The Russian government announced it is reviving the Soviet-era honorary title “Mother Heroine” for women who have 10 or more children, as it confronts a population decline that has accelerated since its invasion of Ukraine. According to a decree signed this week by President Vladimir Putin, the title will be awarded to those who “birth and raise” 10 Russian citizens, with a lump sum of 1 million Russian rubles ($16,645) received when the 10th child turns one. There are some additional qualifications, however.
The children must have been given the “appropriate level of care for health, education, physical, spiritual and moral development,” the assessment process for which is not specified. Meanwhile, all 10 children must be alive, unless they died during military, official or civic service, or in a terrorist attack. The “Mother Heroine” title was established in 1944 and bestowed until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Recipients will receive a medal of a five-pointed star, the decree states.
They will be an equivalent rank to those with the titles “Hero of the Russian Federation,” usually awarded for bravery; and “Hero of Labor,” awarded for service to the state. Russia’s working age population has been declining as a share of the overall state since 2010, according to U.N. data. Analysts have long pointed out that the country’s declining and ageing population was likely to constrain growth in the coming decades. A forecast from the Economist Intelligence Unit, published early this year, estimated the overall Russian population would have contracted by 8.4% from its 1995 level by 2050.
Russia’s unprovoked onslaught in Ukraine since Feb. 24 may have accelerated these trends. The Russian population fell by a record 86,000 people a month from January to May, the Moscow Times reports, citing official figures. The previous record was a decline of 57,000 people a month in 2002. Despite Russia suffering heavy casualties since its invasion, data from state statistics agency Rosstat showed a decline in the number of deaths year-on-year, with the difference instead being fueled by migration and a decline in births. Rosstat said the overall population now totaled 145.1 million.