New census finds that there are 37.3M people in the Ukraine, down by almost 30% relative to their Soviet era peak of 52M. This means that at least semi-officially, the Ukraine now has a lower population than Poland for the first time in recorded history.
In reality, even this is probably a significant overestimate:
- Official pop (Dec 2019): 41.9M – official LDNR pop: (2.29M) + (1.46) ≈ 3.8M = 38.1M in Ukraine (de facto)
- This new census: 37.3M
- Difference between the two figures, both of which exclude Crimea and the LDNR: 0.8M
So either pretty much the entire LDNR migrated to Ukraine, or there’s just ~1-1.5M Ukrainian Gastarbeiters. Neither are very plausible. Life in the LDNR isn’t great, but it beats homelessness elsewhere. And it is estimated that there is at least one million Ukrainians in Poland alone – something that can be anecdotally confirmed by a few Uber trips in Warszawa.
There’s a reason I put apostrophes around Census. It is nothing of the sort: Actual censuses in the Ukraine have been postponed ever since 2001, with the next one tentatively planned for this year (assuming it isn’t canceled again). This is just an estimate based on the number of cell phones, taxpayer records, and the pensions/social registry. Without delving into methodology: People can have multiple SIM cards; you don’t get auto-deleted from taxpayer and pensions registries when you leave (especially if it’s for seasonal Gastarbeiter work like most Ukrainian emigration is).
So I maintain my position that the number of people in the Ukraine at any one time would be ~33.5M plus minus a couple of million.
* Adjusting official figures.
- Donetsk: 4,134,399 – 2,290,000 = 1,844,399.
- Lugansk: 2,137,181 – 1,460,000 = 677,181.
This allows us to introduce more nuance to discussions about Ukrainian demographics beyond simplistic takes such as the greater fertility rates of the Far West and the “dying out” of the east.
Because those are long-term considerations. In the immediate present, Ukrainian demographics is dominated by differential migration rates.
(1) The poorer rural areas – and these are primarily the western ones – are emptying out at a rate that far exceeds their fertility advantage. Although it is true that all pretty much all Ukrainian regions now contribute Gastarbeiters to Visegrad, whereas once it was overwhelmingly westerners, the latter are still doing much more of it as a share of their population. 20-25% of the populations of those regions are missing, and as I argued above, that is probably an underestimate.
(2) The Novorossiya regions with the millionik industrial cities – Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, even Zaporozhye – are declining to a much lesser extent, with strong immigration from within Ukraine largely balancing out the Gastarbeiters they spew out into Visegrad and Russia. So as far as future Ukraine-Russia relations go, the important question now becomes whether the Ukrainian immigrants to these cities impose their own culture on these regions, which are more Russophile than the Ukrainian average (esp. Kharkov and Odessa); or whether they assimilate to the existing values of the old residents. Historically, it’s usually the latter.
(3) As Cicerone points out, even as the Ukraine empties out, Kiev might have paradoxically become one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, with an estimated population of 3.7M vs. the official 3.0M: “This is more realistic as well, as by official figures, the TFR in Kiev is much higher than the national average, which doesn’t really make sense.”
(4) Surprisingly, both Donetsk oblast and – especially – Lugansk oblasts have many more people than official statistics suggest (after subtracting official LDNR stats). Presumably, some of that reflects genuine LDNR emigration – primarily for economic reasons, since wages in the LDNR are now low relative to the Ukraine, whereas Donetsk’s were once second only to Kiev’s; but in a few cases for ideological reasons, too. However, I suspect a significant or majority part of this “migration” is fictive, driven by a combination of the need to maintain documentation within the Ukraine for banal bureaucratic reasons. At any rate, the huge discrepancy between Donetsk and Lugansk suggests something fishy afoot.