每日英語跟讀 Ep.K030: Russia's Villages, and Their Culture, Are 'Melting Away'
With its winding dirt lanes framed by lilacs, quaint wooden houses and graceful onion-domed church, the tiny farming hamlet of Baruta was once a postcard of Russian bucolic bliss.
No longer. More people lie in the tightly packed church cemetery than inhabit the village. Agriculture is slowly withering, too.
With Russia's natural population growth entering an extended period of decline, villages like Baruta are disappearing from across the country’s continental expanse.
"We have not had a wedding or a baptism for quite some time — we mostly have funerals," said a resident, Alexander Fyodorov, 59, one of just 17 men left in what was a thriving collective of some 500 farmers.
President Vladimir Putin frequently cites hardy population growth as a pillar of restoring Russia's place atop the global order. There is a pronounced gap, however, between the positive terms in which Putin and his advisers habitually discuss demographic trends and the reality of the numbers.
Russians are dying faster than they are being born, demographers said. Given the general hostility toward immigration, the question is to what degree the population of 146 million, including annexed Crimea, might shrink.
The number of deaths exceeded the number of births in 2016 by a few thousand, and the prognosis for the years ahead is poor. From 2013-2015, extremely modest natural growth peaked in 2015 with just 32,038 more births than deaths.
"The statistics and the propaganda are very different things," said Natalya V. Zubarevich, an expert in social and political geography at Moscow State University.
In terms of population loss, Pskov, which borders Latvia and parts of Estonia, is among the worst hit regions in Russia. The population peaked at around 1.8 million in the 1920s, said Andrei Manakov, a demographer at Pskov State University. It is down to 642,000, and projected to drop to about 513,000 by 2033.
Researchers estimate that out of 8,300 area villages in 1910, 2,000 no longer have permanent residents.
Under the most optimistic projections by demographers, Russia’s population by 2050 will stay the same, about 146 million, if immigration from Central Asia — which has also been dropping — balances out low birthrates. Less optimistic figures put the population around 130 million by 2050, and the most pessimistic say fewer than 100 million.
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/318780/web/