per 100 women a year, and Ingush natives, with about 8 births, Pobedonostseva said.

“For women living in a single city, the difference in birth rates among ethnic groups is explained only by the women’s age, health and desire to have children,” she said.

Although already low, the birth rate among Slavic women is steadily declining, according to the institute’s figures. While it was 1.45 per 100 women in 1994, the rate was closer to 1.7 in 1950 and 2.7 in 1925.

Ethnic Russians accounted for 86.4 percent of all babies born in Moscow in 1994, but that share shrunk to 72.5 percent in 1999. In the meantime, Azeri births jumped from 0.9 percent to 1.3 percent, Chechen births grew from 0.11 percent to 0.46 percent, and Ingush births rose from 0.08 percent to 0.15 percent.

“The actual increase in the non-Slavic population of Moscow may not seem large compared to the total number of Russians in the city, but if the tendency continues, the face of the city will eventually change,” Pobedonostseva said.

The number of migrants who register as permanent residents is paltry compared to the overall city’s population, but their influx is also helping dilute the Slavic population, said Valery Stepanov, an expert from the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology.

According to the 1989 census, ethnic Russians accounted for 90 percent of the Moscow population, while Armenians and Chechens each held about 0.5 percent, he said.

Most of the tens of thousands of migrants who moved to the capital in the 1990s were ethnic Russians — by some counts as many as two-thirds, Stepanov said. Armenians and Chechens each accounted for 3 percent, much more than their representation in the 1989 census.

“If this continues, in 50 years every third Muscovite will have a non-Slavic appearance,” Stepanov said.

The growing number of migrants has also led to an increase in the number of interethnic marriages. The parents’ offspring usually take the dominant genes of the Caucasian natives.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, every sixth marriage in Moscow was interethnic, according to Russian media reports. By 1995, interethnic marriages had grown to 22 percent of all marriages, and they currently are between 30 percent to 40 percent.

City officials said they could not provide figures on marriages, saying they had stopped collecting such information after then-President Boris Yeltsin abolished any reference to ethnicity from new Russian passports in 1997. Also, the ethnicity of brides and grooms is no longer registered.

Ethnicity experts agreed that some marriages were on paper only — migrants who tie the knot to get Moscow residency permits but do not live with their spouses. But in many cases, they said, Russian women are drawn by the self-confidence and financial security that a number of Caucasus men offer.

“Just watch any talk show and you’ll learn what a Russian woman wants from her darling: He must be financially successful, not drink too much and never act like a loser,” said Vladimir Pribylovsky, an analyst from the Panorama think tank. “Migrants from the Caucasus match these standards better than average Russians.”

While less than 2 percent of all marriages involve Slavic husbands and Caucasus wives — a percentage that has remained stable for decades — the number of unions between Slavic women and Caucasus men has skyrocketed, according to the Institute of General Genetics.

Weddings with Armenian grooms tripled to 12 percent of the total between 1980 to 1995, followed by Georgians with 8.7 percent and Azeris with 6.8 percent, the institute said. Ethnic groups from Russia’s northern Caucasus region have more than quadrupled to 4.4 percent.

However, about 90 percent of the children born in these marriages identify themselves as Slavic Russians, Stepanov said.

“The perception of ethnicity in Russia is changing from a reference in the passport toward ethnic self-identification,” he said. “For non-Slavic people living in Moscow, where the informational and cultural environment is embedded in the Russian language, integration will inevitably mean a change of their ethnic identity.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2003 at 10:48 pm

Posted in Assorted

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