Russia’s population shrank by about 500,000 last year

Russia’s population shrank by about half a million last year, its first contraction in 15 years, the country’s statistics agency said on Friday.

Russia has a population of 146.2 million, according to newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, citing the agency.

Experts attributed the decline mainly to the pandemic.

There were 229,700 more deaths between January and November 2020 than in the same period the previous year, an excess mortality rate of more than 13 percent, the agency said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long called for greater efforts towards population growth. Last year, he blamed the trend on low incomes.

Russia’s population has been in constant decline since the collapse of the USSR or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991.

Experts say further causes are the migration of younger, well-educated people abroad and the low birth rate.

Nevertheless, the population increased by more than 2.5 million in 2014 when Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in a move never recognised by the international community.