The American Enterprise Institute's Nicholas Eberstadt has become one of the leading proponents of the notion that Russia is in a terminal state of demographic decline
Last month Ross Douthat, a regular columnist for The Atlantic Monthly magazine now with The New York Times, commented on a new essay by Nicholas Eberstadt on the declining population of Russia. Dr. Eberstadt, a political economist, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington D.C. Eberstadt's most recent essay (with the perhaps insulting title), "Drunken Nation: Russia's Depopulation Bomb", which prompted Douthat's comments, is largely a rehash of his earlier report "Russia: The Sick Man of Europe" published in The Public Interest quarterly magazine back in the winter of 2004/2005.
Eberstadt's article provoked a larger discussion about global demographic trends between American "conservatives" like Douthat and "liberals" such as The American Prospect's authors Matthew Yglesias and Michelle Goldberg. However, these American pundits quickly changed their topic from Russian demographics to the reasons behind declining birth rates in Europe, Japan and other modern societies all over the world.
In recent weeks, Russia's birth rates and demographics have become a hot topic for discussion in Washington, D.C. and among American pundits. Perhaps it's been a slow news period since the initial warm rhetoric between Washington and Moscow following the election of the new President Barack Obama and the "reset" button his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have promised for U.S.-Russia relations. Russia Blog has been covering the debate over Russia's population and the future of Russian society since June 2005 -- at times, drawing praise from popular scholars such as The New York Times bestselling author and former Sovietologist Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett.
Now we present the San Francisco-based blogger Anatoly Karlin's extensive essay below, which cites Rosstat statistics to claim that the sky is not falling when it comes to the population of Russia, and also puts Russian demographics in the overall context of Europe. Karlin notes that Russian birth rates have actually been slowly increasing since reaching a post-Soviet nadir during the late 1990s. While Russia's mortality rates remain far too high, there are some reasons for cautious optimism about the country's future.
Missile Defense Debate Kicks Off World Russia Forum in Washington D.C.
Russia Today TV video of Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, debating Russian General Vladimir Dvorkin, and an interview with Dr. Edward Lozansky, director of Russia House and a frequent contributor to Russia Blog
The 28th Annual World Russia Forum is just around the corner. For two days you'll have the chance to interact with experts, and to hear and discuss specific proposals from top American and Russian political leaders, businessmen, policy makers, and scholars on how to reset the course of the U.S. -- Russia relationship from confrontation to strategic partnership and alliance. The conference will take place at the Hart Senate Office Building, followed by a reception at the Russian Embassy on April 27, 2009, and at the George Washington University and the Russian Cultural Center on April 28, 2009.
This year's Forum will feature welcoming remarks by His Excellency Sergei Kislyak -- Russia's Ambassador to the United States of America; keynote presentation by the Honorable William Burns -- U.S. Under Secretary of State and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia; a discussion between the famous member of the Russian Diplomatic Academy Igor Panarin (who predicted that the United States will cease to exist by the summer 2010) and U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC); a presentation on the issues of the current American and Russian agendas in the former Soviet space by the famous online expert Mike Averko; and much more.
We are excited about the 28th annual World Russia Forum--the premier conference of its kind. Over 300 people have registered to attend; if you are not one of them, take advantage of the late registration, including the discounted registration option for the full-time students. Learn more about the Forum at www.WorldRussiaForum.org, and have a safe trip to Washington D.C. We look forward to new ideas and friendships that will last beyond the two days of the Forum!
This country is vast and the opportunities here are extraordinary. And if you grew up or lived abroad in the US, the UK, Europe or parts of Asia, where the rules of the game are more or less understandable after centuries of capitalistic trial and error, it's easy to spot new market niches or opportunities here which are still open to rapid development.
This has led me on countless occasions over the years to new investment ideas and exhilarating discussions with business partners - only later to be met with countless frustrations when I've been told, "Great idea, but we can't do that here" or "this would be wonderful, but the laws here forbid us from fixing this problem in this way".
Why? If it can be done elsewhere, why can't it be done here?
What Will I Tell My Children About My Experiences in Russia?
Kendrick White is an American entrepreneur living and working in Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Federation. Kendrick's firm, Marchmont Capital Partners, is one of the very few companies publishing business content in English from Russia's regions (that is, the rest of Russia outside Moscow and St. Petersburg). Russia Blog first covered the Marchmont Investment Guide to Russia's regional businesses back in March 2007, when then FINAM investment banker Vladimir F. Kuznetsov posted an article about Kendrick White.
We are proud to announce that blog posts and articles by Kendrick White and other Marchmont Capital authors discussing Russian business issues will now be a regular feature on Russia Blog.
- The Editors
What should I tell my children about my experiences in Russia? That this is a "boom and bust" country of extreme experiences...and emotions?
It's hard to say. So many of my friends--Russians, Americans, Scandinavians, Asians--are having the same experiences in their countries.
"Here we are again, another crisis to deal with!" Most of these friends are pure entrepreneurs, men and women who took the leap of faith in 1991 and 1992...when things were even bleaker than today.
Twitter Madness in Chisinau What Happened in Moldova?
Angry youths pelting riot police with stones in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau last week
The former Soviet republic of Moldova is not the kind of place that typically grabs headlines. As many media reports have reminded us in the last two weeks, Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. While plenty of Moldovans have cellular phones, among post-Soviet republics, Moldova is not exactly as wired as say, Estonia.
Given these facts, one would think that the Moldovan capital of Chisinau would be an unlikely place for a revolution fueled by social networking technologies, such as Twitter and Facebook. Yet according to early reports from The New York Times and other Western media outlets, that is supposedly what happened this month, after Moldova's Communist Party won an election that the opposition insists was rigged.
Russian Banks Beg for Bailout Money Since They Will Suffer Controls Regardless
A currency exchange kiosk sign shows the exchange rate of one dollar to rubles in February 2009. In summer 2008, half a year earlier, one dollar could be purchased for only 23 rubles.
Americans these days are used to banks trying to avoid federal bailouts because they have learned that bailouts come with onerous government management controls. But in Russia, the government puts strings on banks if they are perceived to be in difficulty, and the Central Bank does this without providing any backup money of its own other than modest protection for individual depositors.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that small banks attending the annual conference of the Association of Russian Banks begged lawmakers and state officials to amend the new law that requires them to increase their net worth to 90 million rubles ($2.6 million) by January 1, 2010, and to 180 ($5.2 million) rubles by 2012. But government officials apparently regard the new law as necessary, even if it seems harsh. Minister of Finance Alexei Kudrin said that while there are still "honest" banks in this small-cap category, there are also many banks "engaged in money laundering," banks that exist not to lend but to "protect the owners' or someone else's money." He predicted that by January 1 about 150 banks would not have enough capital to meet the requirements.
An Open Letter to U.S. Senator John Cornyn on Missile Defense in Europe
Dear Senator Cornyn,
I received your email newsletter regarding your position on the issue of missile defense. I agree with my fellow conservatives that protecting our country and allies from missile attacks should be a very high priority. I strongly support continued funding for sea-based and airborne laser systems that can rapidly be deployed to a crisis zone and ground-based lasers to counter the threat posed by terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. I also support continued U.S. bilateral technical cooperation with all nations threatened by rogue missile strikes.
However, I must respectfully disagree with the notion that placing a handful of interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic is going to make Europe or America safer. On the contrary, I view this token system as serving more of a political rather than military purpose. The proposed system may very well serve to cement our ties with "New Europe" members that joined NATO during the 1990s. But I also believe that some in Washington would not mind if the system provokes a foolish Russian response that would involve putting offensive missiles in the enclave of Kaliningrad.
Innovation Opportunities Motivate Russian and American Investors Despite Economic Crisis
Watch the video and read more in the extended post
The economic crisis is in effect; however, investors on both sides of the Atlantic are awakening from the shock they experienced last fall, and starting to invest. According to Russia Today, Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev is a "tech-junkie." Medvedev is known to enjoy keeping up with the latest high-tech gadgets, and even has been seen wearing a James Bond-style watch complete with a camera, GPS navigator, radio and video player. He is believed to be a fan of Apple, reportedly owning an iPhone and at least three MacBooks. The leader's hobbies seem to translate into investment policies.
According to Canwest News Service, a state-owned Russian venture capital fund is poised to pump millions of dollars into Canada's fledgling nanotechnology industry. Later this spring, RUSNANO officials in Moscow will decide which firms or startups it wants to fund. RUSNANO's minimum investment in any of 100 firms will be $10 million U.S.
Also, Silicon Valley/Moscow-based Almaz Capital Partners announced its first $11 million of investments into two Russian-related hi-tech companies, Apollo Project and Parallels, Inc. Their target fund size is $100 million. Almaz has completed an initial closing of $55 million with $30 million from Cisco and $25 million from UFG Asset Management. Peter Loukianoff, co-founder and managing partner of Almaz Capital Partners, will join us at the World Russia Forum on April 27, 2009. Mr. Loukianoff is an internationally recognized expert on venture capital and entrepreneurship in Russia.
The Russian Constitution at Fifteen Discussed in Washington: A Summary, Impressions, and Commentary
W George Krasnow
Boris Yeltsin handing the Russian Constitution to Vladimir Putin on December 31, 1999
The Kennan Institute hosted on March 19, 2009 a day-long international conference, "The Russian Constitution at Fifteen: Assessments and Current Challenges to Russia's Legal Development." The actual anniversary was observed in Russia on December 12, 2008. But there were good reasons to mark it in the U.S. as well. Oleg Rumyantsev, who was the head of the Constitutional Commission's drafting team, had spent a summer of 1990 at the Library of Congress studying the American experience in writing a country's Fundamental Law.
Now, almost two decades later, Mr. Rumyantsev, whom The Washington Post then called "the James Madison of Russia," came back to Washington as president of the Foundation for Constitutional Reform and co-sponsor of this event. Two other sponsors were the International Institute of Global Development (founded by Alexander Lebedev, a wealthy Russian businessman), and the Kennan Institute.
Russian businessmen and businesswomen at an entrepreneurs expo
In his recent Davos World Economic Forum keynote speech, [in January 2009] Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated that excesses, irresponsibility and greed with governments asleep at the wheel formed a perfect storm to wreak havoc on global economies. The result has been an unprecedented fall in global demand, production, employment and wealth.
Putin welcomed dialogue from all to find solutions to the crisis and to chart the way forward. While it may seem that there are more important short-term crisis-management issues to deal with when Rome is burning, it still makes sense to think of the long-term future growth in Russia.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev shaking hands with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G-20 summit in London, United Kingdom on April 1, 2009
The expectations regarding the first face-to-face meeting between Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama are running high. Herein lurks a danger, for few things are worse that broken hopes and disappointments. The issues facing both countries are so daunting, and the accumulated mutual mistrust is so overwhelming, that the chances for dramatic breakthroughs are minimal. However, if common sense prevails, both leaders should be able to reach agreement at least in some critical areas. And nowhere is the situation more critical than in Afghanistan.
Edward and Tatiana Lozansky outside their Russia House restaurant and lounge on Dupont Circle in Washington D.C.
When 18-year-old high school graduate Tatiana Yershova decided to marry the much older Edward Lozansky in 1971, her friends and relatives believed she was making a terrible mistake. The slim, dark-haired and striking Tatiana was the daughter of one of the Soviet Union's highest-ranking generals, who, in 1968, played a key role in crushing the Prague Spring. So her decision to marry a poor Jewish physicist twelve years her senior, with dissident connections and a bad KGB record who had protested that Soviet invasion, was a mystery to those who knew her.
When compared to the other disputed former Soviet territories of Pridnestrovie (also referred to as Transnistria, Transdniestria, Transdnestr and Trans-Dniester), South Ossetia and Abkhazia - Nagorno Karabakh (which Armenians also refer to as Artsakh) often seems to get the least attention. This despite the latter being the bloodiest of these conflicts. Geographically, Nagorno-Karabakh is further away from the European Union nations and the United States than the other mentioned lands. As is true with a number of other conflicts, some find this contested former Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic territory to have murky conditions, in terms of determining which side (Armenian or Azeri) to fully support. Materialistically, fossil fuel rich Azerbaijan is the greater prize. There is also a degree of understandable sympathy for the tragic past of the Armenian people and some expressed apprehension with the human rights situations in Azerbaijan and (to an overall lesser extent) Armenia.
Since last August's war involving the Georgian government's armed attack on South Ossetia, there has been an increase in diplomatic activity among countries considered as key diplomatic parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. In September, the president of Turkey (a country seen as sympathetic to Azerbaijan and historically at odds with Armenia) and his Armenian counterpart met in Yerevan. An optimistic overview was given of that occurrence. The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia held a November meeting in Moscow, in what was described as upbeat. In February, the Turkish president met his Russian counterpart in Russia. During his stay there, Turkey's president visited the predominately Muslim republic of Tatarstan. The Russo-Turkish meeting further encouraged the growing commercial ties between the two countries.
The Myth of the Yellow Peril: Overhyping Chinese Migration into Russia
by Anatoly Karlin
One of the staples of alarmist, pessimistic and/or Russophobic (not to mention Sinophobic) commentary on Russian demography is a reworking of the yellow peril thesis. In these fevered imaginations, Chinese supposedly swim across the Amur River in their millions, establishing village communes in the taiga, and breeding prolifically so as to displace ethnic Russians and revert Khabarovsk and Vladivostok back to their rightful Qing Dynasty-era names, Boli and Haisanwei.
To a limited extent they have a point. Since 1989 the population of the Russian Far East declined by 14% to 6.7 million in 2002; shorn of subsidies from the center, it is now dependent on the rest of East Asia for food and consumer imports. It sits next to Chinese Manchuria (the provinces of Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin), an environmentally-strained rust belt of 108 million souls. Thus it is not surprising to see American geopolitical jockeys, Russian xenophobes and anti-Putin "liberals" alike (i.e. Radio Free Europe's Aleksandr Golts and Echo Moskvi Radio's Yulia Latynina, etc) claiming that a stealth demographic invasion of Russia is well underway which will in a few years result in a Chinese Far East.
Russia Blog presents up-to-date news, facts and commentary on the state of events in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The blog is managed by Yuri Mamchur, Director of Real Russia Project. The blog is edited by Charles Ganske.