Policy Memos

Russia's Mortality Crisis: Will We Ever Learn?

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We do not hear about it often, but the phenomenon is truly unprecedented: the transition to a market economy and democracy in the 1990s in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet Eurasia caused dramatic increases in mortality rates and shortened life expectancies, which led to a depopulation trend throughout the entire region. In particular, the steep upsurge in mortality and decline in life expectancy in Russia were the greatest ever recorded anywhere in peacetime and in the absence of catastrophes such as wars, plague, or famine. Between 1987 and 1994, Russia’s mortality rate increased by a degree of 60 percent—from 1.0 to 1.6 percent—a level that has not been seen since the first half of the twentieth century. Even during the last years of Stalin’s rule (1950-53), the mortality rate was nearly two times lower than in the 1990s. Meanwhile, in the same period, life expectancy declined from 70 to 64 years (see Figure 1). [...]

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About the author

Research Director, Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (Berlin); Principal Researcher, Russian Academy of Sciences; Professor Emeritus, New Economic School; Adjunct Research Professor, Carleton University
Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, Berlin