Warning: unless you are a Russia-hater, the following material is a depressing reading.
The article Russians, be horrified at yourselves! by Andrei Konchalovsky, a famous theatre and film director and scriptwriter, is shocking. When all the numbers he quotes (from open and available sources) are brought together, the picture of irreparable and inescapable doom is impossible to shake off. I shall mostly quote the hard data from the article, after this introductory passage:
I chose my title for a reason. There’s a famous saying by Marx, that ‘to inspire courage in a nation, you have to make them horrified at themselves’.Statistics*
For many years now I have been appealing to my fellow-Russians to be horrified by many facts and conditions of Russian life, in order to gain courage and the desire to desire. To desire to change oneself and the life around oneself.
I have long since been dismissed as a Russophobe who holds his people in contempt. That is nonsense – if it were the case then you could apply the name of Russophobe to Chekhov, Gorky, Herzen and Chaadayev – great Russians who wished to awake Russia from its sleep, and not just constantly find others to blame for its own woes.
- Russia’s death rate: the last 20 years saw the deaths of more than seven million Russians. This converts to a death rate 50% higher than in Brazil and Turkey, and several times the rate for Europe.
- Global tables of male life expectancy put Russia in about the 160th place, below Bangladesh.
- Russia has the highest rate of absolute population loss in the world.
- According to UN estimates, the population of Russia will fall from its present 140 million to 121-136 million by 2025.
- Between two and five million kids live on our streets (after World War Two the figure was around 700,000).
- Eighty percent of children in care in Russia have living parents. But they are being looked after by the state!
- We head the world for the number of children abandoned by their parents.
- Crimes against children: according to data published by the Russian Federation Investigative Commission, in 2010 there were 100,000 child victims of crime, of whom 1700 were raped and murdered (theses figures are higher even than those for South Africa).
- In 2010, 9500 sexual offences were committed against underage victims, including 2600 rapes and 3600 cases of non-violent sexual relations (the last eight years have seen a twentyfold rise in sexual crime). Only South Africa has a higher rate of such crimes.
- Drug addiction and alcoholism. Thirty thousand Russians, equivalent to the population of a small town, die annually from drug overdoses.
- Seventy thousand Russians drink themselves to death each year.
- According to WHO statistics, Russia gets through the annual equivalent of 15 litres of pure alcohol per head of population. And bear in mind the fact that alcohol consumption of more than eight litres per annum per head of population constitutes a threat to a nation’s survival.
- Corruption: the scale of bribery in Russia has increased tenfold, and the goings on in a London court battle between two oligarchs have made us the laughing stock of the global business world. The impunity of our judicial system is such that a criminal charge has been instigated against Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison in 2009. In Europe such a thing last happened in the 17th century!
- Russia comes out as one of the world’s most corrupt places (154th out of 178 countries) in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Index, where it is listed next to Guinea-Bissau and Kenya.
- In the last 10 years 11,000 villages and 290 towns have disappeared in Siberia.
- Average population density in Siberia and the Russian Far East is two people per square kilometre.
- Average population density in China is 140 people per square kilometre;
- Average population density in Japan is 338 people per square kilometre?
Konchalovsky turns to the seat of power with this appeal for action:
Only if that happens can one hope that the nation’s instinctive wisdom will prompt it to take the hard and possibly unforgiving road which is the only way to drag our country out of the pit in which it currently languishes. I don’t know whether Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has it in him to take such a suicidal step, to take the bull by the horns and proclaim the equality of all before the law. If he does have it in him, he will win himself a prominent place in the Pantheon of Russian history. If not…I have my doubts about Putin's ability. But what do I know?
(*) There is a weak ray of light in the more recent births data: births seem to be on the upturn lately, however according to many sources, like this one, the trend will turn back to negative after 2015.