Except for military towns, Russian North sees sharp decline in population

Soldiers marching in the border town of Nikel. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The region of Murmansk in 2020 had a more than 1,1 percent drop in its population. But several of the Northern Fleet’s closed military towns saw a boost in newcomers.

The forces that protect the Kola Peninsula and the wide-stretched Russian Arctic coast have over the past decade become a top priority of country’s armed forces, and big investments are being made in regional towns, bases and military infrastructure.

That is reflected in the demographic situation in the Kola Peninsula. New data from the Russian statistics service Rosstat show that the military towns are the clear population winners in the region.

While the total population of the Murmansk region in the course of 2020 dropped by more than 1,1 percent from 741,511 on 1st of January 2020 to 732,864 a year later, the military towns experienced solid growth.

Northern Fleet town grows

The demographic increase was biggest in Severomorsk, the headquarters city of the Northern Fleet. In the course of the year, the local population increased by more than 1,250 people.

A total of 65,080 people now live in the closed military municipality of Severomorsk, the data from Rosstat show.

Also the towns of Snezhnegorsk and Pechenga had increasing populations. Other military towns like Gadzhievo and Polyarny in the period had a minor drop in the number of people.

The situation follows a trend evident over several years, including in 2018 and 2016.

Meanwhile, practically all other parts of the Kola Peninsula in 2020 experienced a significant demographic shrink. The city of Murmansk in 2020 dropped from about 288 thousand to less than 283 thousand.

Covid-19 helped fuel population drop in North

The municipality of Pechenga located along the borders to Finland and Norway in the period dropped by 800 people to a total of 36,090. That includes the town of Nikel that in 2020 was abandoned by mining and metallurgy company Nornickel.

The population of Nikel in 2020 shrunk by more than 260 people to a total of 10,763.

The Russian North has over many years experienced a drop in population. And the extraordinary strong decline in 2020 can partly be explained by the coronavirus.

Officially, the virus in 2020 killed about 75,200 Russian across the country. But population figures from Rosstat indicate that the number of deaths might actually have been far higher.

According to all-national data, the country’s population by the 1st of January 2021 totaled 146,238 million. That is a decline of more than 510,000 people from 1 January 2020.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Yukon’s population up 21 per cent from a decade ago, and still growing steadily, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s population could begin falling in 2031, Yle News

Norway: Population declining in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Abandoned properties a challenge for rural Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Understanding Alaska’s growing senior population, Alaska Public Media

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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