Russia has a long history of pronatalist policies dating back to the 1930s. Two sets of pronatalist measures were implemented during the past 40 years. The one designed in the early 1980s proved to be a clear failure. Instead of raising fertility, completed cohort fertility declined from 1.8 births per woman for the 1960 to 1.6 for the 1968 birth cohort. The government of president Putin became very concerned with the dire demographic conditions of high mortality and low fertility in Russia in the1990s and early 2000s. Among others, a reasonably comprehensive set of pronatalist measures came into effect on 1 January 2007. The period total fertility rate increased from1.3 births per woman in 2006 to 1.6 in 2011 which the authorities view as an unqualified success. An unbiased demographic evaluation as well as analyses of Russian experts reveals that apparently the measures mainly caused a lowering of the age at birth and shortening of birth intervals. It appears that any real fertility increase is questionable, i.e. cohort fertility is not likely to increase appreciably. The recent pronatalist measures may turn out to be a failure.
The health situation in Russia has often been characterized as a long-running crisis. Since the 1960s until the beginning of the 2000s, the declining life expectancy trend was substantially interrupted only twice: once in the mid-1980s as a result of Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, and again at the end of the 1990s as a result of the “rebound” effect of the dramatic rise in mortality associated with the acute socioeconomic crisis. In both cases, the progress made proved to be short-lived. A third mortality decline in Russia began in 2003 and is still ongoing. Will this trend be more sustainable? We investigate the components and driving forces of this new development, in particular the role played by cardiovascular diseases. Using cause-specific mortality data, we first identify the main features of the recent improvements and compare these features with those observed in selected European countries, notably France, Poland, and Estonia. Our aim is to gauge whether the features of the improvements in these countries are similar to those of the recent advancements made in Russia.