Much has been written about Russia’s demographic meltdown. Of course, there’s a strong trend to smaller families all over Europe and hopefully in Turkey. Western European families, however, did not experience the unbridled capitalism of the Yeltsin years, nor the tragic crash of 1998.
Of the millions who lost their homes and life savings, those without children thanked their lucky star signs. But the IMF’s ’shock tactics’ - forced marketisation - had already ensured that they were in the minority.
In 1992 alone, after the first year of IMF ’shock therapy’, real wages fell, due mainly to wage cuts and inflation, by over one third and average personal consumption had fallen by over 40%. Don’t even think of starting a family!
“The policies of the IMF were based on the assumption that a stronger currency automatically leads to a stronger economy. The currency should be strengthened at whatever price, including the decline of production, the impoverishment of the population and even the disappearance of most basic services in the spheres of health care, education and social security.” [Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, No. 61, 1998]
The sharp cuts in spending on education meant that more than 30,000 Russian pre-school facilities were closed between 1991 and 1995. A schoolteacher friend - a vegetarian - remembers her month’s salary at the time being paid in chicken livers. Only black humoured Russians can laugh at that kind of anecdote. As in most capitalist countries, welfare had become a dirty word and the weakest in society suffered the most. Children and pensioners not wanted. Only the latter could oblige by dying early.