Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 123

The CIS statistical office has released recent detailed data on the population of a number of member states (CIS Statistical Bulletin, #7, April 2001.) In addition, the Ukrainian Statistical Office released information on changes in Ukraine’s population in its Statistical Bulletin (Ukrainian State Committee of Statistics, Statistical Bulletin, No. 2, March 2001.) The two sources reveal very different trends in population among selected countries of the CIS.

In the case of Belarus, total population dropped 1 percent between 1989 and 1999 to 10,045,200 people. Because in some respects Belarus is more ethnically Russian than Russia, its inhabitants have not emigrated to Russia to the same extent as from other republics where fears of future ethnic conflict or discomfort about changes in official languages have been more prominent. Migration has therefore played a smaller role in determining the size of the population in Belarus than in Kazakhstan or Russia. Despite the Belarusan leadership’s opposition to market reform, demographically the country has undergone major changes. The urban population rose 5 percent during 1989-1999, while the rural population dropped 13 percent. These trends are likely to intensify as the rural population ages because younger people leave agriculture to search for better opportunities in urban areas.

In contrast to the modest falls in Russia and Belarus over the last decade (down 2 and 1 percent, respectively), Ukraine and Kazakhstan have experienced sharper population declines. Ukraine saw its population drop 5 percent during 1989-2000, with most of this decline coming after 1994. Ukraine suffers a number of the ills of Russia without the benefits of much immigration. In 2000, deaths were almost double births. In contrast to Russia, the number of births continued to fall in 2000. As the economy begins to revive in 2001 and beyond, the number of births could rise, as this has been the case in the more rapidly growing Central European countries.

Kazakhstan has suffered one of the largest population declines in the CIS. The number of people in this country fell from 16.2 million in 1989 to 14.6 million in 1999, a decline of almost 8 percent. In contrast to the CIS’s Slavic core, Kazakhstan’s urban population has shrunk more rapidly than its number of rural inhabitants, by 8.3 percent compared to 6.9 percent in the countryside. The decline in the urban population reflects the emigration of ethnic Slavs, most of whom have gone to Russia.

Kyrgyzstan presents a completely different demographic story. Total population rose 13 percent (to 4.3 million) between 1989 and 1999; most of this increase took place in the countryside. The population in rural areas jumped 19 percent to 2.6 million. In contrast, the urban population grew only 3 percent as ethnic Slavs emigrated from the country. In sharp contrast to the other four countries discussed above, a greater share (65 percent) of the population lives in the countryside than in cities. This share is growing: In 1989, the share of the population in the countryside was 62 percent (CIS Statistical Bulletin, #7, April 2001.)

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