Staunton, July 2 – Russian adult males in all age cohorts have seen their mortality rates rise, in some case dramatically over the last 40 years, a pattern that is especially disturbing one Moscow commentator says because deaths among young Russian men have the effect of pushing down life expectancy far more than deaths among older cohorts.
In a commentator on Left.ru, communist commentator Anna Lomako provides her explanation for figures that the Russian State Statistical Committee, Rosstat, released a little over a year ago, statistics that she suggests represent an indictment not only of Russia’s social and political system but also of other countries as well (www.left.ru/2010/6/lomako199.phtml).
According to Rosstat, mortality rates for Russian males increased between 1970 and 2007 by 19 percent for those aged 20 to 24, by 68 percent for those between 25 and 29, by 48 percent for those between 30 and 34, by 29 percent for those between 35 and 39, by 39 percent for those between 40 and 44, and by 40 percent for those between 45 and 49.
For older workers over the same period, mortality also increased: by 41 percent for those between 50 and 54, by 36 percent for those between 55 and 59, and by 25 percent for those between 60 and 64. Among older groups, the situation was somewhat better: mortality rates rose by 15 percent for those between 65 and 69, and they fell by four percent for those over 70 (www.gks.ru/free_doc/2008/demo/osn/04-26.htm).
Because they are in part responsible for this development, Lomako continues, the Russian powers that be either ignore or seek to minimize this trend, especially among younger adult males. But increased deaths among them are having a profound impact on the country and forcing Moscow to allow in more Gastarbeiters to fill the missing places.
Like many on the left, Lomako blames the rise of the capitalist system for most of these increases. In her view, “capitalism gives rise to a petty bourgeois psychology” where individuals care only about themselves rather than about the fate of larger groups, including their own country.
But she argues that blaming capitalism is insufficient. There are, she suggests, “subjective factors” behind this trend, factors that are both “intentional and unintentional, foreign and domestic.” And in order to prove her point, Lomako considers drug abuse which is “undoubtedly the chief cause of the dying off of young men in the Russian Federation.”
Lomako suggests that “the most important external factor is [what she calls] the narco-aggression as a geopolitical strategy of the Western imperial countries,” a strategy in which Afghanistan over the past 20 years has been converted into “a gigantic center” for the production and distribution of heroin into Russia and elsewhere.
But she argues, it is a mistake to blame the West and fail to recognize what Moscow has done in this area, not only reducing to almost nothing “ideological and organizational work with young people” to fight drugs but also adopting laws under pressure from rights activists and the drug lobby that have contributed to the rise in drug abuse.
By eliminating the requirement for prescriptions for many drugs and closing apothecaries where some control could be maintained, the Russian powers that be made them easier of access and led to abuse. And then when Moscow toughened the law again, it succeeded only in pushing people from prescription abuse to harder drugs and driving up the number of those incarcerated.
Correcting these policy mistakes, she suggests, will not be easy, but unless Moscow sharply reduces drug abuses of all kinds, death rates among younger adult males, who are the chief consumers of such drugs, will continue to rise, threatening the Russian Federation’s future by depriving it of the working population it will inevitably need.