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Catholic Culture Podcasts

Resurgence of Reality in Russia

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 04, 2007

The resurgence of reality continues in surprising ways. Even as relatively abstract entities such as the United Nations and the European Union continually try to bully member states into full acceptance of the politics of sterility, at lower levels we may be seeing the opposite trend.

This is nowhere more evident than in Russia, which under Communism had the highest abortion rate in the world. Effective January 1, 2007, the Russian Federation decided to provide financial incentives to women who have a second child. Some regional governments have been ahead of the curve. For example, the regional government of Ulyanovsk started promoting conception in 2005.

The demographic winter of Western Europe is better known to us, but the theme is the same in Russia, where the unusually low birth and high mortality rates established under Communism escalated still further in the post-Communist collapse of the economy. If current trends continue, Russia's 140 million souls could be reduced to fewer than 100 million by 2050. And just as the United States and Europe face the impact of substantial immigration, so too are illegal immigrants from China pouring into resource-rich Siberia.

The slogan for the Ulyanovsk program is “Give birth to a patriot.” September 12th is the “Day of Conception”, and the government offers time-off from work to couples willing to use the day for its stated purpose. The program includes a competition among couples fueled by prizes such as refrigerators and cash, with a locally-manufactured SUV as the grand prize for the “fittest” parents. In 2006, 500 women enrolled in the competition; nine months later 78 babies were born, three times the region’s daily average. The region’s birthrate is up 4.5 percent overall in 2007.

Because of its high male mortality rates (the average male lifespan is 58 years, compared with 72 for women), Russia must address her population problem on more than one front. But there is a sort of homey charm to all this hoopla, an earthy reality too often subverted when life is orchestrated by the fashionable and the politically correct. According to news reports, there is a positively festive atmosphere surrounding Conception Day.

This too is a sign of the times, and not the only one of its kind: People surprised by reality—and enjoying it.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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