Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Open the Gates And Let Them in

Fears about China run deep in Russian culture. So it came as a shock to her colleagues and members of parliament recently when respected geographer Zhanna Zainonchkovskaya issued a study suggesting throwing open Russia to mass immigration from China and other Asian nations.

Zainonchkovskaya, a scholar at the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, argues that Russia's population of 145 million will shrink to an estimated 126 million by 2015 if current trends continue. Unless the sparsely peopled country finds willing hands to work in its factories and farms, it faces decline, she said.

Russia should aim for 10 million to 20 million Chinese by 2050, either as guest workers or immigrants, she said, predicting Russia would succeed America as the world's main absorber of immigrants.

If Russia doesn't address its need for immigrants, she warned, in the long run Moscow's presence in the Far East may dwindle to the point that residents may wish to break away or even align with China. "There is a hypothetical danger that we could lose Siberia -- because of resources there that the whole world needs," she said.