Claims in 2014-2015: Russia’s population is shrinking.

Incorrect: It’s been growing since 2009. (Fact-check done in August 2016.)

Sources of the claim: former Secretary of Defense William Perry (Dec. 2015); former deputy Treasury secretary Roger Altman (Feb. 2015); Harvard professor Stephen Walt (Feb. 2015); President Barack Obama (Aug. 2014).

  • Though Russia’s population declined precipitously after the Soviet collapse, it has been growing steadily from 2009 to 2015, the last year for which World Bank data are available. Net population loss between 1992 and 2015 was 3%—clearly a negative trend, though far less than in smaller ex-Soviet republics like the Baltics, Georgia, Armenia and even Ukraine. This is not to say that Russia’s demographic challenges are over: Vast swaths of the country are very sparsely populated and some researchers have projected that the steep drop in fertility rates in the 1990s will result in a significant decline in the number of women of childbearing age in the coming years, which, combined with high mortality rates, will lead to renewed population decline that will be hard to make up for even with high levels of immigration. That said, as of 2015, these forecasts had not yet materialized and population continued to inch upward.