The Boston Herald reports that the only way Russia can get people to be patriots or women to have babies is to bribe them silly. What kind of country needs to follow such a policy? What kind of people would respond to it?
The baby-poor Russian region of Ulyanovsk wants to its people to procreate, and has come up with a holiday and prizes to encourage them to their duty for Mother Russia. Ulyanovsk has declared Sept. 12 the “Day of Conception” and for the third year in a row will give couples the day off from work . . . so they canwork on making babies. Couples who “give birth to a patriot” nine months later during “Russia Day” festivities – June 12 celebrations marking the end of the Soviet Union – will win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.Everyone who has a baby on Russia Day, June 12, gets a prize, but the grand prize goes to the couple who are judged most fit to be parents. The 2007 grand prize went to Irina and Andrei Kartuzov, who received a brand new UAZ-Patriot . . . a Russian-made SUV. Other contestants won video cameras, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines.
Russia, with one-seventh of Earth’s land surface, has just 141.4 million citizens. That makes it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. The former Soviet Union’s low birth rate and a high death rate – exacerbated by alcoholism problems, inadequate health care and other social ills – have been shrinking the population since the early 1990s. Last year, President Vladimir Putin identified the demographic crisis as the most acute problem facing the former communist nation and encouraged Russians to get busy and boost the birth rate. Putin has also offered cash incentives to families with more than one child.