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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Gloom' Called the Root Cause Of Russia's Population Decline

WASHINGTON -- Russia's population is dropping fast because of a declining birth rate that reflects gloom about the future, a private U.S. research group said Monday.

The Population Reference Service, a nonprofit demographic research firm, said Russia's population is expected to drop during the next 33 years to 123 million from 147 million now.

"The birth rate is an excellent barometer of the national mood, reflecting couples' confidence -- or lack of it -- in the country's future," demographer Carl Haub said in a report. "If the low birth rate is telling us anything, it's telling us that Russian couples look to the future and see gloom."

Other former republics of the old Soviet Union also are experiencing population declines, including Belarus and Ukraine, and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Haub said the birth rate in Russia had fallen from about 17 births per 1,000 people in 1985 to nine per 1,000 in 1996. He said Russian women were averaging only 1.3 children, the lowest rate in Russia's history, based on statistics from Russia's State Statistics Committee.

The United States has a birth rate of about 15 births per 1,000 population.

Russia is the sixth-most populous country in the world but will be overtaken by Pakistan in 2000, Haub said. He said projections showed that Russia "will face even worse future economic problems than previously thought" as the retired population grows and puts strains on the economy.

?Finland has drawn up emergency relief plans in the event it must help Russian citizens who are starving and undernourished because of the country's weak economy, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari said Monday.

"The people are undernourished and starving. That is why we must be prepared to give emergency aid to these people," Agence France Presse quoted him as saying at a lunch with Finnish newspaper editors.

He did not indicate when or if Finland would implement the plans, only that they had been drawn up.

Ahtisaari said Russian poverty is the only issue threatening security in Finland, which shares a 1,200-kilometer eastern border with Russia.